February 16, 2011
By Thomas B Haines
What’s an extra seat on a business jet worth? A lot. An aircraft manufacturer’s ability to call an airplane a 10-seat jet versus a nine-seat jet can increase the sticker price by six figures in some cases. But, until recently, manufacturers could not allow side-facing divan seats next to a bulkhead or pillar to be counted as seats for takeoff and landing. The fear was that in a crash, those passengers would slam their heads into the obstacle and be injured more severely than those one seat away.
Aviation airbag manufacturer AmSafe Industries and B/E Aerospace have teamed to offer a solution in the form of the industry’s first airbag system designed for side-facing seats. Whereas aviation airbags typically deploy forward out of lapbelts or shoulderbelts, the ones at side-facing divan seats next to the bulkhead deploy sideways out of the shoulder harness next to the passenger’s head.
B/E Aerospace, a leading manufacturer of business jet seats and other interior components, will be working with airframe manufacturers to incorporate the new style of airbags into interiors.
“The Seatbelt Airbag is the most practical and cost-effective solution to reduce neck loading and provide head and body-to-body contact protection for side-facing divan occupants. It allows for more flexibility in cabin layouts and demonstrates our proactive commitment to address side-facing occupant protection,” said Chuck Barresi, vice president and general manager of B/E Aerospace’s Business Jet Group.
“By equipping side-facing divans with the AmSafe Seatbelt Airbag, business jet passengers will enjoy an additional level of protection that is offered on nearly 50,000 seats on commercial and general aviation aircraft around the world,” said Bill Hagan, president of AmSafe. “The AmSafe Seatbelt Airbag enables all positions on the divan to be occupied for takeoff and landing. With every major manufacturer offering aircraft models that include side-facing divans, we anticipate a rapid adoption industry-wide.”
The announcement from AmSafe and B/E Aerospace came several weeks before the NTSB issued a report encouraging the use of aviation airbags.
For more information about AmSafe airbags for lighter airplanes, see AOPA Live.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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