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HeliTorque :: View topic - How good are helicopter seats?
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HeliTorque Forum Index » Torque, Chat, and Chill!

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totofrance
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:18 pm    Post subject: How good are helicopter seats? Reply with quote

Hello helicopter pilots!

I am doing a student project which aim is to design a better control area. Being an helicopter fan, I decided to focus on the control area of an helicopter that is mainly the cockpit ( dashboard) and of course the seat.

I would like to have your insights on the helicopter seats of today's helicopter?

How confortable are they?
What are the main areas of improvement?
How would you consider having some alerts ( through pressure or vibration) on the seat?
How would you imagine the best seat as possible?

Of course, I don't expect a clear answer but i see that forum as a way to open the discussion on this theme!

Thanks for your collaboration

Thomas
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tegwin
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum...

Most people train in the R-22... which has very very basic seats...I am 6'2" and find the seats a bit cramped.... would be nice to have more space... and perhaps a seat with a better shape.. (the R-22 seat has no shape to it atall!)..

Its worth noting that seats are quite an important crash protection device... they crumple underneath you on hard landings to try and prevent the shock going through your spine...

Other things which you might not consider... Noise and vibration... both can be very very tiring... If you could design the control area with reduced noise and reduced vibration.. (especially though the controls and the seat itself)... that might help...

Also... the more visibility you can give the better.... the old bell bubble helicopters would be quite a cool idea if it were not for their lack of strength and crazy cost..
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are they comfortable? No.

What would help?
Better lumbar support, adjustable.
Better travel adjustment, fore/aft, up/down
Some lateral support (but not needed as much as a car)
Washable lambswool covers in designer colours

Would vibration alerts help?
No, there is already too much vibration going on

Naturally there are design limits to the seats - weight, space, crash stroke absorption, and cost.

But, you DID ask the question....
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WindSwept
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The seat needs to be multi adjustable, fore/aft, up/down with lumber adjustment as has been said.

You need to be able to swivel or lean out of the seat (when longlining or looking round for a better view of something) so you don't want a seat that is bucket like, equally it needs to be supportive so you don't get thrown out of it. I personally prefer full harness seatbelts (think racing car type) rather than the R22 which has whats equivelant to a car seatbelt. The base of the seat needs to have some sort of shock absorbing system so reduce the impact you recieve in a crash which is a key point. Also having the seat mounted on some sort of dampening system which would cut out vibration would be excellent as with the other controls.

I see where your going with the vibration idea, but as has been said - helicopters vibrate so much you would never know whether it was the system or the helicopter. If you have to design the cockpit and stick layout its worth bearing in mind that it could be different depending on whether your having one or two pilots, or which side the pilot will sit in (normally left hand side)
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flip2
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The weight of the seat is going to be a factor, particularly on the smaller aircraft. And of course, its crash-worthiness for certification.

Under thigh adjustments were a nice touch, particularly on long flights.

One thing I've noticed is that wearing a helmet can make headrests a real pain - the extra distance a helmet adds between your head and the headrest results in tilting the head forward or requiring you to arch your back away from the seat to keep your chin up.
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totofrance
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the feedback,

If I sum up,
-helicopter seats are quite basic, not confortable and quite ugly!
-it would be great to have an ergonomic seat with better lumbar support and the ability to adjust the seat (fore/aft, up/down)
-It would be great to have a seat that could cut out vibration.

The main constraints are weight, cost, space and certifications.

The concept of the future helicopter seat we had is in that link:

http://picasaweb.google.fr/thfrance/HelicopterSeat#5459159596059814210

Basically, we think of a seat that is ergonomic, that is adjustable, that could move up to see over the dashboard, swing on the right to ease the boarding.
An input zone could be incorporated to ease the input of info in the cockpit (entering radio frequency, changing the FMS...)
There could be some tactors in the seat that give the pilot some alerts ( like a proximity radar for example). I understand that it could be hard however because of the vibration in the helicopter


We have heard that a lot of accident are due to spatial disorientation for example when an helicopter is in a white out situation. In these situation the pilots focus on seeing something on where to situate himself. What if the seat could move to indicate the pilot the horizon? Do you think it would be of any help?

These are just some ideas we add to broaden the discussion,

do not hesitate to contact me directly

Thomas
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haggishunter
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

- Adjustable under thigh support
- Adjustable back lumber support
- Good arm rests with are adjustable
- Abillity to have a 5 point harness installed

Don't take any pointers from Sikorsky, they require a built in chiropractor!

Look forward to hearing how you get on with your research!

HH
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

totofrance - with regard to your "spatial disorientation" thoughts, you also need to look at vestibular illusion. It's not so much which way actually is up, by which way a pilot believes to be up. Even if the seat were to tilt around, the illusion would continue to be present.

However, that's not to say a tilting seat couldn't help - I've no idea - one would need to research it, and maybe even experiment.

Pilots flying in those conditions would need to make reference to and implicitly trust their artificial horizon (or horizontal situation indicator (HSI)) to the exclusion of any conflicting vestibular information. Of course, this gets close to impossible in the hover as a "human hover" is controlled using distant reference points.
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Last edited by James T Lowe on Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:23 am; edited 2 times in total
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flip2
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thomas:

If I may throw another couple of considerations into the mix:
Quote:
swing on the right to ease the boarding.

Swinging to the right (or the left!) may encounter some problems. First of all, the traditional helicopter layout has a control (the cyclic) between the pilot's legs - if I have understood your idea correctly, this may cause some issues when swinging the seat back into position.

The second problem is that the cockpit floor level is about chest height in some of the larger helicopters. This requires using a footstep to climb in - I'm not sure how easy it would be to get into the aircraft if the seat has been rotated to face you?

Quote:
What if the seat could move to indicate the pilot the horizon? Do you think it would be of any help?

While I think that is a novel and insightful concept, I personally believe that it would add to disorientation rather than help alleviate it.

As James T Lowe pointed out, in these situations a pilot will ordinarily be flying by reference to their instruments... instruments are mounted on a console not the seat. I imagine it will be very distracting to see the instruments apparently moving up and down because your seat is somehow gyro stabilized!
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your additional ideas though of air conditioned/heated seats seemed like a very good idea.

I think focusing on pilot comfort and saftey, reducing the vibrations and keeping fatigure to a minimum is the way to go. If we could all have adjustable seats which kept us comfy whilst maintaing saftey and visbility then that would be great!
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totofrance
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your comments, they are very valuable!

What about the radar part? What would you think to have some tactors vibrating to alert you that there is an obstacle near the helicopter. For example, when a rescue helicopter is making a stationary flight to take an injure victim next to a cliff for example... Pilots told me that in a stationary flight, you needed to point and focus on something and that you couldn't really know how far the blades or the back rotor were...
Do you think a sharp vibration on the back of seat to say that the back rotor is close to the cliff or a vibration on the right of the seat to indicate that the blade is close to an electric pole could be a right thing? Would it be a better thing to have a sound signal?

Thomas
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flip2
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Do you think a sharp vibration on the back of seat to say that the back rotor is close to the cliff or a vibration on the right of the seat to indicate that the blade is close to an electric pole could be a right thing? Would it be a better thing to have a sound signal?


First you will need to invent such capabilities, I am afraid!

As brilliant as it would be, nobody has yet invented any reliable and accurate way to do what you describe.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Thomas,

I take it you have to write your statements why you have selected and rejected certain ideas from your intial brainstorm to come up with the final design.

As has been said helicopters vibrate alot, now a dampening system on the seat would be excellent and would hopefully reduce the vibrations down to a very reasonable level. However some of them you just wouldn't be able to design out so you are still going to be getting vibrations.

Using a vibrating seat as a warning would be unreliable and untrusthworthy. Whilst the idea is really nice, i.e you could be looking at the ground when winching and the seat will vibrate to tell you if your geting too close to something that you may otherwise not have noticed getting closer, in reality it just wouldn't work as you would be getting vibrated anyway and would be distracted from your flying by trying to work out whether the seat was vibrating or the aircraft.

An audiable warning version of the system would be more easy to make, you have to decide how useful it would be though. Helicopters that are going to be hovering near masts or obstructions are going to know they are there 99.9% of the time, so they will be keeping an eye on them. If the radar works long range then it would be conflicting with TCAS (which is fitted on larger systems which detects and warns you audiably and visually of other aircraft closing on you) Would it only activate in low speed? As if you were flying alongside other helicopters or a bird flew past you etc is it going to activate? What sort of range would it have? Would it be directional and how would you do that? If you just had warning buzzer going off because you were near a mast it would need to be directional otherwise you have to stop and look around to correct yourself and not jerk the controls the wrong way.

Its a difficult thing to do...
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flip2
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My concern over vibration dampening would be whether it masks any potential warnings about the health of your aircraft.

On multicrew aircraft, you need to make sure that all members of the crew are receiving the same information. Using the winching example, how will the information be conveyed to the winch operator? While the entire crew is responsible for obstacle avoidance, during winch operations there is heavy reliance on the winch operator to be the 'eyes' for the pilots.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading these further comments, about through seat warning systems, and it occurs to me, that as heli pilots, a lot of what we do is based on feedback through the seat/airframe.

Think about controlling a hover - we know that's a motor skill - requiring subconscious reactions to "input". That input, I reckon, is partly through the seat, and partly visual. You (well, I) probably tend to feel a wind gust, rather than seeing it. By removing that input by giving a stabilised seat, you effectively break the feedback loop of helicopter control.

I think for current "system" design, the seat can't be altered in this way. However, as I said before, with research (and infinite resource... and infinite monkeys..), I dare say that a different way of working could be invented that is ergonomically better than that we have now.

With regard to "radar" vibrating the seat - I have a feeling that could be more dangerous, particularly if you're talking about confined area operations. Whilst WindSwept has highlighted a distraction point, I think you could design the seat vibrations to be totally different to the airframe, and thereby instinctively understand which was which (e.g. a pummeling in the back). That said, If the worst were to happen, and a rotor strike occured (and heli still flying!), there would be a regular vibration through the airframe; if the seat were to hide that, I can see a situation where a pilot could mis-diagnose the situation, and takes an inappropriate course of action, because that feedback wasn't there. A lot of implications and consequence to look into.

Keep in mind, too, that an interpretation of a vibration can also be subjective. I was a passenger on an R22 on a return flight from somewhere, when the pilot became rather concerned with the heli's vibration. I had flown the heli out, and didn't consider it to be unusual then; I personally didn't detect any real difference in the vibration from the left seat for the return. However, not being the pilot, I deferred to his judgement, and agreed on a cautious approach to the situation; we returned to our departure point to take a further look. As it turned out, there was a loose nut/bolt on the airframe, and we sought engineering advice before having another go!

Edit: flip2 has just put that far more succinctly then me... - but yes, that's what I was getting at...
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