Who knew airlines had air bags? I didn’t. I guess it makes sense. A bag for the air, to accompany your travel bag and the omnipresent barf bag. Did you know that on Frontier flights long ago, a barf bag had the word Occupied printed on it so that when you left to go to the restroom, you would put it in on your seat so nobody would take it? This was back in the day of festival seating. But where was I? Oh, air bags. I was actually surprised to know that planes had them. And maybe they don’t all yet, but Boeing has been working on them and not without complications. At a Boeing plant, there has been at least one fatality and several accidents to technicians working with the air bag systems. In the Reuters article published just a few hours ago, the bags are called seat-belt bags and it referenced a seat air bag inflator. Work was being done on a 777, a plane widely flown the world over.
I’m all for increased air safety, but I don’t see what purpose an in-flight air bag would serve. Imagine the things activating when a plane hits a pocket of turbulence. What if a kid full of sugar kicks the seat back too hard and one goes off? There’d be screaming and widespread panic. Or what if the things are actually in the seats and one goes off and sends an unsuspecting, unseat-belted passenger through the cabin roof. On the other hand, I suppose an air bag would protect passengers from rough landings, but would do very little to cushion the blow of a crash. Not to make light of the practical aspects of an air bag, whatever they may be, but I do seem to remember back from my days as a high school debater that the airbag propellent, sodium azide, is a known carcinogen. If you add this potentially toxic gas to the mix of cabin air which is not exactly rocky mountain fresh, you may find the need to reach for the barf bag, and then the oxygen bag and finally a gas mask.
Don’t get me wrong. I like my car air bag, I think, unless it’s one of those suspect ones that Takata made that spews shards of metal once deployed, and it may very well be one as I own a Honda. Wouldn’t it be awful to be saved by an airbag from the impact of a crash only to be killed by the bag’s shrapnel or toxic gas?
Air travel is pretty safe so I say we leave things the way they are. Let’s stick with seat belts and barf bags.