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FAA approves child safety harness for use on flights

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the first harness-type child safety device for sale to consumers for use on commercial airline flights.

The CARES device, produced by Phoenix-based AmSafe Aviation, involves a belt and shoulder harness that goes around the adult seat back and attaches to the adult passenger lap belt to provide upper torso restraint for young children, who lack the upper body strength to brace themselves during turbulence, said the product's developer, Louise Stoll.

CARES, for ``Child Aviation Restraint," is designed for children more than 1 year old who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds and sit in their own seat.

Unlike hard-backed child safety seats approved for use in both airplanes and motor vehicles, the new device was designed and tested specifically for use in airplanes and is not approved for use in motor vehicles.

CARES has been in the works about seven years, which included the last four spent navigating the FAA's approval process, said Stoll, a former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Transportation.

Previously, the FAA had allowed only airlines to provide these types of additional child safety devices, but no US airlines had been providing them, the agency said. American Airlines is the only airline to have expressed interest in selling the devices to their customers, but nothing has been finalized, said an AmSafe spokesman.

FAA approval is normally required for specific aircraft, but CARES needed universal approval to fit on all seats and airframes, which added complexity.

Stoll filed the device patent in 1999 and after it was approved, she signed a licensing agreement with AmSafe Aviation in 2002.

Moving the device through the FAA's certification process was ``no easy task," said Stoll, who resides in Burlington, Vt. ``There was a lot of sympathy, understanding, and support" from FAA officials, but they were stymied by existing rules and regulations that called for a car-seat type device with a rigid frame.

But those seats often weigh 20 pounds and parents don't want to lug them around and through heightened airport security. CARES weighs one pound and can fit in a parent's pocket, she said.

The harnesses cost $74.95 each and are available online at AmSafe is currently taking orders and expects to begin shipping the devices on or around Oct. 1.

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