Want to know which seats on a plane are safest in the event of (eek) a crash? Me too. In answer to these queries, producers of a TV special program in the UK outfitted a 727 with crash test dummies, cameras and sensors and crashed the airplane in Mexico’s Sonoran Desert (see video).

The result? Things didn’t turn out so hot for first-class. The front of the plane hit with a force of 12G that ripped off the cabin front along with the first 11 rows of seats usually reserved for first-class and business-class. The rear section hit the ground with only 6G. Upshot – none of the first class passengers would have walked away. Seventy eight per cent of passengers seated further back, however, would have survived, with chances being better the further back in economy seats they sat.

A dummy in “brace” position wearing a seat belt fared best and survived the impact. Another dummy wearing a seat belt but not in the brace position would have suffered traumatic head injuries. And a third dummy minus the seat belt AND brace position would have been out of luck and died.

These findings pretty much corroborated a Popular Mechanics 2007 report that studied plane crashes with seat survival data for the prior 36 years. The magazine concluded that rear economy seating behind the wing’s trailing edge was the safest place on the aircraft with survival rates of 69% as compared to 56% over the wing and 49% at the front of the plane.

To see exactly what the brace position looks like (there are actually two) take a gander at the illustrations in How to Survive a Plane Crash. It comes with a list of ways to best prepare for a possible crash.

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