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Source: Does the brace position save lives?, By Oliver Smith, 2013 Mar 13, telegraph.co.uk

"To adopt the brace position passengers should place their feet and knees together with their feet firmly on the floor,” added [Steve Allright, a British Airways training captain] .... “Feet should be flat or on the balls of their feet, and further back than the knees. In the event of an impact, this position helps prevent shins and legs being broken against the base of the seat in front, which would obviously hinder evacuation.

"Passengers should bend as far forward as possible, if it's in reach, they should rest their head against the seat in front, with hands placed on the back of their head. Hands should be placed on top of one another (not with fingers interlocked) [emphasis mine; this seems a critical fact], elbows should be tucked in to their sides. The head should be as far below the top of the seats as possible. This position prevents flailing of the arms, minimises the risk of broken fingers and protects the head from moving objects.”

The position varies slightly in the US. Rather than placing hands on the back of the head, passengers are advised to place them on top of the seat in front, or to hold their ankles.

1. Why the difference in the hands' position? Which is more protective?

2. What does it mean to 'hold their ankles' with the hands? Simply place your hands atop your ankles?

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  • $\begingroup$ related to dupe: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/11791/… $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Feb 10 '15 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak Sorry, but in writing 'dupe', do you mean duplicate? If so, how are these duplicates? That other question concerns only the UK brace position. $\endgroup$ – Accounting Feb 10 '15 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ With today's seat pitch, both positions are purely hypothetical for the majority of passengers. I would also wager to claim that their details were never properly researched. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Feb 10 '15 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ British Midland Flight 92 led to significant investigation into brace positions and seat strength/fastenings. $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 10 '15 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ This article might interest you. Note in particular, and many people miss this, that the fingers should not be interlocked so that if broken, your arms can fall free as you stand up. $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 10 '15 at 21:05
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The difference is just because there are often disputed methods on which technique is best. To be brutally honest, many accidents are so severe and can't really be analysed, so this is still a point of contention.

I would hypothesize that the UK version is safer as the hand position protects the skull and face from direct impact with the seat in front; instead colliding with the inside forearm. This will naturally reduce impulse (strengthy plastic vs. fleshy skin) and should thus reduce injuries.

The concept of holding ankles stems from the position your body is put in when holding your ankles. Any kind of "holding" is fine, touching on top or sides. It puts your body into a position that ducks your head and should (because of close seat proximity) rest your head against the seat infront anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ There is also a risk of concussion from flying objects, e.g. briefcases, laptops etc. I would sooner have broken fingers than be knocked unconscious. $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 10 '15 at 20:53
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I think the US version intends that your head is basically where the horizontal part of the seat (where you sit on) in front is, so objects should sail above, overhead (landing fast downward should propel everything upwards). Still, random things do happen, crash results can never be predicted. Even so, I agree, and would always personally put the UK method into practice. $\endgroup$ – Talisman Feb 10 '15 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ In most crashes, the vertical G is initially much higher than the lateral G and the overhead bins usually collapse or burst open. The lateral deceleration which follows, assuming that you and the aircraft are relatively intact following the initial impact, propels all the lose objects forwards but they will not all fly to the front. $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 10 '15 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Again, there is no accounting for what happens during a crash. Even a slight roll can affect direction of contents inside the aircraft, and that's not even looking at structural damages. $\endgroup$ – Talisman Feb 10 '15 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ Since I can't really bend far enough to hold my ankles, I'll go for the UK position. $\endgroup$ – Terry Feb 11 '15 at 1:15

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