David Learmount/LONDON

New research into airline seating safety has been commissioned by the European Joint Aviation Authorities because the average passenger today is larger and travels further than when the present rules on seat size and spacing were set.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority, which is funding the JAA research, says the study will determine whether regulatory changes are needed. The study will consider the increase in European and world population body size, armrest and seat cushion height, seat width, seat recline and any reduction in personal mobility following prolonged sitting.

Robin Ablett, head of safety research at the CAA's Safety Regulation Group, says: "Over the past 15 years, the CAA has made great efforts to improve cabin safety. This research project will ensure that safety standards are maintained and improved as necessary."

The UK CAA is unique in having set a seat spacing requirement. Its rules say there should be a minimum of 660mm (26in) between the back-support cushion of a seat and the back of the seat or structure ahead of it, and a minimum of 178mm between the end of a seat armrest and the back of the seat in front of it. Ablett says these minima are designed to ensure "the vast majority of passengers can occupy the seat, stand up, and evacuate the aircraft without undue difficulty".

The research will be conducted by ICE Ergonomics of Loughborough, UK, and will include a survey of long-haul passengers.

The findings will be used by the JAA Cabin Safety Study Group with a view to formulating European regulations, says the CAA.

Source: Flight International