Few of the traveling public will realize when they step on their next airplane that starting November 1 a new rule takes effect that has been phased in over the past 21 years to help comply with government crash standards for airplanes. Just like cars, airplane seats and seat belts have to withstand certain G forces. Those requirements have gone up over the years and this means that new aircraft seats will have to protect passengers from a crash 16 times the force of gravity. How much impact is that? In automobile terms, it is similar to what you would expect in a head-on collision in your car.
According to the article reprinted in USA Today's Aviation site and written by Adam Hochberg of NPR (National Public Radio), loads of research has gone in to making seats and seatbelts stronger and safer. Remember when we were kids, most crashes did not have many survivors. I'm sure some of you might have thought like I did that those seatbelts would not keep you from slamming the seat in front of you, especially after viewing graphic airplane crash footage in the past. But, that was yesterday. With better designed airplanes, better flight training and some great pilots like those on the Hudson River landing, the industry has realized it's important to keep you attached to the aircraft.
With this emphasis on safety, manufacturers are looking at airbags in the seatbacks as well as airbags in the actual seatbelt. In the future, you'll see these belts at bulkhead locations to prevent your head from hitting the wall. Seatbacks are also being designed to provide a sturdier cushion for restraining your body as well. None of these measures are inexpensive. One seat belt, with airbag, costs approximately $1,200.00 versus $35.00 for a regular belt. But, for all of us and our families, it's the right thing to do. These seat belts have already saved lives on general aviation aircraft.