Airline Passenger | How to adopt an Appropriate Brace Position


brace for impact meaning
A brace-for-impact position commonly referred to as the brace position, is to reduce an aircraft occupant’s injuries during a crash sequence. Injuries may result from the initial impact(s) of the aircraft against the terrain, or obstacles when an occupant’s body and limbs flail around the fixed point of the seat belt.

Since the 1960s, extensive research has been conducted on brace positions using anthropomorphic dummies in a series of sled-impact tests. Such research aims to determine the most beneficial passenger brace position in forward-facing, economy-type aircraft seats.

Research shows that a reduction of secondary impact by pre-positioning the body, predominantly the head, against the surface it would otherwise strike during impact can minimize the potential for injuries during the crash sequence.

In this article, I will give you a summary of the brace-for-impact position, commonly referred to as the brace position, which must be adopted by airline passengers to reduce injury during a crash sequence.

The Purposes of The Brace Position

The brace position serves two purposes:
a) it reduces flailing by having the forward-facing occupant flex, bend, or lean forward over his/her legs in some manner; and

b) it reduces secondary-impact injuries by pre-positioning the body, predominantly the head, against the surface that it would otherwise strike during that secondary impact, thus reducing the momentum of the head and other parts of the body.

When you must adopt the brace position

Well-informed, knowledgeable passengers have a better chance of surviving life-threatening situations that may occur onboard an aircraft. If you are one of those airline passengers that mean you read the safety card and give full attention to the safety demonstration carried out by the cabin crew. The truth is air travel is the safest mode of transport, but this does not mean we ignore the safety instructions and we must raise our safety awareness all the time.

Passengers and aircraft crew survivability are linked to three phases of an Aircraft Accident:

Phase 1 :
Surviving the crash sequence (i.e., the impact forces, consequent deceleration, and secondary impacts).

Phase 2 :
 Evacuating the aircraft; and 

Phase 3 :
Surviving the post-evacuation environment (e.g., sea, jungle, mountainous region).
To enable the physical evacuation of the aircraft, passengers and crew must take action to minimize the potential for injuries during the crash sequence. One action that Passengers and crew can take to contribute to their survival is to assume an appropriate brace-for-impact position.

In phase 1, if you adopted the brace of impact position correctly you will have a big chance to be survived an aircraft crash.

The Kegworth Brace Position

Midland Flight 92 aircraft crash, 8 January 1989, in that accident, the pilot announced "Prepare for crash landing" 10 seconds before impact, and the resulting injuries - from both those who did and did not adopt the brace position - this accident used in further study by A research program funded by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority and carried out by teams from the University of Nottingham and Hawtal Whiting Structures (an engineering consultancy company).

The result of the study led to the development of what became known as the Kegworth brace position, which was adopted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority in August 1993 and remains the UK CAA-recommended brace position for all forward-facing, lap-belted passengers in UK airlines up to date.

The Kegworth brace position was one of many brace positions recommended in ICAO Doc 10086. This ICAO document contains new recommended brace-for-impact positions and sample commands used by cabin crew members to instruct passengers in the event of an emergency.

How To Adopt a Brace Position

To establish the best brace position for each type of airline passenger, it would be necessary to know such factors as the size and physical limitations of the individual, the layout of the interior configuration of the aircraft, the type of emergency, and the magnitude, direction, and sequence of crash forces, as well as other factors.

Based on many types of research which have been conducted on passenger brace-for-impact positions, no single position has been determined. There is great variation in passenger characteristics and abilities, in-seat class characteristics, seat pitch, and direction of travel. Other variables include restraint design and airbags, and experimental testing protocols.

In this article, I am going to explain the brace positions for Forward-Facing passengers in different cases.

Forward-Facing Passenger Seats Equipped with A Lap Strap Seat Belt Only

In a forward-facing passenger seat fitted with a lap strap seat belt only, passengers should brace according to the following instructions, as shown in Image(3):
a) sit as far back as possible;
b) fasten the seat belt and tighten firmly (low across the hips to prevent submarining - when a passenger slides forward under a loosely fitted seat belt. The seat belt should not be twisted);
c) tuck chin onto chest;
d) bend forward (“roll up into a ball”);
e) place head against the seat in front, and
f) place hands on top of the head, or
g) place arms at the sides of lower legs or hold lower legs (holding onto the lower legs may provide a more stable position); and
h) place feet flat on the floor, as far back as possible; or
i) if passengers are seated at a bulkhead row or cannot reach the seat in front:
bend forward and place hands on top of the head; or
bend forward and place your arms at the sides of your lower legs or hold your lower legs.

Brace positions  passenger seats
Brace Position -See image (1),See image (2)See image (3)
See image (1): Brace positions in forward-facing passenger seats equipped with a lap strap seat belt only

Note: The brace positions presented above apply to occupants of a height of more than 125 cm (49 in).

What About Infants and Children

The brace positions presented above apply to occupants of a height of more than 125 cm (49 in). In line with the recommendations found in the Manual on the Approval and Use of Child Restraint Systems (Doc 10049), infants and children whose weight is less than 26 kg (60 lbs) and whose height is less than 125 cm (49 in) should occupy an approved child restraint system (CRS) on board aircraft, in a seat of their own. The use of a CRS provides an equivalent level of safety to infants and children as that afforded to adult passengers wearing seat belts.

It is not possible for a parent, or guardian, to physically restrain an infant or child, especially during a sudden acceleration or deceleration, unanticipated or severe turbulence or impact.

In the event of an anticipated emergency landing or ditching, the infant or child needs to be secured in the CRS until the evacuation commences (reference ICAO Doc 10049, ICAO Doc 10086 for additional information).

Brace Position for Pregnant Women or Passengers Who Have Physical or Space Limitations

A proposed brace position for pregnant women or passengers who have physical or special limitations and are occupying a forward-facing passenger seat fitted with a lap strap seat belt only. Recommendations are not based on any testing but on a combination of medical subject matter experts (SMEs) interpretations and opinions.
a) slide back in the seat as far as possible towards the backrest; try to ensure the lower back is against the backrest;
b) fasten the seat belt low and tight; the belt must not be twisted; ensure that the seat belt is below the belly;
c) place legs as wide apart as possible to assist with forward bending. Bend forward, leaning against the seat in front, if possible;
d) place hands on the back of the head one on top of the other; do not interlock fingers; tuck elbows in. Alternatively, place arms at the side of the lower legs;
e) if there is no seat in front, bend over and either place hands on the back of the head or place arms at the side of the lower legs; hold lower legs; and
f) keep feet flat on the floor with lower legs positioned slightly rearward of the knees, if possible.

Special Considerations for Persons with Disabilities and Attendants

Persons with disabilities may use a passenger seat belt or a restraint system for a person with disabilities, such as an orthopedic positioning device, depending on their individual needs. Able-bodied persons or attendants accompanying persons with disabilities should adopt an appropriate brace position and refrain from assisting the person with disabilities until the evacuation starts. At that time, the attendant should follow the instructions given by the cabin crew as part of the individual safety briefing for special categories of passengers given before the flight.

Brace Position to Avoid

• Do not rest head on crossed forearms
 – risks fracturing both forearms

 • Do not rest head on hands
 – risks fracturing both hands/fingers

•  Avoid having the head tilted backward
– neck should not be extended
– but should be bent forward to reduce the risk of injury to the neck and/or larynx

See image (2): Positions to avoid when adopting the brace position
Unacceptable Brace Positions
, See image (3): Examples of unacceptable brace positions


In an unanticipated emergency landing, the captain may only have time to give the warning to brace for impact. In this case, Well-informed, knowledgeable passengers have a better chance of surviving.

Further reading:
There are many guidance materials developed by States that can be used to determine brace positions for passengers and cabin crew members. This guidance includes, but is not limited to, the following:
a) Canada: Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) Advisory Circular TCCA AC 700-036 – Brace for Impact Positions for all Aircraft Occupants.
b) United States: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular AC 121-24D – Passenger Safety Information Briefing and Briefing Cards.

Remember that you are reading an aviation professional website, thank you for reading and share the good.

Maged Saeed AL-Hadabi

I’m Instructor / Maged Saeed Al-Hadabi. ​ Air Cargo / IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations / Safety Management System Senior Instructor, Auditor [ Yemen Airways] . Approved IATA DGR/ SMS Instructor by Yemen Civil Aviation Authority.

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