AmSafe’s airbag breakthrough: Universal Retrofits.
Rick Durden in The Aviation Consumer Magazine (value L11 No.8) reports on our new universal seatbelt airbag system “that can be installed on almost any seat in almost any general aviation airplane… SOARS is less than half the price of the bespoke system that has been into planes since about 2004”…
There has been another break-through in the world of saving lives in general aviation airplanes. AmSafe has gone a step beyond its custom seatbelt airbag system—individually designed and built for over 150 types of general aviation aircraft—and developed a “universal” seatbelt airbag system that can be installed on almost any seat in almost any general aviation airplane.
While that is great news for occupant safety, in our opinion, the better news is that this universal retrofit—entitled SOARS (State-of-the-Art Restraint System)—is less than half the price of the bespoke system that has been going into airplanes since about 2004. We’ll start with a little back-ground on occupant restraints and then tell you about seatbelt airbags and why they are effective.
We’ll then look into why a universal retrofit potentially means a drop in the number of fatalities and serious injuries in general aviation airplanes because very sophisticated occupant protection is available at a startling low price—$2580 for two seats, plus three to six hours to install.
LACK OF RESTRAINT
As we were reviewing the accident reports involving the Meyers 200 as part of preparing the Used Aircraft Guide on that little rocket for this month’s issue, we came across one that was distressingly familiar: The airplane departed the runway during rollout, hit an obstruction and collapsed the nosegear.
The airplane was well below stall speed when it came to a quick stop. However, the pilot received serious injuries because he wasn’t wearing a shoulder harness. He jackknifed over the seatbelt and his head hit the panel.
The installation and regular use of shoulder harnesses proved to be one of the greatest steps forward in keeping aircraft occupants alive in accidents in history. The FAA has said their use has reduced fatalities by 20 percent and major injuries by 88 percent. The FAA unabashedly advocates that aircraft owners retrofit shoulder harnesses in aircraft that don’t have them. The problem is, it is not possible to install shoulder harnesses in all seats in all aircraft. SOARS solves that problem.
The next great leap in crash survivability, in our opinion, was the introduction of the airbag seatbelt during the first few years of this century by AmSafe, a Phoenix, Arizona, company that specializes in occupant protection testing and products for cars and aircraft.
AmSafe’s custom-designed and made airbag systems installed in seatbelts or shoulder harnesses have saved scores of lives. They are standard equipment on almost all new airplanes and can be retrofitted on over 150 types. The downside is that, because they had to be custom designed for each type of aircraft, they are expensive—figure $5000 to $6000 for both the pilot and copilot seats plus installation that can take from eight to 40 hours per seat.
AmSafe’s original airbag systems for general aviation aircraft were developed—and approved by the FAA—for each individual seat in each individual airplane, allowing for seat travel, shape of the cabin and occupant sizes. They had to fit from the smallest 5 percent female through the largest 95 percent adult male. They meet the 26-G deceleration requirement for restraints under the FARs.
The developmental process was, and is, complex. Despite that, more than 150,000 AmSafe airbag seatbelts have been installed and installation is approved for more than 150 aircraft types.
Download article: The Aviation Consumer