787 Dreamliner Crew Seat Development

Dreamliner seat vibration testing.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner promises to deliver unparalleled performance, efficiency, safety and comfort. To achieve this Boeing selected leading aerospace companies around the world including awarding the contract to provide the aircraft’s crew seats to Ipeco Group of Southend-on-Sea. In turn, Ipeco selected HORIBA MIRA Ltd as its test partner to ensure the seats meet their and Boeing’s demanding requirements.

These crew seats differ considerably from the passenger seats most of us are used to. For a start the Captain and First Officer seats must be highly adjustable to ensure optimum comfort and comply with stringent test standards. Seat adjustments including, recline, vertical and horizontal lumbar support, knee support, seat pan tilt and infinitely adjustable arm rests all contribute to providing unique comfort for the occupant. Ipeco’s Captain and First Officer seats have electrically controlled adjustment in the vertical and horizontal directions, providing infinite adjustment in the working range. The seats also incorporate a 5 point restraint system with twin inertia reels and manual lock.

With some classes of 787 designed to have a range of up to 8,500 nautical miles the importance of the seats meeting their criteria for safety, strength, comfort, reliability and durability has never been greater. With a focus on issues of crew fatigue and consequent reduced alertness they are designed and developed using anthropometric data, ergonomic principles, medical recommendations and materials research. This has been achieved with uncompromisingly high quality standards and the rigorous test programmes the seats are subjected to.

In addition to the already stringent requirements of legislation for airborne equipment, aircraft seats are required to pass their own demanding test procedures. The safety requirements are, understandably, particularly high with the seats having to withstand 16g dynamic loadings. Other tests include repeated cyclic operations of adjustment systems to assess them for durability whilst vibration and extreme climatic environments put the seats materials, mechanical and electrical systems through their paces. From the replication of in-service conditions including vibration and temperature through to simulation of abuse loads such as impact from a catering trolley, the seats need to exceed the legislative requirements to meet Ipeco’s even more demanding corporate qualification procedures. Typically the adjustment systems were subjected to 50,000 cycles of operation utilising bespoke test systems designed and manufactured by HORIBA MIRA. These systems incorporated pneumatic cylinders or drive motors that actuated the adjustment systems incrementally throughout the full working envelope required. Where appropriate latching and unlatching of locking mechanisms was also incorporated, insuring that realistic in service conditions was simulated. Automated sequencing was achieved via a programmable logic controller, with each test sequence being developed in a software environment.

Seat noise testing.

Powered operation at extremes of temperature and altitude is also a requisite of qualification test specifications. In these cases additional technical requirements were considered to ensure that test equipment did not fail during the test activity.

These requirements and the benefits of independence were key factors in Ipeco selecting HORIBA MIRA Ltd as a test and development partner.

HORIBA MIRA’s capabilities for aircraft seat development combine the expertise and experience gained through many successful programmes. Between the operations at Quatro Park in Basildon and headquarters in Nuneaton HORIBA MIRA has one of the world’s most comprehensive suites of seat design, development and test facilities.