NTSB wants child seats on planes
Federal safety officials are recommending that flight rules be changed to require child safety seats on planes for children less than 2 years old.
The National Transportation Safety Board made the recommendation Wednesday to the Federal Aviation Administration to amend current regulations to "require each person who is less than 2 years of age to be restrained in a separate seat position by an appropriate child restraint system during takeoff, landing, and turbulence."
The NTSB is making the recommendation as part of its investigation into the March 2009 crash of a small plane that was making an emergency landing in Butte, Mont.
The plane had departed Oroville, Calif., headed for Bozeman, Mont., the NTSB said. A pilot and 13 passengers were killed, including seven children, ages 1 through 9, the agency said. According to the NTSB, the plane was configured with two pilot seats and eight passengers seats.
The NTSB said it was unable to determine who was sitting where, but the bodies of four children, ages 3 to 9, were found farthest from the crash site, "indicating that these children were likely thrown from the airplane because they were unrestrained or improperly restrained."
The NTSB noted, however, that the crash "was not survivable" and the investigation is continuing. But "if the accident had been less severe and ... survivable," being unrestrained would have provided a "greater risk of injury or death."
The NTSB said it has previously disagreed with the practice of permitting children less than 2 to travel aboard aircraft without their own restraints. The FAA, NTSB officials said, was concerned that "requiring the use of a child restraint system would significantly raise the net price of travel for families with a child less than 2 years of age because the families would need to purchase a ticket for the child. The FAA concluded that this price increase would divert some family travel from the air transportation system to the highway system, which would, in turn, result in a net increase in overall transportation fatalities."
NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman and Members Robert L. Sumwalt, Mark R. Rosekind and Earl F. Weener. agreed with the recommendations. Vice Chairman Christopher A. Hart filed his own dissenting statement, saying he believed the recommendation was futile "because we have made that recommendation before, without success, and we have no reason to believe that this approach will achieve a better result this time."
Hart recommended an alternative approach:
"I think we should recommend that the FAA revisit, in light of current infant car seat technology, whether there is a scientific basis for excepting children under age 2 from the restraint requirements ... and if there is no scientific basis for the exception, then the exception is arbitrary, by definition, and SHOULD BE RESCINDED," he wrote.
"One advantage of this approach would be to shift the argument away from the FAA's "diversion" response. ... If there is diversion to the highways for not wanting to buy an extra seat for a 1 year old, there is no reason why that same diversion argument would not also apply to 5 year olds or 10 year olds. Given that we will not resolve the diversion debate with this process, we can at least try to shift the debate to finding out why they chose the age of 2 for the exception."
The NTSB has no authority to enforce its recommendations.
-- Michael Bolden
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