AmSafe Adds New Airbag Restraints for Variety of Seating Situations

 - October 22, 2013, 1:30 PM

AmSafe is highlighting the advantages of its new side-facing divan airbag restraints, leg flail mitigation airbag systems and lightweight conventional three-point lap belts, weighing 20 percent less than those currently installed. The company (Booth No. C12740) is opening a new market for its airbag systems in airliners and larger business jets, following the FAA’s update of technical criteria for side-facing seats.

Current markets for AmSafe include airliners, business jets and general aviation fixed-wing airplanes. The company is exploring the helicopter market, primarily military applications, while continuing to research that environment’s unique injury profiles and restraint requirements.

AmSafe’s new lighter standard seatbelts save about two ounces compared to those currently aboard airliners. This seemingly negligible reduction, multiplied by 250 seats in a widebody airliner, lightens the aircraft by more than 30 pounds. The company’s passenger seat lapbelts are installed in 95 percent of the world’s airliners and it holds 85 percent of the world market for all types of aerospace restraints.

Bill Gehret, AmSafe’s airbag systems product line manager, said there are currently more than 90,000 lapbelt airbag restraints in use, including more than 60,000 installed on certain airliner seats such as front rows, in service with 80 airlines worldwide, and 30,000 plus in general aviation airplanes, primarily on pilot and copilot seats.

Two basic differences between AmSafe’s aircraft airbag restraint systems and the airbags in ground vehicles are that its system deploys outward from the occupant rather than inward as in the automotive system, and the helium gas in the AmSafe airbag is cold rather than hot.

The new AmSafe airbags for side-facing seats and divans are either shoulder belt-mounted to minimize neck injury or located in a small module near the lower legs to restrain forward leg motion and prevent flailing leg injuries. Gehret said AmSafe intends to offer the side-facing systems to airframe OEMs as well as to completions and retrofit providers now that the new FAA criteria have been issued. He said the company is offering airbag systems for forward facing seats, side-facing shoulder harness airbags and leg flail mitigation modules for side-facing divans and multi-point airbag restraints for pilot and copilot seats.

The FAA’s 2012 policy statement for side-facing divan seat restraints highlights special conditions for seat certification that cover neck injury and leg flail, added to previous criteria. AmSafe has worked closely with the FAA to research neck and lower body injury dynamics. “We had already developed solutions for the neck injury scenario,” Gehret said, “and years ago began to address the leg flail problem. So we put ourselves in position to meet the regulations when they were issued. This research has allowed development of a single set of special conditions applicable to all fully side-facing seats.”

The leg flail case contained challenges not present in the front- and rear-facing seat environment, particularly those of preventing a passenger’s legs from rotating outward beyond the normal limits of human body flexibility. Such movement can cause fracture of the femur (thigh bone) as well as damage to the lower abdomen. AmSafe engineers addressed this problem by designing an airbag module to prevent extreme lateral movement of the limbs. Additional advantages of the leg flail airbag module are that it is invisible to the passenger, operates automatically only when needed without passenger interaction and deflates rapidly to facilitate egress.

A video demonstrating deployment of the side-facing shoulder belt-mounted airbag restraint is being shown at the AmSafe booth.