EASA opts against retrofit of latest seat standards

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European safety authorities are rejecting a proposal to retrofit older aircraft with seats compliant with the most recent standards, reasoning that the cost burden would outweigh its benefits.

Under a notice of proposed amendment the European Aviation Safety Agency says it favours an adjusted regulation which harmonises its rules with those of the US FAA, and applies the 16g seat standard only to new-build aircraft.

Analysis by EASA, drawn partly from Flightglobal fleet data, indicates that over 3,400 aircraft under its jurisdiction are either not compliant, or only partly-compliant, with the most recent seat standard.

EASA has conducted a study into the safety benefit of applying these standards retrospectively. But it concludes that the economic cost of retrofit would be unreasonably high.

It acknowledges that the safety impact of retrofit would be greater, with about five lives saved – compared with one for the preferred rule – in the period to 2030. But the retrofit rule would also be €1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) more expensive to the industry.

In its proposed amendment EASA notes that there are several carriers with a small number of older aircraft – such as the ATR 42, Fokker 100 and Saab 2000 – which are not compliant with the seat standard.

Requiring these operators to retrofit their fleets “may incur a significant threat to their economic viability”, it states.

Given that the cost of a full retrofit is “prohibitive”, says EASA, it is putting forward a proposal which will apply the standards only to new-build aircraft.

It says this will align its regulatory framework with that of the US FAA. Full retrofit, it adds, would “impose a burden” on European carriers which is “not experienced” by operators in the USA and other countries.