Boeing safety features likely saved lives in SFO crash

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by MEG COYLE and JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 NEWS

Bio | Email | Follow: @jakewhittenberg

KING5.com

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 9 at 6:03 PM

Investigators are praising safety features on the Boeing 777, as well as broad safety advancements, with saving lives in the Asiana flight 214 crash in San Francisco.

Stronger seats and fire resistant materials may have contributed to passengers surviving the strong impact and subsequent fire. Of the 307 passengers and crew on board, nearly 200 were injured but only two died.

Boeing 777s were in development during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when many of those safety advancements were first available, said Airsafe.com Foundation director Todd Curtis, a former safety engineer with Boeing who worked on the 777.

"(New technology) allowed the passengers to be uninjured or much less injured than they would have been," said Curtis.

John Monroe oversaw Boeing's 777 program until he retired in 2003. He knows what this plane is made of and isn't surprised by how well it held up.
 
"With the forward part of the airplane coming way up here and them coming back down I was even more impressed that the body, for the most part, stayed in one complete piece," said Monroe.
 
Monroe credits a rigorous testing program, as well as new technology and materials including carbon fiber. All things that have transformed how new airplanes are built. Stricter federal standards apply to airplane safety outside and in.
 
"Probably the biggest thing, from my perspective, was the fact they had seats that held up," said Monroe. Seats he says are designed and built to withstand the kind of crash we saw in San Francisco.
 
Monroe was also impressed the main fuselage stayed in tact. "The fact that it didn't cartwheel, to me that was just one more indication of the strength, the solidness, the structural survivability of that aircraft."

A study conducted by Popular Mechanics claims to pinpoint the safest seat on an airplane in the event of a crash. The study compiled NTSB crash data back to 1971 and found the rear of the aircraft is statistically the most survivable.

The study found you have a 49% chance of surviving a crash in “first class,” a 56% chance ahead of and over the wing, and a 69% chance of surviving if you sit in the back seats.

But Curtis cautions that every incident is unique and there is no one safe seat.

"If you were sitting in the back of the Asiana flight, that would have been the worst place to be," he said. "It always helps to familiarize yourself with the plane you are in. Look around and count the number of rows to the next emergency exit."
 

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