Le Airbag de Moi

Don’t look for it on the fashion runways of Paris just yet. Perhaps on the autoroute first

Zut! Don't look for it on the fashion runways of Paris just yet. Perhaps on the autoroute first. See, it's not always aviation stuff that grabs me. It's the occasional diversion. Such as the wearable airbag.

I was perusing www.helite.com because this little French company outside Dijon, city of moutard, specializes in hang gliders, paragliders, and ultralights, and has been making noises that it will soon fly the first human in an airplane exclusively powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Thought you heard that Boeing's Phantom Works did it first last year in Spain? You're right. It's just that the Boeing airplane used batteries to boost power on takeoff as a safety measure for the pilot. Helite plans to do its flight next month, sans batteries. Nevermind that they'll have to use an ultralight rather than Boeing's larger, heavier Super Dimona powered glider.

The Airbag Veste, un tres bon choix

Anyway, Helite's engineers realize you can break your neck playing with their toys, or in other more pedestrian pursuits such as riding motorcycles, snowmobiles, and horses. So they've developed an airbag that wraps around your neck, back, and flanks in the form of a vest beneath a stylish motorcycle jacket. Connect a ripcord from an inflator on the vest to a latch on your European crotchrocket, and as you unwittingly go over the handlebars at 100 km/h, voila, from the waist up you become the Michelin Man in a fraction of a second, then skip down the street like a Mars lander swaddled in airbags. Be sure to click on the little motorcycle guy on their main page, then click the arrow to navigate the frames in their grainy demonstration of how it works. Or check out this video of a fairly willing motorcyclist demonstrating the vest in Paris.

Sometimes, "better than nothing" is, in fact, just fine. Adrenalin junkies might consider the vest an idea for sissies. But they'd probably say the same thing about the whole-plane parachute that Cirrus owners have now used three times to save their necks. Alors, vive l'accident.

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