FAA criticized for safety regulations for lap children
In the chilling minutes before United Airlines Flight 232 cartwheeled down the runway in Sioux City, Iowa, Chief Flight Attendant Jan Brown remembers giving very specific instructions for the impending crash: "Parents with lap children, place them on the floor at this time and hold them."
"I just could not believe I was saying those words," she later recounts. "It was the most ludicrous thing I've ever said in my life."
While 184 people survived the crash, 122 were killed. Among the dead was 22-month-old Evan Tsao. The toddler was ripped from the arms of his mother, who later confronted Attendant Brown in that Sioux City cornfield after the crash.
"You told me to put my baby on the floor and he would be okay," she said to the flight attendant. "Now he's gone!"
In spite of its own research showing the perils of lap children on airplanes, the FAA still permits the practice for children under the age of 2. Since the Sioux City accident, there have been at least four more incidents where lap children were injured or killed.
"The parent can't hold the child, so that child becomes a flying object in the cabin," John Goglia, a Former NTSB Official, said.
Goglia calls the lap child controversy one of the most troubling unresolved issues from his years of investigating transportation safety.
"If there's not enough blood, you don't get a new rule," he says.
Even as the FAA argues that it would be better to hold your child in an airplane than buckle him into a child seat in a car, they talk about the danger on their own website, stating: "The safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government approved child safety restraint system. Your arms aren't capable of holding your child securely."
Critics say it's a mixed message. The FAA warning parents about the dangers, yet virtually encouraging the practice by allowing lap-held children to fly for free.
The FAA admits that forcing parents to buy tickets for their toddlers would cause too many people to skip air travel altogether. Opting for driving trips, which the feds argue is more dangerous, and would result in more child deaths.