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David Rapoport
David Rapoport
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Babies Deserve Seats and Restraints on Airplanes like Everyone Else

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It must be safe to fly with a baby on your lap because the airlines and Federal Aviation Administration allow it, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, the airlines and the FAA know this practice is unsafe and recommend against it, but most people do not understand this is so.

Imagine what would happen if instead of carefully packing a Lladro figurine so it cannot bounce around inside a shipping box it was placed loose inside the box instead. No one would be surprised to find it in pieces after shipping because common sense and science both tell us fragile items must be restrained to be shipped safely. What if members of the professional bowler’s tour ignored this principle and started flying with their bowling balls on their laps? Would anyone be safe on board during an unexpected turbulence encounter? The answer is no, because even pro-bowlers cannot be relied on to restrain a bowling ball during the expected G forces in a turbulence encounter or the greater G forces of an air crash. Babies are usually heavier and harder to hold than bowling balls. And while most people don’t know this, there are usually survivors in air crashes – making seats, restraints and seat padding crucially important to protect everyone on board. We’ve all heard the seat belt warnings on airplanes and instinctively know our favorable aviation safety statistics are only possible due to seats, restraints and seat padding, ideas which grew out of lessons learned from the packaging industry.

Everyone but babies under two must have a seat and proper restraint when flying under existing rules. The time has come to outlaw the practice of systematically denying seats and age appropriate restraints to the most vulnerable among us. It makes no sense at all to treat our cargo with more care than our most precious human beings. And the babies are not the only ones at risk, unrestrained babies present a danger to everyone on board from events as predictable and common as moderate to severe turbulence.

No one understands this better than Jan Brown, who was the lead flight attendant when a United Airlines DC-10 crashed at Sioux City, Iowa on July 19, 1989. That day it was Jan’s job to instruct young parents flying with lap babies to put their babies on the floor for the emergency landing everyone knew was coming because an engine had exploded. One of those babies was Evan Tsao, who flew unrestrained during the crash from an area where he would have survived to his death, may he rest in peace.

Please spend three minutes viewing this outstanding video prepared by the National Transportation Safety Board explaining the danger and what can be done now to protect the babies in your family until the FAA does what it needs to do to protect all babies:

If you would like to know more, Jan Brown, Lindsey Epstein and I tell the full story of what happened to Evan Tsao in the Sioux City crash, present evidence about other babies who have needlessly died or been injured under similar circumstances, reveal the history of action by the NTSB and inaction by the FAA and airlines on this problem, the arguments against change and why these arguments are wrong, all in a recent law review article published by DePaul University School of Law.