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I wonder whether Michael O'Leary has already seen that. I am pretty sure he would be eager to implement the idea. However, is that feasible - both from a legal, and as a security policy - for commercial planes transporting civilians? Maybe military personnel can be trusted to evacuate the plane faster than average civilians in case of emergency.

enter image description here
Source: dailymail.co.uk

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    $\begingroup$ I think it's more that military transport isn't held to the same rules because soldiers signed a waiver about that. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Dec 4 '15 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ Side-facing seats must comply with the regulation made for the aft/forward facing seats (14 CFR part 25 for the US). I doubt the survivability tests would be passed. $\endgroup$ – mins Dec 5 '15 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Related: Neck Injury Criteria for Occupants of Sideward Facing Aircraft Seats (Mat Philippens). $\endgroup$ – mins Dec 5 '15 at 1:51
  • $\begingroup$ Without an indication of the type of plane or dimensions, it's difficult to judge it this is actually more packed than some currently existing civilian airliner configurations. Not sure the soldiers sitting sideways actually saves any space (though most seem to have their rucksacks at their feet rather than in the non-existing overhead luggage lockers). The main different I see is the lack of any space for galleys, restrooms, etc. $\endgroup$ – jcaron Dec 6 '15 at 17:22
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I believe the apparent lack of space or the discomfort is a red-herring. That's simply not the case.

The passengers don't seem to be tighter packed than in a Ryanair flight actually. And I also don't believe that the sidewards configuration is motivated by this rationale.

The aircraft is a Boeing C-17. It does not have a civilian version, so direct comparison of seat arrangements is not possible. Its inner space, however, is actually 18 feet (5.49 m) wide for 7 passengers and two ailes. So, it appears that the latter is less generous with its 737-800 < 12 feet wide with a single aisle, for 6 passengers (each getting 17.2).

The Boeing C-17 is a multi-purpose military aircraft, designed to be adapted to different tasks (hence the sidewards seat).

It is meant for being used for medical evacuation:

example

Or, for transporting a howitzer: example2

Or, for transporting paratroopers: example3

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    $\begingroup$ The sideways configuration appears to be simply because those seats are built-in (note that they are visible on all the images, possibly folded). $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Dec 6 '15 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec: yes, it appears that they keep the side seats in all configurations, and they can be folded out of the way. $\endgroup$ – Joseph Andrenovish Dec 9 '15 at 19:54
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Legally, you would need to find a seat that passed the FAA's 16 G "side facing" requirements. The AC that covers the 16G rule has some text that may be of interest on this matter. The FAA admits that its an ongoing area of research and that currently special tests need to be undertaken to certify one. (bolded for emphasis)

d. Side-facing Seats.

(1) General. All seats occupiable for takeoff and landing are subject to the specified dynamic test conditions. Included are side-facing seats and both single occupancy and multiple place seats, such as divans. Compliance with the structural requirements should be demonstrated for side-facing seats, using the same conditions for the test and pass/fail criteria as for fore- and aft-facing seats. The seat should be loaded in the most critical case structurally. Means of restraining the ATDs may need to be adapted to ensure adequate retention during the test. The application of floor distortion will need to be assessed on an individual basis, depending on the design of the fixation of the seat. The injury criteria of § 25.562 are not adequate to demonstrate equivalent safety of side-facing seats when compared to fore- and aft-facing seats. To demonstrate equivalent safety fully in the absence of such specified criteria, the applicant must use other injury criteria which may be derived from the automotive industry, which uses side-impact ATDs.

(2) Assessment criteria. Research into side-facing seats is ongoing. As research proceeds, the FAA will work toward establishing a more definitive policy with respect to the acceptance of side-facing seats. Until then, in the absence of specific compliance guidance, the FAA is prepared to assess side-facing seats on the following basis:

(a) The seat must demonstrate compliance with the structural requirement.

(b) If an acceptable side impact ATD has not been used with assessment of the corresponding injury criteria, it must be shown that the occupants are restrained in a manner that prevents substantial energy absorption by body to body contact (on a multiple occupancy seat) and which, using the best available engineering judgment, minimizes injury to the occupant(s).

The way this reads in short (at least to me) is that the FAA does not really test side facing seats all that often but they are willing to if an appropriate means of testing is devised, you can prove that people smashing into each other wont cause any serious problems and that your seats will be ok when a shock wave passes through the floor (same as the forward/aft facing seats).

The FAA also has an extra supplement for potential injury from side seat configurations thats worth taking a read through "Supplemental Injury Risk Considerations for Aircraft Side-Facing Seat Certification"


On the evacuation note the FAA does not really care what the seat orientation is in terms of evacuation. If you are talking about converting a modern airframe you likely could not place a seat in front of the over wing exits but other than that so long as you comply with the evacuation time limits you will be good to go (from a strictly certification stand point). Since this configuration still has rows similar to that of a normal airliner I dont see why you would not be able to properly demonstrate evacuation capacity in this configuration.


The biggest issue I see here is a lot of toes getting run over, and knees bashed by a galley carts...

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Don't compare military troops transports and airliners.

Goals are not the same, inducing requirements and means differ. Not to say that soldiers can be packed as cargo, but military transports are supposed to mobilize huge amount of troops with their equipements on the battle field in no time, and soldiers know that and are prepared for critical scenarios.

If troops were to ask for same treatment as civilian passengers, it would raise the following issues :

  • you'll need wider seats and pitching, in a more "civilian" configuration, meaning much less "passengers" per aircraft, and much less troops carried per flight.
  • more planes to carry troops, more targets for the enemy. You don't always fly in ally airspace.
  • This increases aircraft operations, which kills one military strategy called sneak attack. Predictible operations are a strategy error.
  • More flights means more time to be handled, meaning delays. Time is always an issue in military operations, both upon mobilizing, and returning back home with waiting families.
  • if you want to have both nice seatings and paradrop capabilities, you'll have to make room for the drop process which also removes more seatings.
  • optionally, you'll also need flight attendants to serve meals.
  • All that induce more costs (planes, civilian plane equipements like expensive seats, galleys and trolleys, etc.) which increases military budget.

It seems on a military point of view, having civilian-like things doesn't bring advantages, only issues. So that's how it is.


If troop transport concepts were to be used on civilian side (airliners), I don't think you and me would agree (assuming we're not soldiers)

  • we paid for the flight, soldiers are paid to fight and signed with all that comes with that duty including death.
  • we just want to have a good flight from departure to destination in the safest possible way, in a comfortable seat, with meals and entertainment.
  • if airliners were that "loaded", we'll have less flights per route, meaning less schedules. If the schedule doesn't comply with your plans, you'll have to wait for the next available flight.
  • serving meals would be much more complicated; perhaps it's better to have lunch before flight, not inflight. Ask a flight attendant's opinion about serving meals and pillows in that condition...
  • lavatories on the other hand would always be mandatory, don't worry. But we should be trained to walk through, step over sleeping passengers legs...
  • we would have to sign a waiver about the sideward facing neck (head, and shoulder) injury(es) in case of critical stop.
  • we would also have to sign a waiver about "flying bags" upon turbulences. It's highly unlikely you would be able to put everything in luggage bins with that much passengers in a Boeing 737.
  • The only advantage would be a substantial reduction in travel cost (on our side)

Worth it ? I, personally say NO !


By the way, mass evacuations are a huge step beyound your posted picture. ;)

I inverted scenarios by suggesting why military personnel wouldn't have the same treatment as civilian travelers on purpose : you're comparing two very different situations that doesn't have the same priorities, goals and safety concerns. That means what matters, what is more efficient, what costs less in a case are not the same for the other. The target audience is different. One is going to fight at war, the other is on vacation/family/friends visit, business travel or starting a new life. That means it's not only about safety concerns.

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