Safety sign on a commercila aircraft, indicating to fasten seat belt when seated, and be aware that the life vest is under the seat

New rigid life vest box seeks to thwart thieves, enhance security

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Life vest theft is a troubling problem for airlines around the world, especially low-cost carriers. Some unscrupulous passengers steal the vests for souvenirs or other purposes. Preventing pilferage is among the key drivers behind Italian firm ABC International’s latest innovation – a rigid transparent box that houses the jacket, usually under the seat.

But thwarting thieves with a more visible and physical deterrent than the traditional life vest pouch is not the only reason for introducing these containers to aircraft. “The rigid box has been designed to be in compliance with the demanding US TSA requirements and comes with sealing holes to allow installation of security seals. The design of the rigid box does not allow the passenger to insert any ‘foreign object’ inside,” says ABC head of design organization Olindo Spatola.

“Finally, the design of the rigid box allows easy and quick inspections to both crew and technicians.”

A transparent box containing a life vest, with red straps (and a black background in the image)

The rigid life vest stowage box is an anti-intrusion system, which discourages theft or tampering. Image: ABC

The special seals work to discourage passengers from snatching the life vest without a second thought. ABC assures, however, that passengers can still easily access the vest in the event of an emergency “in every seating position across the cabin, whenever needed. In fact, the new ABC International rigid box allows extraction of the life vest with one single quick action.”

Notably, the boxes are already flying with a major airline, and are available for any seatmaker, according to ABC, which is known for being a cabin branding specialist, but is gradually enhancing its footprint in aircraft interiors.

“Our airline costumer, which can’t be disclosed at the time being for confidentiality reasons, is flying the rigid life vest box on regional and international flights. Our partner, a well-known European-based operator, is recognized to be one of the major intercontinental airlines worldwide and this gives us more confidence that our solution can reflect the exclusivity of an important brand both in terms of quality and aesthetic,” ABC marketing and sales executive Pasquale De Rosa tells Runway Girl Network.

“To show that the rigid life vest box has been designed with a flexible integration system, it has been installed with no design changes on the entire A320/A321 fleet and different types of seats. Currently we are considering [extending] the installation to more aircraft types.”

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In most cases the rigid life vest box will be installed under the seat. A preliminary installation check is performed by ABC in order to assess the correct installation location and the relevant provisions to be used. Legroom is not expected to be affected.

“By design and upon installation fit check, the life vest rigid box is not planned to protrude from the seat bottom,” says Spatola, noting that the design allows for installation via cable ties “just like the typical life vest pouches installation”.

The install can generally be performed overnight. And ABC can perform the box retrofit under its EASA Part 21J privileges, if a customer so desires.

Asked by RGN if any consideration has been given to adding sensors to the box to enable further validation that each life vest is in place, as part of the IoT of the cabin, Spatola says: “The design of the rigid box, being fully transparent, quickly and easily allows cross check against the presence of the life vest inside. Notwithstanding that, an enhanced solution may be planned considering the addition of some RFID tags and related cross check automation between life vest box and life vest, as well as relevant expiration date and storing.” This would be discussed with the end customer.

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