The brace position is the flight safety instruction given to prepare passengers for a crash during an emergency landing on water or land. It was introduced by airline companies to save lives, but has been at the centre of an alarming and morbid conspiracy theory. Some have claimed the position, which requires passengers to lead forward, actually leads to a quick neck-break in the event of a crash, thus allowing for a cheaper insurance payout.
However, in 2003, Discovery’s MythBusters series sought to put an end to the speculation.
They performed two experiments on a crash test dummy – one in the brace position and one not – to measure the difference and chance of survival.
Presenter Adam Savage explained: “In the first test, the dummy is going to be sitting in the upright position, not the brace position.
“Grant [Imahara] is setting up the accelerometer in the dummy’s head, he’s already got his neck broken and we’re just going to see if there’s any difference between this and the brace position.
The brace position has been tested
When sitting in economy, the brace position may literally save your neck
“We’re dropping him from 15 feet, that should give us the absolute FAA spec speed of 35 feet per second.
“It should be between 30 and 40 G’s of impact and it's gonna be awesome.”
The team then performed the test, in which the dummy appeared to fair well.
The narrator added: “That means the dummy’s body withstood more than 50Gs of force on impact, meaning his body weathered the crash.
“The seat cushion absorbed a lot of the shock.
“But what about his head? Just 56 G's of impact.
“It take a minimum of 100 G’s to the head to sustain major trauma.
“That means the dummy’s neck didn’t even bend back far enough to sustain significant damage.”
One of the engineers, Mr Imahara confirmed their suspicions.
He said: “The accelerometer gave me 56.4 G’s, so no serious head injury.
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“The neck injury metre read 4.67K, which isn’t even close to our threshold for serious neck injury."
The team then performed the second exercise, and there was a significant difference.
The narrator revealed: “Time to check the dummy’s gauges, none of them tripped on his chest.
“But how is the damage to his head?
“It was nearly 20G’s of force less to the dummy’s head than when he sat unbraced and the gauge in his neck measured less, meaning it didn’t even come close to breaking.
“When sitting in economy, the brace position may literally save your neck.”
Mr Imahara then revealed the exact details of the test.
He explained: “Accelerometer has only 34 G’s to the head, so it didn’t even trip a major event.
“While this looks really bad, like a huge amount of carnage, as far as injury goes – not that bad.”
Despite the myth being very much busted, the team did reveal that most passengers are killed from the smoke than would soon fill the fuselage.