nuts & bolts
maintenance & restoration
Seat Belts and Harnesses
Lifesaving equipment right in your lap
JEFF SIMON, EAA 478233
My first car was a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 convert- ible. While it was a lot of fun to drive, I can’t say that it was the safest car for a teenager to
be driving around in. It had lap belts, but no shoulder
belts to protect the front seat occupants from a close
encounter with the dash, which was about as hard as
Many years later, as I climbed into a cockpit for my
first flight lesson, I recall reaching for a nonexistent
shoulder harness and being immediately struck with
the memory of that car. I was surprised to find that, as
with other technology advances, light aircraft lagged
By 1971, shoulder harnesses were required equipment on all automobiles in the United States. Aircraft,
on the other hand, were not required to have shoulder
harnesses on all seats until 1986. The lack of shoulder
harnesses on an aircraft is significant because studies
have shown that proper use of shoulder harnesses would
reduce major injuries in aircraft accidents by 88 percent
and reduce fatalities by 20 percent.
The lack of shoulder harnesses on some aircraft is only
part of the problem with aircraft restraint systems in the
general aviation (GA) fleet. Other safety issues include
worn or damaged harnesses, faulty latches, improper
harnesses and improper harness use.
Adding Shoulder Harnesses
If you are flying a certificated aircraft, the FAA has gone
to great lengths to make it easy to retrofit a shoulder
harness for your aircraft. According to the FAA’s policy
statement on the topic:
Installation of shoulder harnesses in aircraft is a MINOR
1. The aircraft was manufactured before 19 July 1978 for
front seats and 12 December 1986 for rear seats.
2. TSO-C114 belts are used.
3. No drilling or welding has been performed.
4. The mechanic doing the install consults AC43.13-2A,
Chapter 9, for information on restraint systems, effective
restraint angles, attachment methods, and other details of
5. The installing mechanic makes an entry in the maintenance log of the aircraft.
Aircraft, on the other hand, were not
required to have shoulder harnesses on
all seats until 1986.
Classifying the addition of shoulder harnesses as a
minor alteration is a significant statement. It means
that no FAA supplemental type certificate (STC) or field
approval is required to make the modification. However,
unless shoulder harnesses were optional equipment on
an aircraft, it may not be possible to install them without modifying the aircraft structure, thereby requiring
an STC or field approval for the modification.
Fortunately, there are a number of companies that
sell STC’d shoulder harness kits for a variety of older aircraft. Many of these kits are for the installation of dual
shoulder harnesses, which provide even more safety in
the event of a crash than a single shoulder harness can.
Companies such as B.A.S. Inc. (
com), Alpha Aviation (
www.Alpha-Aviation.com), and others sell shoulder harness STCs for a variety of Cessna,
Piper, and Beech aircraft. Most kits include harnesses
for both front seats and cost from about $600 for single
shoulder kits to $1,000 for double shoulder harnesses,
including airframe installation hardware.