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NTSB Recommends Mandating Shoulder Harnesses

January 12, 2011 —The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Tuesday recommended that the FAA require aircraft without shoulder harnesses be retrofitted to include them. Aircraft currently equipped with shoulder harnesses would be required to be modified if the seat restraint system is incorrectly installed. The Board made the recommendations after a three-year study concluded that correctly installed shoulder harness/lap belt combinations provide significantly greater protection in general aviation (GA) accidents than a lap belt alone. The Board adopted six recommendations, which also included a revision of restraint systems certification standards. Read more

The NTSB based its conclusion on an analysis of more than 37,000 GA accidents, finding that the risk of fatal or serious injury was 50 percent higher when an occupant was only restrained by a lap belt as compared to the combination lap belt and shoulder harness.

The NTSB recommended that the FAA further study the feasibility of requiring airbag-equipped aircraft. Currently, more than 30 aircraft manufacturers offer airbags as standard or optional equipment. Airbags were first approved for use in the pilot and co-pilot seats in GA aircraft in 2003. Today nearly 18,000 airbag-equipped seats are installed in more than 7,000 of the 224,000 GA aircraft in the U.S., according to the NTSB.

NTSB recommendations are non-binding; only the FAA has the authority to mandate such action through federal rulemaking process.

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