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NTSB wants child seats on planes

Letter to the FAA from the NTSB

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


What do you think? Post a comment below?


By Michael Bolden  | August 11, 2010; 4:32 PM ET
Categories:  Aviation, NTSB  
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Comments

I've always wondered how "lap babies" were even allowed on flights, when everything else -- including the parents -- has to be secured against the possibility of becoming a projectile.

Posted by: EtoilePB | August 11, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

This is a bizarre conclusion from an investigation into a flight that killed everyone. What do they hope to accomplish with child seats? More lucky orphans?

Posted by: jiji1 | August 11, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

It's a good idea to ensure the safety of small children on flights. But even if child seats and restraints become mandatory, the ultimate responsibility will still lie with parents. Parents will have to be sure their child is strapped in, and not crawling down the aisle or trying to stand up in the seat, when turbulence hits. Maybe more parents will take this seriously if they have to pay for a child's seat. The idea that more people will drive instead of fly if they have to pay for kids' seats assumes that no parents will realize that they have a good excuse to leave the kids with grandma or a babysitter for a while.

Posted by: AirportAvenger | August 12, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Hooray for the NTSB continuing to implore that the FAA do their job of safety rather than wait until there are enough deaths. Flight attendants must instruct passengers to stow their belongings prior to take-off & landing including laptops, yet lap children remain potential missiles in turbulence or an emergency. This is not only dangerous but discriminatory as it implies that children under two are expendable. Shame on the FAA for giving parents the impression that by allowing laps, that it is safe to do so!

Posted by: Janlohr28 | August 16, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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