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Project Log
Aircraft Construction - Pitts 14 Prototype

Adjustable Seats, Part 1
Pitts 14 Prototype
Created: 04/05/2005
Updated: 11/18/2005
Link(s): N/A
Article by Mike Whaley
We often get inquiries from potential builders along the lines of "Hi, I'm 6 foot 8... can I fit in a Skybolt?" or occasionally we also get "I'm really short, do I need to modify the plane in any way?" As we looked at the seat setup, we made the decision that there was really no good reason that both these folks shouldn't be able to fly the same Model 14 easily, and without having to pull out the welding rig in between. It's a shame, but most aerobatic homebuilts (and quite likely, most homebuilts in general) don't provide for much, if any, seat adjustments beyond changing the amount and thickness of the seat cushions.

Of course, any adjustable seat system must be sturdy enough for aerobatics, and work well enough to justify the added weight and building time. And it should be easy enough to use that the owner won't curse his or her decision to install it in the first place.

What we came up with is one of the most configurable systems we've seen, and it's really not terribly difficult to build once the geometry is laid out. (Yes, we did go through several iterations until we got it just right.) All adjustments are independent, which allows for a great many combinations of positions.

The rear seat can be adjusted fore and aft at both the top and bottom of the seat back, and the seat bottom can be adjusted up and down on both the front and rear edges. This allows the pilot to have total control over the fore-aft position of the seat, the height of the seat pan, and the angles of the seat's bottom and back.

There is slightly less adjustability to the front seat, which is permanently hinged to the fuselage at the top of the seat back (necessary since immediately behind that lies the instrument panel, and there isn't room for the telescoping fore-aft adjustment strut as in the rear seat). The bottom of the strut connecting to the front of the seat pan is also fixed to a fuselage cross-piece. However, the height of the front and rear of the seat pan, as well as the fore-aft position of the bottom of the seat back is adjustable.

Adjustments are made by a simple system using locking pip pins going through holes to lock in the location for the various seat adjustments. This is strong, sturdy, and very unlikely to loosen on its own even under serious vibration and G loads, yet the seat is very easy to adjust in a multitude of ways to accommodate most pilots. The seat frames and mounts are all made of 4130 chromoly.

We feel that this system will be very adaptable and is well within the average builder's capability to get right during construction.

Click to view full image
The original seat layout wasn't bad, but it is always a guess as to just where to put the seats to best fit everyone that will fly in the plane. There must be a better way!  
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The old seats had to come out, so that we could develop a better system.  
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We used steel rods to help align the short sections of 4130 tubing which will serve as the locations the seat bottoms can be locked into.  
Click to view full image
The rails for the seats.  
Click to view full image
The rear seat offers plenty of adjustments!  
Click to view full image
Barrett tries out the new arrangement.  
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This shot gives an idea of how tall the airplane really is.  
Click to view full image
Mike Hughes tries it out.  

Other entries in this series:
     Construction Begins    May 2003
     Fuselage Basic Structure    June 2003
     Fuselage Basic Structure Completed, Engine Arrives, Steve Culp Helps Out    July 2003
     Pitts Model 14 Introduced at Oshkosh    4th week of July 2003
     Curtis Visits to Continue the Design, Wing Construction Begins    August 2003
     Wing Construction Underway    September 2003
     Lower Wing Basic Construction    October 2003
     Lower Wing Details and First Fuselage Formers    November 2003
     Fuselage Formers, Skin and Wing Details    December 2003
     Fuselage Side Panels and Upper Wing Construction    January 2004
     Wing-Root Fairings, Fuselage Skin Panels, and Upper Wing    February 2004
     Fuselage Side Panels, Wing Rigging, Engine Arrives    March 2004
     Sun N 'Fun 2004    April 2004
     Summer 2004 Status Update    May 2004
     Aluminum Turtledeck    1st week of June 2004
     Sheet Metal Work, AirVenture    4th week of June 2004
      » Adjustable Seats, Part 1    August 2004
     Adjustable Seats, Part 2    December 2004
     Wings    December 2004
     Throttle Quadrant    December 2004
     Spring 2005    March 2005

If you have any additions or corrections to this item, please let us know.

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