FAA Tests To See If Passengers Are Outgrowing Airplane Seats


As airliner seats get smaller and Americans get bigger, the FAA has decided to quantify the effect seat size (on the airplane) has on safety. Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell announced the agency will conduct 12 days of emergency evacuation testing at the end of November to see if stuffing ever growing, uh, masses into progressively smaller receptacles makes it harder to get out of an airplane in an emergency. “Americans are getting bigger, so seat size is important, but it’s got to be looked at in the context of safety,” said Elwell.

He said a total of 720 volunteers, from small to extra large, including children, animals and those with disabilities, will take part in the tests. They will be asked to leave a dark aluminum tube in which half the exits are blocked and the flight attendants won’t know in advance which exits are available. “They try to simulate the worst-case scenario,” said agency spokeswoman Lirio Liu. The tests are in response to concerns raised at a congressional committee meeting about airliner design and safety.

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  1. Long overdue. I would love to see a video of a 6ft+ tall individual actually assume the brace position without putting their face into the hard plastic folded table seat back in front of them with a seat pitch of 28”.

    • Airbus did a full test for the 380 compliance regs, with from memory 500 people.
      Not sure how they got them but they looked representative. It all went well except for about five who were carted off to hospital mainly for broken ankles and shoulder ligament damage. And another 20 or so reduced to tears by being shouted at.
      You just cannot expect people, whose last exercise was running very slowly around a school sports pitch 30 years ago, to do anything as physical as jumping down a 10 metre slide without some damage…

  2. I’m 6’3” and have been so since the seats were reasonable. I nearly lost my knee caps from a seat coming down too fast and the tray pinching my whole lower leg to the floor like a vise. Poor guy in front of me heard my yell as he was launched forward with all the power my two arms could muster. I limped for a week. That was decades ago. Nowadays the person in front just can’t move unless I rearrange my legs which usually touch the seat in front of me when it’s upright.

    Mooney solves the problem.

  3. Boycotts are notoriously ineffective much of the time. However, the most likely way, IMHO, to get the airlines to give us back seat pitch we lost, is to hit them financially and seriously.
    I sincerely hope this safety study will also have some effect.

  4. It took the FAA long enough! This has been going on for a very long time. Everyone may joke about Americans getting “larger” (politically correct term for fatter), but the reality is that we have also been getting taller (which directly affects seat pitch) as well as just getting heavier in general. The FAA’s “standard 170 pound” person is long gone. I hope they also include evacuations through the over wing exits. Most larger people (and the elderly) would have a very difficult time fitting through that little opening.

    In reality, unless the FAA forces the airlines to change, they will simply ignore the results and keep on doing what they are doing – cramming the maximum number of people in to maximize profits.