Where to sit on an airplane

First, I believe an introduction is in order.  I am the engineer, and I am pleased to be the newest addition to BFD.  I may or may not be an aerospace engineer at NASA.  Therefore, I may or may not know what I am talking about.  Either way, I intend to bring you as much science and technology misinformation as possible.   I hope you enjoy.


I’m sure we have all bought airline tickets online, with the generous help of an overwhelming number of cheap ticket sites.  It’s usually easy to pick your flight, be it the cheapest, or most direct, or just at a good time.  We all know what we want in those terms.  But the hard part is what comes next.  What seat would you like?

If you’re anything like me, your first thought is this:  when this fucking plane crashes, how is shit gonna go down??

I can’t tell you exactly how your plane is going to crash, but I can provide some good advice as to where to sit to make your life a little less stressful and to help you enjoy your flight.  Please use my color coded chart as a guide.

Can you see the wing out of your window? Good!

First of all, it’s going to take a catastrophic event to bring down your aircraft.  Basically, something will have to destroy a wing before shit gets serious.  This could happen for a couple reasons.

1.) Turbine blade failure.

Picture your typical box fan.  Now picture it spinning at, say, 30,000 RPM.  I bet that breeze feels pretty good, eh?  Now, instead of plastic, imagine those blades as razor sharp pieces of death-dealing metal.  Imagine that the outside frame is not a few inches away from those blades, but a few hundredths of an inch away.  It doesn’t take much for those blades to hit the outside casing and end in a horrific tragedy.  Maybe a large bird causes this, or maybe it’s simply due to time (please read about the variety of failure modes for metallic structures).

Point is, when that thing goes, so does everyone next to it.

2.) Fuel line/tank explosion

Like the turbine blade failure, this one is obviously catastrophic for those around it.  Fuel is typically stored in the wings, and for longer flights, in the fuselage between the wings (however there are new laws making this center tank less prone to exploding).  Fuel can also be stored in the back.

All of this is critical knowledge when choosing your seat.

Lets play out the scenario.  Something terrible happens, and it’s obvious your plane is going down.  How do you feel?  More importantly, how does everyone else feel?  Horrified. These are the scariest moments of your entire life.  It doesn’t have to be like this, really.  You could’ve died in the explosion that started this whole mess, and you wouldn’t have to witness this terrible scene of crying, gnashing, and hysteria.

Now, look at the chart.  See the green?  These are great seats! If you sit here, you will be among the first to die!  Buy these seats as soon as possible. If you miss out that’s OK, the yellow seats will do fine.  You will probably be sucked out, or a piece of shrapnel will penetrate your skull, or you will quickly pass out and die peacefully.  If you’re lucky, there will be fuel directly underneath your feet, causing an instant, relieving death!

See the red?  Never buy these seats.  First of all, the horrific panic that sets in after an explosion will trouble greatest those who think they have the most to lose.  Welcome to first class.  These guys are squealers, I guarantee it.  They are going to make awful screams and flop around all over the place.  No one wants to see that, or even hear it.  Do not buy a first class ticket, or even a ticket in the first couple rows behind them. In the one-in-a-million chance you survive, you will never get those screams out of your head.

Also, do not buy a ticket in the last rows of the plane unless you want a first row view of the most terrifying show on Earth.  If you’re lucky, the explosion will progress to the rear fuel tanks or the tail will fall off, but that hope is not worth the risk of watching everyone else perish, absolutely scared out of their minds, before you do.

So! I hope this helps you get over that anxiety of not knowing what seat to choose next time you buy a flight!  I’m always glad to help, so keep checking back for more advice from the engineer! :)

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