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Board Urges Car-Style Safety Seats for Infants on Airliners

From Associated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended Tuesday that children now flying free in parents’ arms be required to sit in separate safety seats on airliners.

“All objects must be secured during takeoff and landing, including coffee pots and luggage,” said board Chairman James Kolstad. “And yet infants, our precious children, are not.”

The proposal, approved 4 to 0 by the safety board, does not deal with who will provide the seats or whether fares will be charged for the infants. But if such a regulation takes effect, airlines are expected to require that parents generally bring along an infant seat--like the ones required in cars--and buy a ticket if they want to be guaranteed passage for the child.

When planes are not full, the airlines are expected to continue to allow infants to fly at no charge.

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The recommendation now goes to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has resisted a mandatory rule on the grounds that the 5,000 to 10,000 youngsters under 2 years old who fly in adults’ laps each day are not at great risk.

Under the NTSB proposal, parents who arrive at the gate of a fully booked flight with an unticketed baby would not be allowed to take the child aboard. They also could be denied passage with any small child if they are not carrying an approved car seat.

The FAA has said it will consider mandatory restraints but has proposed only to require that airlines allow seats on board if passengers chose to use them.

The NTSB proposal would prevent children under 40 inches tall or 40 pounds from flying without car seats approved for airliner use. By keying on size and weight of the child rather than age, it also could lead to required seats for small children older than 2 who now are allowed to use ordinary seat belts, a board investigator said.

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