My answer to Is it mandatory for 3-year-olds travelling via airplane, to sit on a child seat?
Answer by Thomas Zerbarini:
This is a topic that I have been wanting to share my opinion about, since I myself started having children. As an airline pilot and a father of four who each have traveled extensively since they have been as little as 3 months old, I do have some experience on the subject.
First, to answer your question, No it is not mandatory on most airlines. I feel it should be though for all children that are required to sit in a car seat in a vehicle.
It’s understood that a restraining systems (seat belt) sole purpose is to keep you in one place during excessive and sudden acceleration forces, like what you’d experience in a car accident or during airplane turbulence. In your car, the likelhood of a car accident is very low in our day to day drive. Similar, severe turbulence in an airplane is a fairly low risk. But, the risk is there.
In an airplane, there are a few situations where you will experience sudden and extreme acceleration forces. They include:
- Aborted Take-off – A maximum effort braking and stopping maneuver of a aircraft rejecting an takeoff at speeds up to takeoff speed for the purpose of stopping on the available runway/stopway. Forces in excess of 2g to 3g’s can be experienced.
- Moderate to Extreme turbulence in flight – Even though aircraft can handle very intense turbulence, it is more difficult for passengers to remain restrained effectively and avoid becoming projectiles in the cabin, thereby posing an injury threat to themselves and to others in the cabin. Severe turbulence is defined in theas, “Occupants forced violently against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects are tossed about. Food Service and walking are impossible.”
- Incident/accident –
During these unexpected and rare situation on an airplane, if you have a lap child or a child sitting in a seat with a simple lap belt, it will be impossible to secure them, hold onto them, and/or restrain them sufficiently so they do not become a loose projectile in the cabin.
As pilots and crew we train, prepare and follow strict guidance to minimize risk and increase safety for our passengers and crew. As parents it is our obligation and responsibility to look out for the safety of those precious little ones that depend on us to keep them safe when they can’t do it for themselves. That being said, it would behoove us to mitigate the risk as best we can for our children and provide them with a safe and secure means of restraint in our vehicles and aircraft alike. After all, our children are our precious cargo traveling with us in this adult world.
Even thought it is not mandatory (and a politically charged topic) the FAA also shares the same thoughts I do and strongly urges parents to properly restrain their children. They offer great guidance and advice on approved Child Restraining Systems (CRS) and how to use them:
Thanks for letting me be a sounding board for this question. As an airline pilot for many years having the responsibility of the pubic and my passengers safety; and, as a father, I feel strongly about protecting our children when it comes to restraints and carseats. When your flying with me on one of my flights, you’ll see me walk through the cabin to check on those little ones before pushback to see how they are being secured and maybe share some advice to parents.
Update! I recently discovered another video put out by the NTSB about child passenger safety. It covers much of what I discussed here in this blog post…
It’s surprising how many under 2 lap children I discover during my cabin walk. For those parents all I can tell them (and I know the flight attendants say the same thing) is to be sure not to wrap the child between themselves and their seat belt. If we did have a sudden stop or turbulence, the full weight of the adult will crush the child between them and the seatbelt.
I hope this is welcomed advice for all considering the huge expense of a seat for your child when you consider traveling.