Watchdog: FAA not prepared to update jet evacuation rules

DETROIT  — The Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t updated standards for emergency airliner evacuations in nearly two decades, a period when travelers have increasingly had to deal with tighter aircraft seats, more carry-on bags and support animals, a government watchdog says.

The Transportation Department’s Inspector General said in an audit report released late last week that the FAA and hasn’t done enough research to evaluate the new risks. In addition, it says the FAA largely only updates standards after accidents and hasn’t revised them since a 1991 accident.

“This lack of data inhibits FAA’s ability to determine how to improve evacuation regulations and protect passenger safety in emergencies,” the report said.

The Inspector General recommended that the FAA regularly collect and analyze emergency evacuation data to find out if standards need to be changed. The agency also should make sure that data used in airplane manufacturers’ evacuation demonstrations is up to date.

The FAA agreed with both of the Inspector General’s recommendations, the audit report said.

But in a memo responding to the report, the FAA said it has enacted increasingly rigorous cabin safety requirements over the years including tougher standards for exit pathways, emergency lighting, escape systems, flammability of materials and testing of seats.

“These system requirements have increased survivability and the amount of time available for successful evacuations, as demonstrated in many accidents,” the FAA wrote.


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