Advisory Circulars

Commercial & Business Aviation

PASSENGER AND FLIGHT ATTENDANT BRACE POSITIONS

General Brace Position Instructions for Passengers and Flight Attendants:

These general instructions are applicable to all brace positions listed below.

  1. The lower torso should be firmly against the seat back.
     
  2. The safety belt should be worn as tight and as low on the torso as possible. The more tightly the safety belt is adjusted, the better restraint it will provide.
     
  3. If the safety belt includes a shoulder harness, the harness should be adjusted so that it is tight but does not pull the lap portion of the safety belt upward.
     
  4. The webbing of a safety belt and safety harness should lie flat against the body and should not be twisted.
     
  5. Feet should be flat on the floor and slightly in front of the edge of the occupant's seat; legs and feet should not be placed under the occupied seat or the seat forward of it in order to prevent feet/leg injury should either seat collapse during impact.
     
  6. Transport Canada recommends that shoes be left on, with the exception of very high/spiked heeled shoes that, although unlikely, could puncture an evacuation slide. Leaving shoes on provides protection against sharp or molten metal, fuel, broken trees, debris, etc., acts as an insulator against snow, ice and hot surfaces, and can expedite escape away from the aircraft.

    If removal of very high heeled shoes is necessary, shoes must be stowed in an approved stowage area (such as an overhead bin), and should not be placed in the seat pocket where they could injure the person while assuming the brace position.

  7. Pillows or blankets should not be used between the passenger and the object he/she would brace against. Pillows and blankets are not usually designed to absorb energy or distribute impact loads over the body, and they could increase the likelihood of injury by giving a false impression that the body is being properly supported. Also, pillows and blankets create additional clutter in aisles which can be an impediment in an evacuation. Pillows or blankets may, however, be used as indicated in the information pertaining to the brace position for children in order to raise a small child so that the safety belt will fit securely.

Forward-facing Seats Equipped with Safety Belts Only:

1. In aircraft with low density seating where seats are spaced relatively far apart:

Bend forward and rest head and chest against upper legs. Flailing can be reduced by having passengers grasp ankles or legs, or if unable to do so, by having passengers wrap arms under legs. The head should be face down in lap and not turned to one side.

(Click on image to view enlargement)
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • Low density seating
  • Grabbing ankles
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • Low density seating
  • Arms wrapped behind legs
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • Low density seating
  • Arms wrapped under legs

2. In aircraft with high density seating, or where due to space limitations or physical limitations passengers are unable to place their head on their lap:

Bend forward and place hands and arms against the seat or against the bulkhead. As long as hands and/or arms support the head, their exact placement is not important. If resting against a seat back with a "break-over feature", do not hold the edge of the seat back with fingers.

(Click on image to view enlargement)
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • High density seating
  • Against seat and against seat with break over feature
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • High density seating
  • Against bulkhead
  • Forward Facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • High density seating
  • Against seat and against seat with break over feature

Forward-facing Seats Equipped with Safety Belt and Shoulder Harness:

  1. Adjust shoulder harness. See 4 (a) and 4 (b) below. Notwithstanding the general instructions provided below, follow specific instructions provided by the manufacturer.
     
  2. Rest chin on sternum. Head should be tucked down as far as possible to try to eliminate secondary impact of the chin with sternum.
     
  3. Hands can be positioned on the lap, front edge of the seat can be held (do not lock elbows or wrists), or occupant can sit on palms of their hands (palms must be "up" to avoid breaking wrists). Do not hold on to restraint system with hands; this can introduce slack into the restraint system.
     
  4. (a) Adjusting shoulder harness equipped with an inertia reel:
Slack in the webbing should be taken out and fed back into reel.

NOTE: Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) definition of an inertia reel (emergency locking retractor) as contained in SAE AS 8043 (3/86) Torso Restraint Systems:

An inertia reel retractor incorporates adjustment hardware by means of a locking mechanism that is activated by aircraft deceleration, webbing movement relative to the aircraft, or other automatic action during an emergency and is capable, when locked, of withstanding restraint forces.

(b) Manual adjustment of shoulder harness:

(i) No retractor on the webbing -

Webbing should be pulled all the way out for donning and then adjusted with the manual adjustment fittings provided.

(ii) Non-locking retractor on the webbing -

Webbing should be pulled all the way out for donning and then adjusted with the manual adjustment fittings provided.

NOTE: This is an old type of retractor used for a housekeeping function (stowage of webbing) rather than for safety reasons. The webbing cannot be adjusted securely unless all the webbing is pulled out all the way as there is no locking mechanism.

(iii) Non-automatic locking retractor -

Webbing should be pulled all the way out and then fed back into the retractor until the restraint is tight.

NOTE: Non-automatic locking retractors are an old concept.

One type has a switch imbedded into the retractor that locks only when the webbing is pulled all the way out. Then a ratchet mechanism pulls the webbing in until the webbing is snug and locks it in place. The key is to pull the webbing all the way out.

The other type of non-automatic locking retractor requires the occupant to make the retractor lock into place manually with a switch, lever, etc.

(Click on image to view enlargement)
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt and shoulder harness

Children:

Generally, children occupying passenger seats should adopt the same brace positions as adults. Because of their smaller stature, the flail envelope of children is smaller than that of adults.

  1. The safety belt should be placed low on the child's torso, just above the legs at the hips. If the safety belt cannot be adjusted so that it is tight on a small child, the child may sit on a pillow or blanket in order to raise the child so that the safety belt will fit securely. The pillow should not be placed behind the child.
     
  2. Children seated in a forward facing seat should bend forward over the safety belt and rest their head on the seat cushion between their legs, or bend their head forward, over the edge of the cushion, as appropriate for their height. This is done to reduce head flailing.

Occupants of Child Restraint Systems:

  1. Occupants of approved child restraint systems should remain in those systems in preparation for an emergency landing.
     
  2. Occupants seated in approved child restraint systems should be braced in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturer of the device. If no instructions are available, the principles of bracing previously described can be followed.
     
  3. Aft-facing child restraint systems usually provide even support to the infant's torso and head. Therefore no additional brace for impact efforts are necessary.

Lap-held Infants:

Transport Canada recommends that infants be restrained in an approved child restraint system. However, in the event that there are lap-held infants in a forward-facing passenger seat, the following procedures may be used:

  1. The infant should be held sitting upright (so that his/her back is in a "vertical" position) and face the adult. A larger infant may need to straddle the adult's hips.
     
  2. The adult should place one arm around the infant's torso and head and place the other arm against the seat back ahead of the adult, and rest his/her head firmly on this arm.
     
  3. The adult should then lean forward so the infant is held in the space formed between the adult and the forward seat back. It is very important for the adult to lean forward as much as possible to protect the infant; the closer the adult is to the seat back ahead, the better.

An infant should not be placed across the adult's lap (in a horizontal position); this could result in the infant's head impacting the arm rests during lateral aircarft movements.

(Click on image to view enlargement)
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • High density seating
  • Adult holding infant

Pregnant Women or Passengers who have Physical Limitations or Space Limitations:

The brace position for pregnant women is the same as the high density seating brace position. Pregnant women should be instructed to place the safety belt low, below the abdomen, so that it applies its forces to the pelvis.

NOTE: The high density seating brace position may be easier for pregnant women and passengers who have physical limitations or space limitations to assume than the low density seating brace position.

These passengers may benefit from being relocated to aft-facing seats, when available.

(Click on image to view enlargement)
  • Forward facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • High Density seating
  • Against seat and against seat with break over feature
  • Pregnant
  • Aft facing seat
  • Safety belt only
  • Pregnant

Aft-facing Seats Equipped with Safety Belts Only:

Sit upright with head firmly against the seat back, or bulkhead, behind. Arms may be placed on the arm rests. If arm rests are not available, hands can be positioned on lap.

Hands should not be clasped behind head or neck because this may increase stress on the neck due to the mass of the arms and hands as they react during impact.

(Click on image to view enlargement)
  • Aft facing seat
  • Safety belt only

Aft-facing Seats Equipped with Safety Belt and Shoulder Harness:

In aft-facing seats equipped with a safety belt and shoulder harness, follow the same procedures as for a forward-facing seat with safety belt and shoulder harness, except that the head should be placed firmly against the head rest.

Hands should not be clasped behind head or neck because this may increase stress on the neck due to the mass of the arms and hands as they react during impact.

(Click on image to view enlargement)
  • Aft seating seat
  • Safety belt and shoulder harness

Side-facing Seats with Safety Belt Only:

Wherever possible, occupants should be relocated to forward-facing or aft-facing seats.

When forward-facing or aft-facing seats are not available:

Bend over and lean toward the front of the aircraft, then rest upper torso and head against whatever might be contacted to help reduce head flailing.

Side-facing Seat with Safety Belt and Shoulder Harness:

Place crossed arms over chest and tuck hands and thumbs under armpits, and bend head forward.

Helicopter:

Helicopter occupant brace positions are the same as those for aeroplane occupants.

Passenger Briefing:

Prepared Emergency Landing or Ditching:

In the case of a prepared emergency landing or ditching, passengers should be briefed on the above information, as applicable.

Unprepared Emergency Landing or Inadvertent Water Contact:

In the case of an unprepared emergency landing or inadvertent water contact, crew members may only have enough time to give a short command such as "bend down/grab your ankles". Experience has shown that, in an attempt to take a brace position of some sort, passengers will end up in a position which could result in less injury than if no attempt had been made at all.

Passengers should be advised to assume the brace position when it becomes obvious that there is a problem which could lead to a possible impact. However, passengers should not be advised to assume the brace position prematurely because experience has shown that passengers will get out of the brace position to "see what's happening" after approximately 60-90 seconds.

©Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Canada, 1999

These illustrations have been prepared by the Department of Transport, Canada. They will assist those involved in the education and awareness of the proper Brace Position. They may be copied or reproduced for distribution, without permission or charge, but such copies or reproductions must not vary substantially from the illustrations and must identify the Department of Transport, Canada, as the source.

The illustrations represent the best information regarding Brace Positions at the time of publication. This information may become obsolete, in whole or in part, at any time without notification. For up-to-date information on this matter, please contact the Department of Transport, Canada.

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