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The Federal Aviation Administration heard that airplane company Boeing is planning on installing inflatable seatbelts on their airplanes. The FAA has already asked Boeing to give feedback on the plan. The inflatable belts are “designed to limit the forward excursion of occupants in the event of an accident.”
The inflatable seatbelts behave similarly to the airbags you would find in cars. The difference is that the new seatbelts for airplanes inflate away from the person in the seat, instead of at them. Car companies such as Ford have already started to develop and incorporate inflatable seatbelts into their vehicles. The technology is relatively new to aviation, so the government is still seeking comments on the proposed rules.
“While the automotive industry has extensive experience in demonstrating the benefits of using inflatable airbags, the airplane environment presents unique and additional challenges.” – FAA notice
The FAA is looking to get more information from Boeing about the inflatable seatbelts they want to install in some of their planes. The FAA is somewhat wary about them due to the lack of information on how such a device would work in aviation. The notice by the FAA disclosed their concern by saying;
“In automobiles, airbags are a supplemental system and work in conjunction with upper torso restraints. In airplanes, inflatable lapbelts are the sole means of injury protection for occupants.”
There are also many other elements that come into play when using this technology on planes that concern the FAA. This includes the potential complexities presented by kids sitting in child safety seats, infants being held by adults, pregnant women, and the potential for inadvertent deployment of an inflatable seatbelt. The FAA is also worried that an inflated seatbelt would impede a passenger from getting out of their seat quickly during an emergency landing. It will likely be a while before we see this inflatable technology on airplanes.