In a Notice of Proposed Clarification of Prior Interpretations published yesterday, the FAA proposed clarifications of prior interpretations of the seat belt and seating requirements of 14 CFR 91.107(a)(3). FAR 91.107(a)(3) provides that “each person on board a U.S.-registered civil aircraft…must occupy an approved seat or berth with a safety belt and, if installed, shoulder harness, properly secured about him or her during movement on the surface, takeoff, and landing.”
The FAA’s earlier interpretations state that it may be permissible to share a single restraint. Under the proposed clarification, “the use of a seat belt and/or seat by more than one occupant is appropriate only if: The seat belt is approved and rated for such use; the structural strength requirements for the seat are not exceeded; and the seat usage conforms with the limitations contained in the approved portion of the Airplane Flight Manual.”
With respect to the seating of children and their seat belt use, FAR 91.107(a)(3)(i) provides that a child may “[b]e held by an adult who is occupying an approved seat or berth, provided that the person being held has not reached his or her second birthday and does not occupy or use any restraining device.” Although the FAA advocates “the use of child restraints such as child safety seats for children who are within the weight restriction of the restraint,” it also recognizes that children are often difficult to restrain and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. As a result, the Notice clarifies “that the proper restraint method for children during operations conducted under part 91 relies on the good judgment of the pilot, who should be intimately aware of the capabilities and structural requirements of the aircraft that he or she is operating.”
Comments to the proposed clarification must be received by the FAA on or before August 22, 2011. If you have questions or would like more information regarding the proposed clarification, you may contact Alex Zektser, Attorney, Regulations Division, Office of Chief Counsel, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone: (202) 267- 3073; email: Alex.Zektser@faa.gov.