Nania Airway LX (Car Seat Specialty)

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<b>Introduction</b>

This review is for the Nania Airway LX, the upscale version of the Airway from Car Seat Specialty, Inc. This is a combination ("combo") front-facing and belt-positioning booster seat. Using the harness front-facing, it is for children over 1 year, weight from 22 to 50 pounds and 29 to 48 inches tall. As a booster, it is rated for children 33 to 80 pounds and 33 to 51 inches tall.

<A HREF="http://www.team-tex.com" TARGET="_TOP"
><IMG SRC="http://www.pbase.com/image/16782242/small.jpg" ALIGN="middle"></A>Car Seat Specialty Airway LX

<b>Introduction</b>

This review is for the Nania Airway LX, the upscale version of the Airway from Car Seat Specialty, Inc. This is a combination ("combo") front-facing and belt-positioning booster seat. Using the harness front-facing, it is for children over 1 year, weight from 22 to 50 pounds and 29 to 48 inches tall. As a booster, it is rated for children 33 to 80 pounds and 33 to 51 inches tall.

<b>Features and Advantages</b>

<i>5-point Harness to 50 pounds</i>- Among the best features of the Airway is the 5-point harness that is rated to 50 pounds. Most combination models have a 40 pound limit on their harness system. Carseat advocates recognize the 5-point harness as the preferred type for safety. While most kids above 40 pounds can use a booster, some may not be mature enough to remain seated properly in a lap and shoulder belt. In other cases, parents may prefer to keep their child in a 5-point harness beyond 40 pounds because it may offer somewhat more protection in side impacts and rollovers than a 3-point lap and shoulder belt. After 50 pounds, the harness is removed and the Airway can be used as a belt positioning booster

<i>Three Harness Slots</i>- Three sets of slots are included to fit children of varying height. The slot at the level of the child's shoulder or above is the correct one to use. The top slot is about 17" above the seating level, similar to many other combination models. A child will outgrow this seat by height if their shoulders are above the level of the top slots, or if the top of the child's ears are above the top of the headrest.

<i>Front Harness Adjuster</i>- The Airway has a one-pull front adjustment to tighten the harness. It is similar to the type found on many carseats and is relatively easy to use. The one-pull strap to tighten the harness comes through a slot in the front of the seat. The release lever is hidden under the pad on the top of the seat. This allows for easy adjustments to make the harness tighter or looser, and works smoothly.

<i>LATCH</i>- The Airway includes a flexible strap to attach to the lower anchors found in newer vehicles. An adjuster is included on only one side to cinch the strap tightly. The "mini connector" attachments are among the nicer ones on the market, and much easier to attach and remove than some other types. Convenient bars on the back of the seat are provided to store the LATCH attachments when not in use. Unlike most other combination models, Nania allows you to use the lower anchors and/or the top tether when this model is used as a belt positioning booster. This can help keep the booster in place while loading, unloading, during turns or when the booster is not occupied.

<i>Padding and Comfort</i>- The Airway is fairly well padded all around and seems comfortable. My cover is Karo Grey solid/plaid, made of a "spongy" synthetic foam material. It is not overly soft or plush, but my son said it was comfy. Detachable head supports are also included, as are comfort pads on the straps around the neck. The fabric did have a strong "new carpet" odor but it dissipated over a few days.

<i>Recline Setting</i>- The base has two notches for varying recline. The manual does not mention their use.

<i>Seatbelt Lockoff</i>- The Airway includes a seatbelt lockoff on a small cord. It can be used with lap/shoulder belts that don't lock, usually found in vehicles older than 1996. This lockoff is much easier to use than the traditional metal locking clip. You simply place it around the lap and shoulder belt near the buckle according to the instructions and snap it shut.

<i>Corded Shoulder Belt Adjuster</i>- Like some backless boosters, the shoulder belt guide on the Airway is attached with a cord. This will keep it from catching "slack" like some combination seats that do not have "open" style plastic guides. When used, the cord is adjusted to pull the shoulder belt off the neck and on the center of the shoulder and chest. Some taller kids may not need it, depending on the vehicle.

<i>Airplane Certification</i>- The Airway can be used on airlines for children up to 50 pounds, but only when using the internal harness.

<i>Value</i>- At $100, the deluxe model is the least expensive seat with a 5-point harness rated over 40 pounds. A less expensive version with a standard cover, padding and LATCH hooks can also be found, though it is usually sold to programs in larger quantities.

The Airway LX is a reasonable option for older kids. It can be installed with LATCH, a lap belt or a lap/shoulder belt. LATCH installation in our 2001 Odyssey was average in difficulty. It took some effort to pull the adjuster strap tightly. It installed well with the seatbelts in both our Odyssey and a 2000 Subaru Outback wagon. The seatbelt path is not too hard for routing, but it is narrow enough to make it difficult for those with large hands. It fit solidly in all cases. The owner's manual is large, clear and has good diagrams.

The official recommendation is that children should be in a booster until they are 8 years old, unless they are already 4' 9" tall. This is only a rough guideline. Because both kids and vehicles differ, the best way to know if your child is ready to move out of a booster is by fit. Children are not ready to move from a booster to a regular lap/shoulder seatbelt until.
1) They are tall enough so that their legs bend at the knees at the edge of the seat; and
2) They are mature enough to remain seated with their backs flat against the back of the seat and not slouch; and
3) The lap belt sits high on the thighs or low on the hips (NOT on their tummy!); and
4) The shoulder belt crosses the shoulder and chest (NOT on their arms or neck!); and
Each passenger must have their own lap AND shoulder belt and remain seated properly for the entire trip! Never allow children to share a seatbelt!


<b>Disadvantages</b>

<i>Harness Threading</i>- When your child's shoulders move above a lower slot, the harness straps must be rethreaded to a higher slot. This procedure is cumbersome and time consuming on the Airway. A plastic clip must be removed from underneath the base of the seat at the end of the straps. The remaining hardware on the straps must also be removed before it can be pulled through the shell and rerouted. The manual does describe the procedure. The straps can twist in normal use, but not so much to be a nuisance as on some other models.

<i>Harness Slot Height</i>- The top slots should accommodate most kids to 40 pounds, like many other combination models. Most kids will be able to use it longer. The added utility of the 50 pound harness limit may not be useful for kids in the tallest percentiles for their age, as they may outgrow the seat by height before weight. My son is 4.5 years old, about 44 pounds and 44 inches tall. He has just a bit of room left to the top slots.

<i>Construction</i>- The base can be removed from the back, though the base cannot be used by itself. The seat may also come apart when rethreading the harness straps. The plastic molding also does not seem to be as sturdy as some other models, and the recline box on my Airway had come loose during shipping though it was not difficult to reattach. The seatbelt path is directly behind the fabric. This is not normally a problem, except in a few vehicles with long buckle stalks or lap belts with equal amounts of belt on each side of the buckle. In these vehicles, the buckle may cause a comfort issue as it could poke into a child's back.

<i>Fabric Care</i>- The cover is tied and clipped, and must be hand washed and air dried. So, you might want to be careful what you give your child to eat or drink.

<i>Manual</i>- The manual is fairly good overall, but is missing some information. First, it does not describe the assembly of the shell should the pieces come apart, though this is relatively straightforward. Second, it does not mention how to attach the shoulder belt guide used in booster mode. This strap is shipped separately. To do this, you must first remove the harness according to the instructions. The shoulder belt guide uses the same blue harness anchor, and routes through the same slot in the base as the harness. It then clips on to the seatbelt. The manual could also be clearer on proper use of the corded lockoff.

Though it can take time to thread the harness straps, the Airway is otherwise a reasonable seat. Some parents have found that the crotch strap is rather long and seems to ride too high on their child. The one on my deluxe LX model fit properly, keeping the lower straps on his hips. Car Seat Specialty is apparently considering updates to this product to address some of these concerns.

<b>Conclusion</b>

The Airway is a good choice for parents who want to keep their kids in a 5-point harness beyond 40 pounds. It is also a good choice for vehicles or seating positions that only have a lap belt, since boosters are not safe unless they have both lap AND shoulder belt. Other models in this niche have been discontinued, including the Britax Super Elite, Britax Laptop and the Fisher Price Futura 20/60. The Britax Husky model does have an 80 pound harness limit, and Britax Marathon/Wizard go to 65 pounds. These models may also accommodate taller children a bit longer.

For most kids, the Airway may be the last carseat they need once they outgrow their infant or convertible carseat.

The Car Seat Specialty websites can be found at either http://www.nania.com or http://www.team-tex.com . Neither side has a detailed product page for the USA Airway model.


For more information on child passenger safety, please visit:

http://www.car-safety.org

http://www.seatcheck.net


The epinions review may be found here:

http://www.epinions.com/content_102312087172
 
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