Most of the major airline crashes in the last year have ended in no survivors. When an aircraft drops out of the sky or has a huge catastrophe, no safety feature would prevent fatalities. However, there are many crash scenarios where some additional safety features could help to save lives.
When an accident happens on the ground (while taxiing, take off, landing, etc), in most cases passengers survive. However, in some cases, the cabins can be overcome by fire or smoke before passengers can escape.
Most aircraft today have “16g” seats. This means the seat has to be able to withstand 16 times the force of gravity (16 times the force of gravity is about equal to going from 30mph to 0mph instantly). Creating a seat to withstand more than 16g’s wouldn’t make sense, since any force greater than that would not be survivable.
Newer seats are not the only measures in place to keep passengers safe. Taking a page from the auto industry, some airlines have added airbags to seats and other surfaces. To make sure the airbags would not go off due to turbulence or a rough landing, the sensor only looks at the axis the plane is traveling for sudden stops, much like in an automobile. The goal is like that of stronger seats – get passengers out of a wrecked aircraft. “You’re going to be conscious. You’re going to have the opportunity to survive,” said Bill Hagan, president of AmSafe, which makes the airbags.
Airbags are currently installed in First and Business class seats where they are too far from the seat in front to offer protection. They are also starting to be seen on bulkhead, exit, lavatory, and galley rows.
USAToday asks – do all these extra safety features mean extra weight, and therefore more costs to the passenger? It possibly could, but wouldn’t it be worth the costs? Airlines often upgrade their safety equipment and sometimes the costs are handed down the customer. I know I would be willing to pay a few extra bucks to better the chance of my survival and of those around me if I were to be put in a disastrous airline situation.