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DESIGN: SEATBELTS As an airline passenger taking their seat, fastening

the usual metal buckle with a familiar click, you could be forgiven for thinking the seatbelt is one of the few components in an aircraft cabin that has not changed much in generations. In fact, seatbelt manufacturers and the seat manufacturers they work closely with are contributing to the broader challenges the industry is facing – challenges like reducing weight and fuel burn, maintaining safety, and improving the passenger experience on board.

Seats and seatbelts also have more specifi c challenges to face, as the profi le of passengers and the design of aircraft cabins develop.

With fuel prices a constant concern for airlines focused on their bottom lines, as well as the need to limit emissions high on their list of concerns, keeping the weight down, even on a small component like a seatbelt, is vital. After all, in an Airbus A380 for example, which, depending on cabin confi guration might have over 500 seats, a weight saving of just a few grams per seatbelt will add up to a signifi cant total.

“Weight is very important for our clients,” says Alexandra Cringasu, business development manager at Romtex Anjou Aeronautique. A manufacturer of aircraft seatbelts and other cabin equipment, it can trace its origins back 65 years and has offi ces across the world in places like France, Romania and Russia.

Its 9 gram 343 seatbelt was certifi ed in 1972 and was actually fi tted on Concorde. “Air France is still one of our biggest clients and at the same time one of our oldest; we have a very good collaboration with them,” says Cringasu.

The group now offers the classic 349 belt and launched its new 353 Light Belt onto the market at the beginning of 2013. Marc Radakovic, the creator of the Anjou Aeronautique brand, developed the buckle of that new belt around 10 years ago, but because of his preference for steel over aluminium he did not push the promotion of his new product.

“We are defi nitely not trying to replace our ‘standard’ seatbelts with the Light Belt, but it is good to have a range of products and seatbelts that can meet all our clients’ expectations, whether we are speaking about existing or potential clients. Actually, this trend toward lighter products is expanding throughout the aviation market,” Cringasu says.

“Compared to our standard 349 seatbelt, our 353 Light Belt has an aluminium buckle, different stitch lines and uses a lighter type of webbing; of course, the product design has also changed. Not only are we now able to offer an alternative to our customers concerned by weight and fuel consumption, but this approach is 100% compatible with our involvement in environmental protection.”

US-based AmSafe has also developed a passenger seatbelt that it says can provide signifi cant weight savings when used throughout an airline’s fl eet.

“The new ergonomic style of the AmSafe buckle is well-suited for the modern seats and interiors of new aircraft, yet meets the [high] standards of 16g compliance,” | January 2014

the company says, referring to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule that states airline seats must be able to withstand a crash of 16 times the force of gravity.

“The new lightweight seatbelt is an example of taking a proven technology and optimising its design to meet the challenges of our customers. This lightweight version is not meant to replace the standard AmSafe seatbelt, but rather offer our customers a modern lightweight seatbelt option to support environmental and cost-saving initiatives,” says an AmSafe representative.

Romtex Anjou Aeronautique, which also makes other cabin products, including cushions, curtains, seat covers and baby cradles, stressed the weight-saving capabilities of its Light Belt, but also its aesthetics. “Due to the fact that the aeronautical industry is very dynamic, in order to remain a competitive player in this market, Light Belt became a necessity. It is innovative due to its 230 gram weight and to the variety of webbing colours available, but most of all due to its multi-coloured light buckles. The process for the fabrication of this product is itself unique. The anodisation process is a surface treatment that allows the decoration of a piece by anodic oxidation, improving its resistance to wear, corrosion or heat,” Cringasu says.

Romtex Anjou Aeronautique’s new product has proved a success so far, says the company’s marketing specialist,


ÓDespite only being rarely needed for air turbulence, seatbelts must withstand 16 times the force of gravity (photos: AmSafe)

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