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.
Ergonomic Design 101
It should come as no surprise that engineers around the world are devoting more time to the advancement of helicopter cabin design. For example, a Vehicle Interiors Department study sponsored by France's DGAC (Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile) found —to no one's great surprise — that helicopter cabins are sometimes cramped, especially when the passengers are burly oil rig roughnecks. Indeed, the aim of the study was to optimize the fit of helicopter interiors to a specific cabin population: offshore workers. Both digital simulations and hardware models were part of the study: digital human mannequins (DHM) immersed in digital cabin mockups using computer-aided design (CAD), and flesh-and-blood subjects in a full-scale, flexible cabin mockup. The study's methods included anthropometric measurements, surveys, questionnaires and activity analyses. The results (it is hoped) led Eurocopter designers to improve ways to assess and predict comfort levels of helicopter cabins with greater reliance on real-world human size parameters, and better knowledge of cabin architectural parameters that may increase comfort, such as the link between seat pitches and legroom or postural comfort.
“Completion Design Practice and Research of VVIP Helicopter Cabins,” a paper prepared for the Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics (CSAA) in the People's Republic of China, looked at cabin floor plans and human ergonomics. Evidently, the study's author, Hou Lili, of the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, was given the task to emulate, as much as possible, the VVIP seat installed on the back of a white elephant used by Asian royalty. (We're not kidding.) Among many recommendations, the study maintains that “whirling seats” (we think this translates to “tilting power seats”) are excessively bulky and heavy for a helicopter cabin. But the author declares that a case could be made for installing heated- and/or massaging seats, articulating seat-back cushions and headrests (with presets). A limousine-style acrylic divider between the cabin and the cockpit also is recommended by the paper's author.