Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of working with Dana Siewert, Director of Aviation Safety at the John D. Odegard Aerospace Sciences program at the University of North Dakota.
My first reaction as I began to learn about their aviation program was "Who would want to go to North Dakota to learn to fly?" Dumb question on my part. Currently their program has over 1,200 students and they will fly more than 120,000 hours this year! The University has an outstanding safety record due in large part to their devotion to integrating safety into everything they do. From the first day on campus to the last, safety is taught and woven into the fabric of their fine program. As I write the University is looking to upgrade its fleet of aircraft, and a committee has been assembled to determine exactly which aircraft to acquire to update their fleet. And they have chosen the Cessna Skyhawk as their new basic training aircraft. I recently interviewed Dana Siewert in a "Hangar Talk" podcast, and during that interview he talked about the many things they considered when making the decision to purchase these new Cessna aircraft. Among the most important considerations was the fact that each aircraft comes equipped with the AmSafe Airbag safety system for aircraft. Based upon the outstanding success of airbags in the automotive business, AmSafe has developed an Airbag Seatbelt system for both new and used aircraft. How important are these AmSafe Airbag Seatbelt systems? Well, in May of 2004 the Federal Aviation Administration updated it's safety brochure on the use of seatbelts, and you can download a copy to see for yourself at "FAA Seatbelt Brochure." In summary the FAA noted:
- Seat belts alone will protect you only in minor impacts
- Using shoulder belts in small aircraft would reduce major injuries by 88% and fatalities by 20%
- Shoulder belt kits are now available for most airplanes
- Proper use and installation of child safety seats, meeting Federal requirements, provide good protection for small children in aircraft.
- Restraint systems in small aircraft: a smart idea!