Like a knife taken to a clam shell, pressure is being applied to America’s FAA to unequivocally show that the twin trends to smaller seats but larger passengers are not compromising safety standards that apply to the evacuation of burning or sinking airliners.
Common sense says that safety is likely to be compromised. Commercial interest for airlines, and their at times captive safety regulators says this is a proposition that is not only outrageously true, but one that needs to be stomped upon as hard as possible.
To understand how this issue has burst into flames once again, and might see the fire or contagion spread even as far as the generally cosy relationship between major carriers and CASA try these two reports for the US in recent days.
Runway Girl Network has been beavering away at the issue for a long time. The question that leaps from this updated post from RGN is whether the FAA or Federal Aviation Administration has been trying to fob reporters off with vague and misleading statements.
This report can be usefully followed by today’s new story in Aviation Transport World or ATW which includes the following steaming horse sh*t from the lobby group Airlines for America.
An A4A spokesperson told ATW: “The FAA has affirmed that all US carriers meet or exceed federal safety standards and we continue to believe that there is no need for government to interfere with the market-driven solutions that are delivering a better, safer and more comfortable flight experience for everyone who takes to the skies.”
The offensive section is italicised. The ruthless confiscation of passenger amenity by US carriers is abundantly apparent to anyone who flies in America, and this sort of corporate lying is totally unacceptable.
The ATW article serves as a reminder that when it comes to evacuation safety standards in airliners everything depends on the continued relevance of the original certification tests.
It is far too convenient for plane makers and regulators to accept formulas for extrapolating from original tests to produce favourable declarations about denser or tighter seating arrangements.
It is obvious that people are getting larger while seats get smaller, and that these factors are coming together to make it less likely to escape from a burning jet.
It is very convenient for airlines and plane makers to point to a favourable extrapolation to ‘prove’ that a single aisle jet that once was operated with only 144 seats is just as safe in the event of an emergency evacuation as one with 180 or even 195 seats, which means cost metrics look better because those expenses are divided by a higher number of passengers.
But at its heart, this is also a very dangerous approach to passenger safety in an emergency. This is an issue that is even more critical than airlines shrinking toilets to dimensions in which passengers may not be able to attend to the basics of good hygiene.