Flying has become as routine and nearly mundane an activity as driving. Everyone has done it and while there are some who have a fear of it, it has become an essential part of modern life and because of that, comes chock full of modern conveniences. Like most things in life, the quality of one’s flying experience is governed largely by money and there is certainly price differentiation with top dollar getting you first class while everybody else flies coach. Of course first class commands such exorbitant amounts because it offers the veritable lap of luxury. But though comfort and convenience maybe the chief selling points, what about safety? One would imagine that if, in the most extreme cases an airplane did crash, the entire plane would be affected but a new research suggests that first class may not be the safest place on a plane.
In one of the most enterprising crash tests performed on a plane, a Boeing 727 was deliberately downed in the Sonoran Desert in Mexico as a part of an international documentary produced by the Discovery Channel, Britain's Channel 4 and Germany's Pro Sieben to study, in a controlled accident, just what happens when a plane crashes and of course how, if at all, passengers can survive.
The experiment was conducted on Friday with 170 passenger plane crashing into the Mexican desert, flown at first by a pilot, who then at a 2,500 feet altitude parachuted from the plane, being guided the rest of the way by remote control from a Cessna which was flying nearby. The ‘passengers’ of the plane were all crash test dummies rigged, along with the plane to sensors and to monitor and chart just what happens when a plane does crash. The producers of this $1million project spoke about it, Eileen O'Neill, group president of Discovery and TLC Networks saying, "This groundbreaking project features an actual crash of a passenger jet and explores the big questions about how to make plane crashes more survivable. We hope to provide new information about how to improve the chances of survival while providing scientific results on passenger safety and new technologies, including new 'black box' flight data recording systems."
According to reports, this is the first time in nearly 30 years that such an experiment has been conducted and the results of it were quite revealing. Firstly with the dummies it was seen that those seated in the brace position were most likely to survive the accident, that saw the plane’s nose and front fuselage snap off, while those dummies not in the brace position would very likely suffer severe head trauma and those without their seat belts, death. In further findings, the test found that 78 per cent of the passengers would have survived with the plane coming down nose first, but those in first class, at the front of the plane, would not have, with the best chances of survival of those in the back.
Anne Evans, an air investigator who studied the 727’s black box said, “It is safer to sit at the back of the aircraft where the flight recorder is. The front is more vulnerable because that often sees higher impact forces. I would pick somewhere which is comfortable and within a few rows of an emergency exit.”