Helicopter passengers expect the same comforts during flight that they have in their automobiles and fixed-wing aircraft: attenuating seats, environmental controls, finer materials, armor protection, inflight entertainment — and even a shower. The OEMs are responding.
The Final Frontier
But there are some limits. Given the space, weight and mission constraints of a helicopter, some fixed-wing cabin wish-list items haven't yet found their way into helicopters — sleeping accommodations, or large galleys, 40-in. monitors, high-speed Internet, and the like. And since executive helicopter missions typically are under an hour, the mission is apt to be an extension of a ride in a limousine. Customers want a comfortable seat; a quiet, smooth ride; convenience. flawless systems; a drink; a snack; and the ability to stay connected.
Nevertheless, the abilities of helicopter cabin engineers are remarkable — and probably underappreciated — given what they are able to squeeze into the cabins of air ambulance, law enforcement and offshore service cabins.
Helicopter cabin style tends to be inspired by automotive design trends, says's Heffernan. “The overall interior aesthetic is trending toward automotive. [We're seeing] more comfortable seats in terms of contour and vibration attenuation, utilizing new foams and gels. Interior materials use more sophisticated coatings that offer modern finishes for less weight. All [our] customers desire some level of cabin management for communications/moving maps/video/entertainment, and Sikorsky provides several levels of options.
“Window shading has trended toward electro-chromatic due to system simplicity and weight constraints,” continues Heffernan. “Lighting is all-LED. Safety equipment would include energy attenuating seats, passenger armor protection and higher crash loads. Soundproofing has become highly helicopter specific, using more sophisticated measurement tools, airframe isolation, tailored limp mass barriers and lighter weight/higher strength composite construction.”
Some of the most unusual, challenging, costly or ground-breaking helicopter interiors encountered by OEMs include installing a shower in a Sikorsky S-92, as well as granite table tops, complex entertainment and audio systems, and beverage cooling and heating hardware. While these may be common in fixed-wing aircraft interiors, they are more unique items in helicopters.