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Turn the seats around to save lives

  1. May 30, 2004 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Before I contact someone through Boeing [Boeing is a customer of mine] to make the following suggestion, I wanted to get some feedback. While flying home this weekend I was thinking about aircraft safety and crash survival. :yuck:

    Wouldn't a survivable air disaster likely be made more survivable, or at least [maybe] result in fewer or less severe injuries, if the seats faced backwards instead of forwards?

    I know this sounds a bit silly but it seems to make sense. Am I missing something here?
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2004
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  3. May 30, 2004 #2

    (Q)

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    I'm only posting this because I wouldn't want you to lose your contacts at Boeing by making that suggestion. Perhaps you need to think it through first.

    How is changing the seat location supposed to alleviate a ground impact at several hundred miles per hour and the ensuing fireball? Have you ever seen the remains of an air disaster?
     
  4. May 30, 2004 #3

    Janitor

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    You may well be right. But I know two people who complain of motion sickness in both cars and airplanes. I was talking to one of them about a friend of the family way back when, who owned a station wagon in which the rearmost seat faced backward. The person I was telling this to blanched at the thought of going backward. For whatever reason, that mode aggravates motion sickness. (Thankfully I never get queasy, even in a Cessna on a hot summer day with lots of bumpiness in the air, so I can't relate.)
     
  5. May 30, 2004 #4
    No, you're perfectly correct. I can't speak for the US but in Royal Air Force transport aircraft the seats face backwards (or at least they did the last time I was in one - about 5 years ago).

    However, the most significant design change that would improve aircraft structural safety - and make the designer's job easier - would be to omit the stress raisers we call 'passenger windows'. There's nothing to see for most of the time and CCTV could deliver a range of views to each seat. The windows are there only to satisfy passengers' psychological need to see outside.

    Edit to answer Janitor's comment: that aspect of motion sickness in cars results from the difference is visual signals you get in a ground vehicle when facing backwards. Basically, your eye has to rapidly refocus on what comes into view, whereas when facing forward your eyes adjust slowly (the natural frequencies of the suspension also have an effect on motion sickness but that's the same whether you face backward or forward).

    Edit to answer (Q)'s comment: not all air crashes involve very-high g decelerations and a fireball that destroys the whole aircraft. Many people survive them and even the position of the seat along the fuselage has an effect on survivability - it's generally safer near the back. You could use your argument to do away with seatbelts.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2004
  6. May 30, 2004 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Do you have a plane? :tongue2: :tongue2: :tongue2:

    I think your point is a good one. Maybe this is why the aircraft seats face forwards in the first place. On the other hand, in the station wagon you face the rear window so this might be different. I am thinking that car sickness is reduced if you can anticipate the turns by looking out the front window. The side to side motion is what seems to get me. Note that while driving on a winding road, I can't ride in the back seat of a car without wanting to lose my lunch. :uhh: :yuck: :yuck: :yuck:

    It is hard to believe that no one has ever considered this so I tend to think that there must be a good reason, but innovation can be funny that way. It wouldn't be the first time something so obvious had never been seriously considered.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2004
  7. May 30, 2004 #6

    Janitor

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    Nope. But maybe one of these days! I got to fly from the right seat of a Cessna 150 in my teens on several occasions.

    Jim Neighbors hasn't been missing any meals. He's singing Back Home in Indiana just before the start of the big race.
     
  8. May 30, 2004 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Interesting. Do you know if the motivation for the RAF to face the seats backwards is to reduce injuries and deaths on impact?
     
  9. May 30, 2004 #8
    Perfectly correct, for the reasons I mentioned above (sorry - we're almost having a real-time dialogue here).

    In this case, sorry - but it has (again see my earlier post). Customer psyche can be a real hindrance to sound engineering design.
     
  10. May 30, 2004 #9
    Yes, indeed.
     
  11. May 30, 2004 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    Not to get off topic, but just for second: I flew Air Combat a few years ago. This is where as a completely untrained pilot you get to fly in dog fights, with you really at the controls, while playing LASER tag with another identical high performance, light attack aircraft. OMG what a thrill that was! When I landed Tsu had to drive me home. I was incapable of driving due to the overdose of adrenalin. This reeeeeeaaaaaaalllllllyyyy gave me the flying bug.
     
  12. May 30, 2004 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    WOW!!! I really have to get to a Boeing designer and find out why this is not done.
     
  13. May 30, 2004 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yes. Please ignore the continuity issues here.
     
  14. May 30, 2004 #13
    Here's a thought - if we do away with the windows, we could seat the passengers on bench seats - like in a C130. That wouldn't be as safe as backwards facing but it would be better than forward facing - and no-one would have to disturb another to get to the toilet.

    The down side is that it'd be almost impossible to avoid eye contact with whoever was sitting opposite - which is a problem in railway seating, especially on high-density subway coaches.
     
  15. May 30, 2004 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    Well, even though I bet you're right, it seems like something pretty simple to overcome. As a frequent flyer I can assure you that bigger issues exist for customer psychology; such being forced to sleep in an airport due to canceled flights or delayed, delayed, delayed, delayed, delayed flights.

    It seems that someone at Boeing needs a good talking to. :biggrin:
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2004
  16. May 30, 2004 #15
    Oh, I fully agree on both counts. I'm lucky insofar as my frequent flyer days are over. I hope.

    If you can force some logic into the whole flying experience, you get my support. The role model for the flying experience seems to have been the luxury end of ocean travel (and oh, how it has drifted from that model). Like separating passengers from baggage not wanted on voyage. Think how much simpler the infrastructure would be if you were not separated from your baggage. It could still be scanned and it would remove the problem of unaccompanied baggage. In these days of suicide bombers, it wouldn't guarantee security but then, what does?

    And, off topic, nice to see your Kerry quote! It's good for some of us this side of the pond to know that not all of the US follows Dubya.
     
  17. May 30, 2004 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    In the case of your RAF flying experience, how much of a problem was the force from the acceleration at take off? This just struck me as a potential problem.
     
  18. May 30, 2004 #17

    (Q)

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    Many people survive them and even the position of the seat along the fuselage has an effect on survivability - it's generally safer near the back. You could use your argument to do away with seatbelts.

    Yes, I’ve heard that the seats near the back are safer but to simply spin the seats around makes no sense if we’re talking forward motion impact. If the seat remains intact and does not come away in a crash, the likeliness of survival should be equal regardless the direction of the seat.
     
  19. May 31, 2004 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    Now don't get me started! :devil:

    side note: The regional jets have two seats per row along the right side of the plane, and one seat per row along the left side. I asked the pilot how they compensated for the heavier side. He said they don't. I suggested that they need to make the right wing a little longer than the left wing. :rofl:

    sorry. Every now and then I crack myself up.
     
  20. May 31, 2004 #19
    Brainstorming

    I'd like to be situated under one of the wings in a small detachable pod containing a parachute and GPS signaling device. When disaster strikes, the pod releases from the wing and parachutes safely down to earth. My snack and beverage could be delivered to the pod by a clothesline/pulley mechanism of some sort. I would be willing to forego the regular meals for this service. :rofl: :rofl:
     
  21. May 31, 2004 #20

    Janitor

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    There is a famous video of a passenger jet crash-landing on the airport property at Sioux City, Iowa in 1991. All the hydraulics had leaked out due to a turbofan failure, and the pilots were using engine thrust to try to control the plane. There was indeed a fireball, and the plane broke apart. About half the people aboard actually survived. It would be interesting to know how the fatality count would compare had there been backward seating.

    A couple years back I attended a talk given by the pilot, Al Haynes, at Arizona State University. The nose section of the airplane ended up by itself in a cornfield. Capt. Haynes said he can't remember the experience of the crash itself, because he was unconscious for quite some time.

    http://yarchive.net/air/airliners/dc10_sioux_city.html
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2004
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