The FAA announced last week that it plans to conduct evacuation testing this November, to decide if passengers are able to evacuate planes in a safe and timely manner during an emergency.
The current rule for emergency circumstances is that airlines must be able to evacuate passengers within 90 seconds, which is the time it’s said it takes a fire to engulf a standard cabin. According to FOX59, there’s an overall concern that with seats and legroom becoming smaller and smaller, airlines may not be able to evacuate all passengers in that 90-second time frame. So, as per Deputy Administration Dan Elwell, the Federal Aviation Authority has announced plans to conduct evacuation tests with 720 people over 12 days in November.
This all came about, apparently not so much for the FAA’s sudden concerns about our safety, but because of pressure from Congress. In October 2018, Congress passed a law requiring the FAA to create minimum seat standards for pitch, width and length for passenger safety, since there are currently no such rules on the books, and the deadline is looming.
“Americans are getting bigger and seat size is important but it has to be looked at in the context of safety,” Elwell said. “We are going to get you an answer on seat pitch.”
This testing will include “good demographic sampling.” FAA acting Deputy Associate Administrator Lirio Liu said the simulations will take place in a dark environment, with half of the plane’s exits blocked. Flight attendants will not know which exits are available, to mimic real-world situations.”
I just hope their “good demographic sampling” and “real-world situations” really are what they claim to be. A typical plane has pets and small children included in the mix of typical adults. Nowadays, it could potentially have people who can’t follow directions because they don’t understand English or have intellectual/psychological disabilities, people who exclusively use a wheelchair for mobilization, elderly people who move very slowly, people who greatly exceed typical weight and/or height demographics, etc. Chances are good that several passengers on any given plane may fit into one or more of those categories. And let’s not forget the people who will be in the middle of using their computers, or eating, and will have their lap trays down. Or the ones who will insist on grabbing their carry on luggage in the overhead or below their seats, or who would take the emergency as an opportunity to start videotaping with their phones. I hope all of those demographics of people, as well as the real-life situation of panic, as well as a significant amount of bags and belongings strewn on the floor, are represented during this test.
I would love if this could be the key to larger seats and more legroom. I suspect it’ll be interesting to see what the results are.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary