Steve Nichols

If we can have airbags in cars, why can't we have them in aircraft? This should be the question on any passenger's lips as they step on board a flight.

Statistics show that 77% of all aircraft crashes are survivable, but survivability is not enough. Should an aircraft crash, you not only want to live, you also need to be in a fit state to walk off the aircraft too.

Amsafe is demonstrating a lap belt with built-in airbag which it hopes could dramatically cut air crash fatalities.

Amsafe, which has been making aircraft belts for more than 30 years, says the new unit is designed to fit existing seatbelt shackles and can easily be retrofitted.

The airbag is built into the strap, while its control box fits under the seat, with only a tube leading from the gas generator to the bag. It uses standard airbag technology as is used in millions of cars worldwide.

Amsafe's own tests show that the airbag could dramatically reduce head injuries, especially for passengers in front row seats where impact with the bulkhead is usually severe, if not fatal.

A number of design considerations had to be taken into account. The belt had to be self-contained and easy to check. It also had to be suitable for all age groups and heights.

Most importantly, it had to be shown that the air bag would not cause more injuries than it could prevent - for this reason it deploys away from the passenger.

The belt should get FAA certification in November and Amsafe already has two launch customers.


While some airlines may chose the airbag solely for front row seats, as awareness of the system grows, public pressure may force airlines to fit the belt across the board.

As Amsafe's Bill Hagan says: "There is a need in the industry for higher levels of passenger protection. You only have to look at the recent crash in the USA to see that airbags could prevent a lot of injuries.

"I don't see any reason why passengers shouldn't get the same or greater levels of protection on a plane as they expect in a car."

Source: Flight Daily News