Pete Muntean and Nicky Robertson, CNN
The US Federal Aviation Administration is seeking comments from the public about the size of commercial airplane seats — from a safety perspective.
In a filing with the Federal Register on Wednesday, the FAA requested comments on the minimum seat dimensions necessary for the safety of air passengers in case of emergency evacuation.
“The FAA invites public comments to assist the agency in determining what minimum dimensions (including pitch, width, and length) of passenger seats may be necessary for safety, including in particular airplane evacuation,” the request states.
In a statement to CNN, the FAA outlined additional safety considerations.
“FAA regulations require that all transport category airplanes be able to conduct a rapid evacuation in case of fire. Other FAA evacuation requirements address real-world conditions, landing gear collapse, and exit failure, among others.”
Comments are open to the public until November 1.
What’s not up for comment
The feedback the agency is seeking is limited to safety considerations.
Matters “such as how the dimensions of passenger seats might relate to passenger comfort or convenience” are not part of its request for comments, the FAA said in its Federal Register notice.
In March, the FAA submitted a report to Congress evaluating the current safety standard and came to the conclusion that “the overall level of safety and likelihood of survivability in events involving evacuations is very high.”
The report was the result of a directive included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
A number of agencies and industry representatives — including the National Transportation Safety Board, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and pilot and flight attendant associations — participated in reviewing evacuations that had occurred on planes in the past decade.
The group provided the FAA with 27 recommendations for how the safety of such evacuations could be improved, such as a review of emergency lighting systems to decide whether higher illumination levels are needed.
Also tied to the FAA Reauthorization Act, the agency conducted simulated emergency evacuations in 2019 and 2020. “In these tests, seat size and spacing did not adversely affect the success of emergency evacuations,” according to a letter submitted with the March FAA report from agency administrator Steve Dickson.
The FAA noted that their simulations involved able-bodied adult subjects younger than 60, in line with accepted standards for human testing.
The invitation to comment offers the public a chance to provide information about safe seat dimensions for children, passengers over 60 and those will disabilities, the agency said in its letter to Congress.
In its notice seeking comment, the FAA noted that it is particularly interested in technical data and information.
Comments can be submitted directly via a “submit” button on the Federal Register notice. The notice also lists several other means of commenting, including mail, fax and hand delivery.
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Top image: Airplane seats (Adobe Stock) CNN’s Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.