Airbags: A Valuable Safety Upgrade

Unless you’re into old, classic cars, every car you own or buy has airbags. In fact, not only are they status quo on the modern vehicle, many people won’t ride in a car unless it has airbags.

But these same people might fly without them.

Considering the level of serious injuries crews and passengers might sustain in an aircraft incident, that doesn’t make much sense.

According to Dr. Guohua Li, director of research in the emergency medicine department at Johns Hopkins University, quoted in Business Jet Traveler (BJT), “The lap belt is insufficient in protecting passengers from decelerative injuries in aviation crashes.”

According to Li’s study, as reported by BJT, 42 percent of aircraft crash fatalities resulted from multiple injuries, 22 percent of deaths were caused by head injuries and 12 percent resulted from internal injuries of the thorax, abdomen or pelvis. Head injuries are the most common cause of death among children involved in an aircraft incident.

Phoenix-based AmSafe Aviation, quoting the Aircraft and Pilots Association (AOPA) 2004 Nall Report, says more than 50 percent of all general aviation accidents occur during taxi, takeoff or landing — and most are survivable. One primary factor in surviving an aircraft accident is avoiding a debilitating injury to the head or neck that prevents you from getting out of the aircraft.

Which makes installing airbags as the next upgrade to your business jet common sense — and highly plausible with AmSafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint (AAIR), an airbag designed for aircraft.

“It fills the space in front of the passenger to control upper torso flail,” BJT reported Bill Hagan, AmSafe Aviation president, as saying. “The bag is also designed to leak at a specific rate, allowing it to collapse so the passenger articulates forward slowly. All this happens in the blink of an eye. When [this process has] completed, the entire bag has deflated and presents no egress issues. The condition of the deflated bag could be described as like having a pillowcase on your lap.”

To see a video of the AAIR system at work, visit this Popular Mechanics article page.

The AAIR, which went into service in 2001, is now installed in more than 20,000 airline seats worldwide, and AmSafe began receiving requests for the device from general aviation aircraft manufacturers about three years ago. It is now installed as standard equipment on 80 percent of all new aircraft delivered worldwide, Hagan tells BJT.

One of the main ways the AAIR saves lives is by preventing head injuries. If a person is rendered unconscious by a blow to the head, he might not escape from a survivable accident. AmSafe explains that the AAIR meets strict head injury criteria (HIC) and provides protection comparable to standard automobile airbags.

AmSafe is betting on the business jet industry getting in on the airbag action, by choice or through the Federal Aviation Administration, which may eventually require airbags. However, installing the AAIR System in private aircraft is somewhat complicated because seats are often not lined up one behind the other. They may face forward, backward and even sideways, making deploying airbags in front of the passengers impractical in some situations.

To solve these problems, AmSafe offers AAIR systems that can be mounted anywhere on the seatbelt, including multiple places in two- to five-point restraint systems. AmSafe also offers airbag systems for side-facing divans in private aircraft cabins.

Did you like this? Share it!