Wings Magazine

AmSafe airbag technology now standard on air tractor Ag Planes

airbags-side-2April 2, 2009 – In use in commercial and general aviation for many years, airbag technology has now become standard equipment on all current production Air Tractor aircraft.

April 2, 2009  By Melissa Damota

Side view of AmSafe Airbag
system deployed during testing
with Air Tractor cockpit mock-up.

In use in commercial and general aviation for many years, airbag technology has now become standard equipment on all current production Air Tractor aircraft.

Developed jointly by Air Tractor, Inc. and AmSafe, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona, the AmSafe Airbag system is an important new safety enhancement for agricultural aviation and one that Leland Snow, president of Air Tractor, Inc. firmly believes in.  “At Air Tractor”, he says, “safety is an important part of our design process.  The new AmSafe Airbag system supplements our other efforts in that area.”

Also available as a retrofit kit, the AmSafe Airbag system consists of two gas inflators, an electronics module and seat-mounted crotch strap.  The 5-point restraint harness easily installs to existing seat and seatbelt attach points.  When sensors detect a major crash event the system deploys the airbags to protect the pilot's face, head and torso.  Analysis of 26g crash simulation testing has shown that the system decreased FAA-defined head injury criteria by 80 percent.

Though based on automotive-style supplemental restraint systems, the AmSafe Airbag system is specifically designed to address the unique requirements of agricultural aviation.


Within milliseconds of a crash event, the Electronics Module Crash Sensor evaluates the crash loads and duration and, if sufficient to trigger the system, sends a crash pulse signal thorough the activation circuit. This signal releases gas in the inflators, inflating a tubular style airbag located in each shoulder harness, thus tightening the shoulder harness, offering the occupant upper torso and neck protection and lessening of the risk of whiplash by cradling the neck to prevent forward or sideways head travel. 

The left-hand shoulder harness strap also contains a large pillow-style air bag which, when inflated, automatically positions itself between the occupant and forward obstructions like the instrument panel or controls, providing essential head protection during the most critical time of the crash event.  After deployment, the air bag deflates to enable the occupant(s) to exit the aircraft. 

The crash sensor's predetermined deployment threshold will not allow inadvertent deployment during normal flight occurrences such as hard landings, vibrations or turbulence.  Equipped with its own internal battery pack and sensor, the AmSafe Airbag system is completely independent of all other aircraft systems, enabling it to deploy even if the aircraft has had a complete electrical failure.

“The AmSafe Airbag system is another layer of pilot safety”, Leland Snow said.  “Air Tractor is proud to be the first ag plane manufacturer to make it standard-equipment.”

The AmSafe Airbag retrofit kit may be purchased from an Air Tractor dealer and installed at the Air Tractor factory, dealer shop or an AmSafe-authorized service center.

About Air Tractor
Air Tractor produces a line of aircraft that includes 400, 500, 600 and 800-gallon capacity planes powered by Pratt & Whitney piston or turbine engines.  They are used for agricultural purposes, fire fighting, narcotic crop eradication, fuel-hauling, fighting locust plagues, and cleaning up oil spills in coastal waters.   Air Tractor aircraft are found working not only across the United States, but around the globe, in Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, North and South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Croatia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and China.


Stories continue below