Saturday, February 2, 2008

50 years after Munich, why do we still face forwards in aircraft?

It is fascinating to reflect that one of our greatest national heroes is amongst us, probably, because he happened to be in a rear-facing seat in the aeroplane involved in the 1958 Munich Air disaster. He was fortunately using a facility now unavailable to virtually all of the flying public.

On Parkinson recently, Sir Bobby Charlton mentioned that he reckoned he survived the Munich air disaster because he was sitting facing backwards. All the people who died, he said, were facing forwards.

For many years, safety experts have argued that it is better to face backwards rather than forwards in all vehicles. When there is an accident involving arrested forward momentum, you tend to sink into your seat rather than flying forwards.

The proof of the pudding is to ask: Which way do Air Stewards and Air Stewardesses face during take-off and landing? Backwards of course.

So why don't all seats face backwards? examines the pros and cons, concluding that the simple answer is "money":

Despite this information, most airlines play-down or argue any increase in safety from rear-facing seats. But the bottom line is really about money. Aft-facing seats require stronger - and consequently heavier - seat backs and floor attachments. As Southwest, the only airline to experiment with backwards seats, discovered through a cost analysis, the increase in weight would not only hurt fuel efficiency but also would force airlines to reduce the number of seats on their planes. That means the FAA must determine how much a change would cost the industry and weigh it against human life. For the purpose of comparison, the FAA considers a human life to be worth $2.2 million.

So the answer to my title question "50 years after Munich, why do we still face forwards in aircraft?" appears to be: Because each of us is only worth $2.2 million.

No comments:

Post a Comment