FARs are Federal Aviation Regulations that the FAA uses to govern and guide all aviation activities in the US to ensure the safety of aviation and to protect crewmembers, passengers and the general public. Other countries have similar regulatory boards and similar regulations. The FARs are organized into sections called ‘Parts’ with each Part pertaining to a different aspect of aviation (maintenance, airworthiness, operational requirements, etc.) We’ll use this regular feature to primarily help educate travelers on Parts 121 & 135 – operating requirements for commercial, commuter, and charter airlines.
FAR 121.571 – “Briefing Passengers Before Takeoff” – gives the airlines requirements for the important safety information they need to provide to you as a passenger. Every passenger should be motivated to focus on the safety announcements and safety information cards offered, but motivating people, even when their own safety is involved, is not always easy.
I know you frequent flyers seem to know all this information, but someone sitting next to you may not know, and may be the very person to help you in an emergency. So prior to takeoff, please give the flight attendants the courtesy of listening to the information they’re giving. It really may save your life one day.
One particular group of passengers the flight attendants are now briefing in more detail are the exit-row passengers. In a study on aircraft evacuations, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) found that passengers seated in the exit row admit that they do not review the passenger information card that should help them understand how to open and operate the exit.
Yes, the exit row does typically come with quite a nice bit of extra leg room, but that ability to stretch your legs also comes with some responsibility we all should take seriously. As a person seated in the exit row, you must be able to react quickly, as you may be called upon (either by crew command or personal assessment of danger) to decide if your exit is safe to use and then open the exit for use during an evacuation.
As a result of their study the NTSB and FAA strongly recommend that airlines require crewmembers to provide a personal preflight briefing to passengers seated in the exit row. Passengers need:
- A clear explanation of what they’re expected to do if the exit may be needed.
- Information on when not to open the exit during an evacuation (fire, smoke, debris, and/or water for some aircraft).
- To know over-wing exits (especially Type III exits) can be a bit heavy (up to 65 lbs.) and difficult to maneuver.
So if you don’t think you are physically able or you aren’t interested in the added responsibility of being the first person to open the over-wing exit and lead the way off the aircraft in an emergency, please do your fellow passengers a favor and ask to be reseated…as always, fly smart.