Aircraft seats are integral in keeping passengers safe and comfortable. Unlike the seats found in other passenger vehicles, the aviation sector must balance economy with comfort. Over the years, airline seats have been continually improved, giving travelers more entertainment and storage accommodations throughout the flight. However, the configuration and mounting techniques have generally remained the same. In this blog, we will discuss the layout, design, and amenities associated with airline seats.
Like many other components in aviation, the primary seat structure is typically manufactured from aluminum, carbon fiber, or plastic. However, airline seats also contain several non-metallic elements, such as cushions, upholsteries, and the fire-blocking layer. While most cushions are made from a foam-rubber material, most other parts are coated with a flame retardant thermoplastic such as polycarbonate or polyvinyl chloride-acrylic blends. Regardless of the material chosen, the aggregate composition must meet the heat release and smoke requirements set forth in FAR 25.853(a).
Since aircraft seats are the first line of defense against any accident, they must be designed with certain requirements in mind. Namely, all seats should be able to withstand the axial and radial loads placed upon them by turbulence and regular movement. They should also be manufactured with materials or design aspects that endow the seat with natural resistance to sunlight and corrosion. In addition to the mandated requisites, aircraft seats are usually designed with additional favorable properties. These include construction with lightweight material, ease of cleaning, and comfortability.
For the majority of passenger jets, seats are fitted on a longitudinal track system that extends from the front of the fuselage to the back. While passengers may perceive that the seat is tightly affixed to the rail, it is actually not that rigid. This is because intense securement causes more localized stress when exposed to radial or tangential loading. An additional benefit to this configuration is that it allows for the quick and simple removal of seats if there is a need for remodeling.
Most airlines offer passengers seats with a reclining mechanism, which may be either mechanical or electric. The major exceptions to this are the seats closest to the back, where the bulkhead interferes with reclination, and those near the emergency exits. In addition, most seats feature an extendable tray table for passengers to rest food and drinks on, as well as a net or other receptacle for the plane's safety instruction manual.
More advanced amenities include electronics, adjustable headrests, and bed seating. As many airlines adopt onboard Wi-Fi technology, the need for a mobile power source has become salient. As a result, many have purchased seats with AC, DC, or USB power sockets which can be safely utilized after takeoff and before landing. Additionally, a great deal of full-service domestic and international jets now offer a built-in video screen for in-flight entertainment and information purposes. These screens, which may be touchscreen or remote-controlled, are often installed on the back side of each seat and include a small headphone jack in the armrest.
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