If you are a pilot and flying with children on a personal airplane, how do you keep your child restrained?
This is probably the most important issue concerning children in private aviation.
All passengers in an aircraft require “adequate” restraint, but what constitutes adequate restraint is not so straight-forward when it comes to infants and children.
From the beginning
There are no specific regulations on when you can fly with a newborn. You can fly with a newborn baby as soon as you are ready and need to arrange air travel — and have a valid passport in place for your baby, if you are flying out of country.
As with the larger airlines, regulations permit that your baby can travel on your lap until the age of two years old, when they will then require his or her own seat.
While this requirement makes the life of airlines and commercial operators much easier, most car seat experts will tell you this is not adequate protection. In the event of an accident involving significant impact forces, or even severe turbulence, it will not be possible to restrain a child held on your lap or that of your partner.
We recommend you always use a car seat on an airplane and you strap it in following the same instructions as when you are traveling by car. For an infant use the car seat rear-facing and strap the child snugly into the harness.
Many but not all car seats have FAA approval. And while there will be no airline attendant to verify your seat is FAA approved, it is a good idea to use one that is. FAA approval means it has passed an inversion test.
From age two onward it is required by law that he or she has their own seat. We still recommend that you use a car seat on flight with you.
Again install the child restraint on the plane as you would in a car with a lap-only belt. Older children can, of course, be strapped into the aircraft in an identical manner to adults.
However, some parents would like their children to have additional protection. Booster seats do not provide adequate protection for a child during take-off and landing. There is the option of the CARES harness, however, they are limited to a small weight range, 22-44 pounds, and you still need to bring a car seat with you for your car travel on the other side of your flight.
Harness vests like the RideSafer are not yet FAA approved. (The paperwork has been filed for the RideSafer but FAA says they are not yet able to classify harness vests in their policies. We thought it would be classified just like a CARES harness.) The RideSafer has passed the FAA inversion test when used with an additional strap that wraps the airline seat to provide upper body restraint when used with a lap belt.
Many private pilots are still choosing to use the RideSafer for their children on their plane. Some of private aircraft have lap and shoulder belts that work with the guides in the RideSafer. For others that just have the lap belt, parents can use the tether strap connected to another seat belt behind the child or to an EATAL strap. The private pilots we have talked with are impressed with the RideSafer’s usefulness during flight and being able to use it for both their car and their plane.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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We originally published this post in August 2015. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.