FAA to Test If Airplane Seats Are Too Small for Safe Evacuation

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faa test airplane seats

FAA to Test If Airplane Seats Are Too Small for Safe Evacuation

The Federal Aviation Administration will conduct evacuation tests to determine whether airline seats are spacious enough to sufficiently evacuate passengers in the event of an emergency. According to Reuters, the tests will involve 720 people over the course of 12 days in November.

“Americans are getting bigger and seat size is important but it has to be looked at in the context of safety,” said Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell at a U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing.

But while Americans have gotten bigger, seat pitch has shrunk on most airlines. Since 1970, the distance from one seat back to the next has gotten anywhere between 3 to 7 inches shorter. Some low cost airlines have a seat pitch of just 28″.

Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act in 2018 requiring that it to sets minimum seat standards for pitch, width and length for passenger safety. Currently there’s no set requirements for these measurements. But, airlines should be able to evacuate passengers from aircraft within 90 seconds.


  1. Will these 90 second evacuation tests be under ideal circumstances or more real world?

    Will there a couple of service and/or emotional support animals?

    Will there be a number of passengers who are very slow due to mobility issues seated in random places?

    Will several people stop to grab their luggage to bring off the plane?

    Will small children and babies be part of the test group?

    Will some portion of the volunteers, chosen secretly in advance at random, feign injury or confusion?

    I think the 90 second test is fine, but running it under impossibly perfect circumstances is unrealistic at best and incredibly dangerous at worst. do the above and I think that you’d be unlikely to succeed.

  2. If the FAA sets minimum standards for seat size and pitch, you can bet that, within a couple of years, every US airline will move to those minimums.


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