Two men miraculously survived the crash of Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303 from Lahore to Karachi yesterday. Where were they seated onboard the Airbus A320?
After the A320 crashed into a Karachi neighborhood yesterday afternoon, all passengers and crew members were feared dead. But two men were found alive in the wreckage and pulled to safety. Both are recovering in a Karachi hospital and expected to survive.
Safety experts have long-debated where is the ideal place to be seated during an airline crash. The conventional wisdom seems to be that a middle seat in the rear of the aircraft is safest. This is, among other reasons, based upon a test conducted in 2012 in which a Boeing 727 was deliberately crashed into a Mexican desert with crash dummies strapped in.
Many of the passengers would’ve sustained serious injuries. Many in first class would have died, and those further back would’ve sustained broken bones and head injuries, possibly full-blown concussions.
You can watch the full documentary below:
Meanwhile, KLM claims the front third of the aircraft is “marginally safer” than the rear third, with the middle third of seat being the unsafest.
> Read More: KLM Offers Advice On Choosing The Best Seat To Survive A Crash
Did Seat Selection Help To Save Two Passengers On PK8303?
The Airbus A320 that crashed bore registration AP-BLD and featured the following cabin layout:
- 158 Total Seats
- 8 Business Class seats
- 150 Economy Class seats
Both survivors of PK8383 sat on port side aisle seats (C). One sat in the first row of the aircraft while the other seat in the emergency exit row:
- Zafar Masud – President of the Bank of Punjab – Seat 1C [business class bulkhead]
- Mohammad Zubair – Engineer – Seat 10C [emergency exit row]
I’m not even going to try to speculate whether this seating made a difference, just point out where they were seated.
Every crash is a tragedy, but every crash is also another data point. While the seat assignments of the survivors may not tell us anything, it is interesting to note both had plenty of extra legroom.
> Read More: Pakistan International Airlines A320 Crashes, Killing Most Onboard (FAQs)
I’ve seen documentaries where engineers point out that you should sit over the wings as that is the strongest part of the superstructure but I think it’s a matter of luck on how the aircraft makes impact with other objects and how it hits the ground. It’s a shame so many perished on this flight.
There is a movie with Jeff Bridges, and directed by Peter Weir, from the 1990’s called, Fearless. Based on the novel of the same name. It is a really interesting look at “survival” from the lens of an airplane crash, using the Sioux Falls United DC10 as its loose inspiration. Not just the moment of survival. But the guilt and emotional turmoil that comes later in the form of PTSD.
Right after Weir’s finishing filming this movie I accidentally met him in a bar in Bali. We got quite drunk together before I even knew who he was. When he explained the project he had just worked on (this movie) he mentioned that in the process of making it he was able to overcome an intense fear of flying that verged on debilitating. I remember him telling me that after months of interviews with survivors of that United DC10 crash his fear of flying vanished. He recounting that each person he talked to said the same thing, that in the minutes before the crash strangers held hands, were quiet and accepting, and that, “there was such a feeling of love on that plane that all fear seemed to vanish.”
We mourn those lost in these accidents. It’s tragic. Our natural inclination is to then feel joy for the survivors, and that is true to a point, but they will now face a very long road ahead in answering the biggest struggle of all, why them?
Thanks Stuart. Excellent post.
Wow that’s quite the story! Thanks for sharing!
I hope you have seen Peter Weir’s “The Year of Living Dangerously”. The current copies are severely edited. In the lost scenes, Bali before tourism is depicted. And the Gibson/Weaver sex scenes. Peter Weir makes incredible movies.
Agreed, JohnB. As a fan of Paul Theroux I also loved his adaptation of The Mosquito Coast. He really is a a great director who has lived quietly without much fanfare. Much I guess because being in Australia he chose to stay out of the limelight. Good on him.
I am going to speculate. It did matter but not in a way people could plan.
May guess is the fuselage broke up at certain spots and the two passengers were able to get out. I also speculate that maybe their seat belts were tighter. Maybe their bodies were stiffer as they anticipated the impact. They had slightly better ventilation from smoke at certain breaks in the fuselage. Many factors but even their seatmates died.
I fly Airbuses for a living and my opinion is that it would be nearly, if not entirely, impossible to determine where it is the safest. No accident will be exactly like the one before. If a plane slammed into the ground nose first, those in the front might not make it as well as the ones in the back. If a plane ditched “properly” the tail would strike first. If the plane would be engulfed in flames, the fuel tanks are in the middle (and yes, Jet-A, while hard to light, fuel can still burn quite explosively). The safest place could be anywhere onboard, it all depends on the situation and circumstances.
I came to say the same thing, but I’ll defer to a professional all day, everyday.
The one thing in common for these two is that they were immediately at an exit – perhaps that has something to do with their survival?
Good point Tom.
Why airlines do not provide shock proof and fire proof dresses to Passengers, if people can land safely wearing flying suits and using parashutes and in baloons, them why airlines do not design inside of plane like a baloon and shock proof.
I read on another blog that this PIA had the nose up when it crashed . Maybe this is the reason 2 passengers at the front survived . If it was nose down and nose into the ground then it would be different .
Likely. That news came out after I wrote my story.
I really don’t think it matters where you sit. What probably matters more is surviving the initial impact without losing consciousness, and getting to the exit. The two guys setting up the Phantom High-Speed cameras at the 29:35 mark of the documentary are my boss (the guy in the blue shirt) and my counterpart Bill Shipman (older Gent in the white shirt working on the deck). Bill was the high-speed camera lead on the famous 1984 Dryden test they showed. It was a great test, but it would have been better if they didn’t come up 2 miles short of the cameras on the ground.