Enhancements to head-injury protection are responsible for around 40% of the lives saved and 45% of serious injuries prevented by the installation of fully compliant 16g passenger seats, UK researchers have concluded. While 16g seats protect passengers from the effects of rapid deceleration, the associated head-injury criteria limit the damaging effects of passengers’ head contact with other seats or airframe structures.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Safety Regulation Group has reassessed 25 accidents to estimate the effect of 16g seating on fatalities and injuries. These accidents, which occurred between 1984 and 1998, were first studied in 2000 to determine the potential benefits of 16g seating.
In a re-examination of the data, carried out for the US Federal Aviation Administration, the CAA found that fully compliant 16g seating would have saved 56 lives. But by conducting a more detailed analysis, the group also estimated that, without enhancements to head-injury criteria, the 16g seats would have saved only 34 lives.

The CAA concluded that head-injury protection is responsible for 39% of the potential fatality reductions and 46% of the potential reduction in serious injuries. The research also takes into account issues such as the reduction in fire threat resulting from improved cabin design.
The CAA also calculated the theoretical benefit of head-injury protection in accidents involving only US aircraft between 1984 and 1998, concluding 45 lives would have been saved by the fully compliant seats against 28 without the enhanced criteria, while 40 serious injuries would have been prevented against 22 otherwise.

US regulators are implementing a rule amendment this month requiring that seats in all passenger aircraft manufactured after 27 October 2009 comply with the latest crashworthiness standards.

Source: Flight International