FAA said it has found no evidence that current airliner seat dimensions pose a safety issue that requires new standards.

In a July 2 letter, the agency informed FlyersRights.org of its determination to deny the passenger organization’s petition seeking a rulemaking on airliner seat size. Last July, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the agency to provide the organization a “properly reasoned disposition of safety concerns about the adverse impact of decreased seat dimensions and increased passenger size on aircraft emergency egress.”

The six-page letter, signed by Dorenda Baker, executive director of FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service, asserted that seat size does not constrain passengers for longer than it takes for emergency exits to open and passengers to disembark down an aisle.

“The reason that seat width and pitch, even in combination with increasing passenger size, do not hamper the speed of an evacuation is the timeline and sequence of the evacuation,” FAA stated. “The time it takes passengers to get out of their seats, even if those seats are relatively narrow and close together, is less than the time it takes for the emergency exits to begin functioning and for the line that begins forming in the aisle to clear.”

The timeline has been repeatedly demonstrated by evacuation testing conducted by aircraft manufacturers, FAA said. While the agency does not retain video of such testing, which is considered proprietary, manufacturers have agreed to make videos and other information available to the public. FAA has placed video on the docket accompanying the FlyersRights.org petition.

“These videos of recent tests show that passengers take no more than a second or two to get out of their seats, even from seats as narrow as 16 inches wide and installed as closely as at a 28-in. pitch,” according to the agency.

While some airlines have operated for decades with less than 30-in. average seat pitch, seat pitches below 30 in. still are not common, FAA said. It added that “seat pitch is unlikely to go below 27 in. under current technology and regulations.”

Bill Carey, bill.carey@aviationweek.com