• Article
  • 22 Feb 2022
George  AllenPhoto
George Allen

How Safe is Modern Aircraft Seating?

Aircraft Seating Internal + Listing Image

A relative newcomer to the aircraft seating market, Mirus, announced last year that it plans to open its own seat testing facility.

Located in Norfolk, it will be the third (and largest) commercial testing facility in the UK for aircraft and vehicle seating.

This serves as an appropriate jumping-off point for us to look at what makes modern aircraft seating so safe.

Testing Aircraft Seating

Understandably, aircraft seating must go through rigorous testing before reaching commercial viability.

Much like seating in cars, it has a lot of responsibility for keeping its user alive in the event of a crash.

The seats go through crash testing in a facility like the one Mirus is building.

Seats must withstand a force of 16Gs, the level of force applied to the occupant if an aircraft stops suddenly.

Crash tests involve running the seats on a sled to test the seatbelts, injury protection, and overall integrity in a crash.

Part of the reason why Mirus is building a new facility is that this process can take months.

Along with waiting for availability, crash testing can highlight minor safety issues that require revision.

If this happens, a company must go to the back of the queue, adding more delay to their product rollout.

The materials used in aircraft seats vary but are commonly made from thermoplastics and other flame-retardant materials.

They ideally do not produce toxic smoke (if they smoke at all) and some manufacturers even use self-extinguishing materials.

Along with crash testing, fire resistance is one of the most important aspects of seat safety in an aircraft.

Depending on the area of use, seats are certified by the relevant governing body, such as the FAA or EASA.

Their standards cover most aspects, ranging from crash and fire resistance to, in some circumstances, size and materials.

Aerospace is a highly regulated industry, so it should come as no surprise that seats have such rigorous certification procedures.

Aircraft Seating: Then vs. Now

Aircraft seat safety has been an industry standard for some time now.

The biggest developments began after WW2, although the basis for our modern standards began in the 1980s.

Even in the last 20 years, there have been some notable changes to how aircraft seating is made.

The biggest difference, as with other aspects of aerospace, is the rise of composite and more complex production materials.

Some manufacturers use composites for seat frames instead of aluminium.

While this does not relate directly to safety, it reduces overall weight and means greater efficiency and flexibility over other products used in the seats.

Although seating, as a whole, is fairly safe, more of the pitfalls lie with layout and spacing.

In a bid for greater efficiency, various airlines are testing new layouts, such as rear-facing seats or more seats in a single aisle.

However, these lead to potential safety concerns, such as injury from flying cargo or difficulty in evacuation.

That said, there is always room for innovation, even in the more minor aspects of aircraft seat safety.

Composite materials perhaps hold some of the greatest potential, particularly for injury reduction in crashes.

Hopefully, Mirus’s new testing facility will open up development in the UK, if only because it reduces the time to market for new products.