Airbags have been in cars for over a decade. In spite of some naysayers, anecdotal and other evidence indicates they clearly can save lives. Now, they are available for airplanes too.
With 9 US locations, AmSafe builds safety equipment and that includes airbags for airplanes. Building airplane airbags may sound like a fledgling market, but the Amsafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint system has probably already saved lives. In three different aviation accidents, five people walked away without help and with no life threatening injuries at all.
Bill Hagan, president of AmSafe, cites studies that say that half of all aviation accidents occur during taxi, takeoff or landing and survival often depends on staying conscious after the accident occurs. That's where AmSafe's airbags come in.
Working much like an automobile airbag, the bag can inflates in front of the occupant, providing the same safety cushion designed for cars and trucks over 20 years ago. That was roughly when the Insurance Institute and others began touting the safety aspects of what was then a still unproven design. Detroit fought airbags, claiming the extra cost was not worth it. Gradually, the scientists won the argument.
Nowadays, no one thinks twice about airbags. You expect there's one in your new car (and there is). Makes sense they'd work in airplanes too. You can watch some video footage of airplane airbags in action by clicking here.
I've travel thousands of air miles and never been an accident once. Then again, I can say that about motor vehicles too. Just like with seat belts, knowing the airbag is there makes you feel just a little safer in a car. No reason it wouldn't be the same in a plane.
Although the odds are still small, you are 60 times more likely to be injured in a general aviation accident than if you are riding in a scheduled US air carrier flight, according to federal investigators.
I don't know if we'll ever see airbags installed in a huge commercial airliner, but for smaller general aviation aircraft, they just make good sense. An airbag doesn't stop a car from being a lemon, but it can save your life. The same thing just might be true for airplanes.