The last time the FAA updated its plane evacuation assessment standards was in 1990. Since then, airplane seats have gotten narrower and their pitch (the space spacing between rows) has gotten smaller. Both of those actions have been in the name of stuffing more seats into the cabin. This all happened while the average American has become about 20 pounds heavier than they were 30 years ago.
The safety standards for modern aviation are that a full commercial airplane must be able to be evacuated within 90 seconds in the event of an emergency. So you’ve got more people, many who have to struggle more to get out of their seats because they’re larger and more squished in, all in the same space. And they all have to exit a plane in a minute and a half.
In October 2018, as part of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, Congress said the FAA needed to create minimum plane seat standards for pitch, width and length, based upon what is “necessary for the safety and health of passengers.”
It took the FAA a little more than a year, but they finally did the testing in November 2019. We wrote about the details of, at the time, what they planned to do about a month before the testing happened.
It’s been almost a year and since the time of the testing, we haven’t heard a word from the FAA about it. I could have sworn I remember reading they planned to have a report by Spring of 2020 but unfortunately, I can’t find that reference now. Plus, of course, we’ve had a pandemic and yadda yadda yadda. But still, just about all federal entities have been back to work for a while now (some, [*cough*] including the FAA [*cough*], never stopped working) and we still haven’t heard anything.
That is, until now.
An industry insider reports that, upon a recent inquiry, an FAA spokesperson says they expect to have the results from the evacuation testing by the end of the calendar year.
They didn’t mention why it’s been taking them so long or even if or how the pandemic has impacted their progress. They also didn’t mention if or how the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing will come into play in all of this. Nor did they say, based on their results, when they’d have proposed regulations for seat pitch and width.
But the results from the November 2019 evacuation testing should be ready by the end of 2020.
For what it’s worth, in 2016, American Airlines Flight 383 caught on fire as it was preparing for takeoff. The Dallas Morning News reported on the chaos of what was happening inside the plane during the emergency evacuation that took two minutes and twenty-one seconds to complete.
So yeah, I’m looking forward to hearing the FAA’s report by the end of the year.
Feature Photo: Pikrepo
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary