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Air bags can provide protection in aviation incidents: study

January 17, 2011

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Washington – General aviation airplanes equipped with air bags provide additional protection to passengers in some crashes, according to findings from a study released Jan. 11 and adopted by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Researchers analyzed 88 incidents of survivable forward impacts that occurred between 2006 and 2009 in air bag-equipped airplanes. They found no instances in which the air bag harmed properly restrained passengers.

Researchers found 10 survivable incidents during which the crash forces were severe enough to cause injury or deploy the air bag. Within that group of incidents, 12 passengers experienced air bag deployments. The study found the air bag likely mitigated injuries for two of the occupants.

Researchers discovered safety issues regarding restraint systems, such as incorrect use of safety belts contributing to the wrong air bag being activated if only one of the seats was occupied.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said that although the aviation industry has no requirement to equip small aircraft with air bags, more than 30 manufacturers currently offer them as standard or optional equipment.

The full study will be available on the NTSB website in the coming weeks.

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