DOT watchdog examining airplane overcrowding

By Tanya Snyder

06/18/2018 03:28 PM EDT

DOT’s inspector general has initiated an audit to determine whether evacuations under current aircraft conditions can still meet the 90-second standard deplaning passengers in an emergency.

The FAA standards haven’t changed significantly since 1990, but industry and consumer behavior have, the inspector general said in a statement today.

“For example, the number of aircraft seats and passengers have increased but seat size and distance between seats — known as seat pitch — has decreased,” the IG said. “Passengers’ reliance on carry-on luggage has also increased.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who together with House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) requested the study, has previously said he doubts computer simulations can accurately predict how long it takes to evacuate a plane.

“As they jam more and more and more seats into these planes, I wonder if we’ve reached a point where we can no longer meet that standard,” he said in an April hearing.

The audit will examine how changes in passenger behavior, passenger demographics and seating capacity affect the FAA’s standards and how the FAA determines whether aircraft, as currently configured, meet those standards.

To view online: