Why Does the NTSB Hate Babies?


On Wednesday the National Transportation Safety Board urged the Federal Aviation Administration to require  separate airplane seats for children under 2, who currently may sit on their parents' laps. The FAA has repeatedly rejected proposals to change the rule, noting that the cost of an extra seat will encourage some parents to drive instead, exposing their children (and themselves) to far greater risk. The upshot, the agency has concluded, would be a net increase in deaths. 

"Statistics show that families are safer traveling in the sky than on the road," then-FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey said in 2005. "We encourage the use of child safety seats in airplanes. However, if requiring extra airline tickets forces some families to drive, then we're inadvertently putting too many families at risk." The FAA added that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "supported the FAA's decision [to keep the current rule] based on current FAA and NHTSA studies that show a mandate could result in another 13 to 42 added family member fatalities over 10 years in highway accidents." Sam Kazman, general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, notes that the math has not changed.

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  1. Having shared more than one flight with screaming infant (including one 10 hour Vancouver-Frankfurt ordeal), I personally think that children under 12 should be forced to fly in the cargo area. In cages.

    1. Either that or they should be drugged.

      1. Xanex please

        1. Hell, Baby, we’re all libertarians here: have a whiskey.

      2. Why not drugged and in the overhead bins?
        I’m sure they’d fit.

        1. HEL-LO?!, I have carryon to stow. Don’t go shovin your crotch fruit in my overhead space.

    2. I’ve long advocated putting all passengers into pods, which cannot be opened during flight except in emergency.

      1. If that pod comes with suspended animation where I can just go to sleep and wake up at my destination, where do I sign up?

    3. Having read the article, I don’t think the NTSB hates babies so much as poor people.

    4. Right on!

    5. No infants on any flights during Monday thru Friday. No exceptions.

  2. Is this common sense? Being employed by a government agency? In a way that decreases goverment interference? The opposition is another government agency, but still, WTF? somebody will look into this surely.

    1. No kidding. Kudos to the FAA for being reasonable and weighing both sides and resisting the siren call of regulatory creep.

    2. My reaction exactly. This is like, all rational and shit, and pushing against MOAR RULES! Weird. I suspect someone is going to find themselves on the wrong end of a RIF soon.

      1. Eh, it’s regulatory capture. For a good purpose, in this case, but it does explain things. The FAA would prefer aviation to succeed, so it has something to be in charge of.

        1. At least, when it comes to defending aviation against driving. They’re perfectly willing to impose stupid rules that they don’t think are serious enough to make people quit flying, though.

          1. How far from this decision to banning cars?

            1. Once there are trolley tracks that will last 100 years everywhere, cars will be obsolete!

              1. And the high speed rail! Which, instead of burning mean evil fossil fuels, will burn gumdrops and rainbows!

                And then no one will have to own those stupidly individualistic cars! And they’ll be shot if they do!

                1. Not to mention the great improvement in communitarian-ism as people chat on the trolly…except when someone goes berserk from the goddamn screaming babies!!!

                2. will burn gumdrops and rainbows

                  Burning gumdrops would be as bad as burning fossil fuels. Oh, and rainbows are filled with SF6, an even more potent GHG than CO2 and CH4.

    3. I’m not sure about common sense, but this does appear to be a practical and correct application of mathematics.

  3. Golly gee, I have to wonder when the last fatality or major injury involving a child under 2 on an airplane happened.

    A fatality or major injury, that is, in which the adult holding it was not also killed or injured.

    I suspect the latter are vanishingly rare, while the former are for all practical purposes nonexistent.

    1. But what is the aircraft has to brake?

    2. Would only one injury, if it were your child, be acceptable as a statistical fluke. In my career we have to call out emergency vehicles for all kind of medical emergencies. One of them involves injuries as the result of turbulence. When you are bouncing little Johnny or Suzie on your lap and your aircraft suddenly drops 300 feet in “Clear Air Turbulence” (turbulence that pilots cannot predict or that has not been previously reported by an aircraft ahead of yours), I have always purchased seats for my children from infancy, so that they could ride safely to their destination. I am far from rich, but my children’s lives are far more valuable than a $300 R/T airfare. Fire away. I will read, but not respond.

      1. For many people (and far from the poorest), $300 is a week’s wages (after taxes). If they’re already footing, say, $900 for two adults and an older kid, isn’t there a likelihood that for $1200 they’ll decide they can save $600 or more by driving? Yet that will put their child at greater risk. THAT was the point of the FAA’s ruling. If you make enough money to pay the difference, that’s great – but for most people $300 is a lot of money to pay for a vanishingly small improvement in safety.


    This is pretty cool.

    1. abandoned houses of super villains.

    2. Grand dwelling of the typical comrade under communism – see how opulently everyone can live when profits are ex-appropriated?
      Times under Stalin – the death of one man a tragedy, the death of a million a statistic. And Stalin loved statistics.

    3. This is pretty cool.

      I would tend more to “creepy”. I wonder what the houses of the Dear Leader are like?

      With luck, we may get to see how Castro lived with a few years.

    4. Also, a strange habit: Stalin liked to live in “room capsules” – all-purpose furnished rooms where he slept, dined and worked, all in the same space. He would occupy these small enclosures willingly, and after a week or so there will move to the next, similar one… This is why his house is full of almost identical rooms with identical sets of furniture (talk about “modular” and “scaled-down” living!).

      Dictator or not, that’s just weird.

  5. “National Transportation Safety Board”

    Clearly a part of the government that needs to ride off into the sunset.

    1. I’m going to put my decoder ring at risk here by pointing out that the airlines, both individually and as a group, have fought against just about every safety improvement suggested by the NTSB over the years. “Advisories” have been routinely ignored until there is a disasterous crash that kills a planeload of people.

      I would like to think that the airline insurers would have stepped up to force these improvements, but they have not seemed willing to do so.

      (This is oversimplified, due to the various liabiity limitations and restrictions on competition that the airlines have wrung out of governments, but there has been plenty of evidence of airlines “cutting corners”.

      If you are going to do away with the NTSB, the only solution that remains is to make the airline executives personally liable in both civil and criminal court.

      1. You are very unlikely to die in a commercial airplane crash. So exactly is the problem you’re trying to fix?

        1. “Very unlikely to die” does not cancell “ignoring known risks”, which is my point.

          If airline execs were actually to face the prospect of doing time in prison for failing to correct safety hazards, I might be more sanquine about doing away with the NTSB. (e.g. The L1011 door locking mechanism, which had failed on at least one previous occasion before the Turkish Air flight went down killing 100+ people near Paris.)

          Further, the NTSB has been invaluable over the years in actually determining the causes of crashes.

          1. That wasn’t an L1011, it was a DC-10.

            1. OOPS. You’re right on that. I was too lazy to look it up.

              The point remains, however. There were warnings about the latches well before the fatal crash. IMHO, the airline execs who failed to act immediately should have faced ‘negligent homocide’ charges.

              1. I had no idea all the people on that flight were gay.

                1. joe’s curse strikes again.

            2. Yeah, all the L1011 crashes were caused by something completely different.

  6. This has a simple solution. Require the airlines to provide free seating for all children under 2. Everyone wins.

    1. Require the airlines all the other passengers to chip in to provide free seating for all children under 2.

      Everyone wins loses.

      1. Except those traveling with children under 2. Man, I would have killed for this rule last weekend…

    2. This is a spoof, right? No one is that stupid.

      1. Zeb, meet Tony.

        1. Yes, yes. I am familiar with Tony. My optimistic disposition keeps filling me with unrealistic expectations of people.

          1. If you met The Angry Optimist, you’d cancel each other out.

            1. Behold, serfs, I have been summoned! Now, do you want the Anger that usually manifests itself here, or my Sunnily Optimistic side, which manifests only IRL?

              Choose wisely!

    3. Yes, because there’s no way people would sign up to take babies in huge parties to take advantage of the loophole.

    4. Fabulous idea, dahlink. Can the free seating be either inside or outside of the wings?

      However, if requiring extra airline tickets forces some families to drive, then we’re inadvertently putting too many families at risk.

      This just in! Having children, still a personal lifestyle choice that nobody owes you jack shit for making.

      Another breaking news bulletin! Commercial flight and accident-free travel, not a right of every American as guaranteed by the Constitution.

  7. But without regulations requiring separate seats for infants on airplanes, the evil capitalist exploiter airlines will be socializing their costs!!!

    Right, MNG?

  8. Threadjack. But this is amazing.

    “Reporter Michael Powell to the Columbia Journalism Review: “I got talking to him about what he reads and was telling me about these different policy tomes. And I said, ‘Well, yeah, but come on. I’m out here on the campaign trail with you, you’re up even earlier than I am, and I’ve been carrying around this Philip Roth book with me for two months and I’m yet to even crack it.’ He actually laughed at that point, and said, ‘Yeah, you have very little chance to really read. I basically floss my teeth and watch Sports Center.'”…..ading.html

    “Floss my teeth and watch Sportscenter.” Just imagine if Sarah Palin had said that. And remember, George Bush was intellectually incurious and Obama is a “Harvard Man” and “Erudite”.

    1. And the Obamabots in they comments are hysterical.

    2. John – a President’s reading habits are either relevant, or they are not. It does not (legitimately) shift from “irrelevant” to “relevant” when the letter after the guy’s name changes.

  9. Can anyone prove there is a social benefit to letting infants fly? Do they even have a right to fly, or is more made up nonsense from those positive-rights loving Libertarians?

    1. From the Gaeaist perspective, there’s no social benefit to having children at all.

    2. Quit trying to force us all to accept your madcap baby-mobility agenda. There may be freewheeling babies polluting the friendly skies, but I don’t have to like it, dammit.

      1. Inhibiting baby mobility is one of the long term agendas of our “friends” from the North. You don’t fool us my Canadian friend.

        1. The babies are a red herring. It’s the fluffy little dogs in their carry-on kennels we’re after.

          1. You Canadians are an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Always plotting you.,

            1. This Canadian would prefer to be wrapped in large denomination banknotes.

  10. Not all kids are bad fliers. My daughter (15 months old) has been on 3 round trips so far (8 flight legs in total). We’ve had fellow passengers complement us on 4 or 5 of those legs about how well behaved she was.

    She was in a car seat for the first two, then we realized we never actually used the car seat for more than 10 minutes a flight. Waste of money. So last trip, she didn’t have a seat. Worked out just fine.

    Hopefully the FAA continues to resist the pressure. No safety need to require a seat. What worries me is that the airlines will begin to pressure the FAA to require it, so they can get the revenue from the additional seat sales (I think I’d make the ~12 hour drive to Grandma+Grandpa’s house at that point)

    1. Actually infants are generally good flyers. They just hang out and sleep. They can’t move around so flying doesn’t really affect them unless their ears hurt them.

      If you want to make flying more pleasant ban everyone between the ages of 2 and 16.

      1. I’m four years old.

  11. current FAA and NHTSA studies that show a mandate could result in another 13 to 42 added family member fatalities over 10 years in highway accidents.

    In other words, “no meaningful difference.”

    1. It is if you are one of the 13 to 42.

    2. Glad someone said it. An increase of deaths at 1-4 per year is not a significant change.

  12. Can anyone prove there is a social benefit to letting infants fly?

    Why do you hate the teensy souvenir t-shirt industry?

  13. So let me see if I understand this…the reason we allow infants to ride their parent’s laps is to encourage families to fly as a means of reducing automobile fatalities? Oh pu-leeze

    1. I did not see that asserted anywhere.

  14. I hate babies and poor people. Where’s my job at the NTSB, damnit!

  15. One could make the same argument about the excessively retarded searches the TSA does. I’m sure those have killed more people (by pissing off people, so they stop flying, so they drive to their destination instead, and then die in a car crash) than they have saved from preventing a terrorist attack against a plane.

    1. I’m pretty sure the TSA is part of the NTSB. If it were run by the FAA it would probably be (at least marginally) more rational and effective.

      1. They are not affiliated with each other, except under the umbrella of being a Federal agency.

  16. Fuckin’ babies?

    1. How do they work?

  17. Fuckin’ babies?

    I’m pretty sure there’s a law against that.

    1. Yeah, but the Teabaggers want to repeal it!

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