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Green light for series production of state-of-the-art helicopter seats


Rellingen, July 2021

Following the successful completion of the qualification campaign, last week, EASA awarded the ETSO approval to the AUTOFLUG FLYWEIGHT®, a state-of-the-art crash-safe safety seat for use in helicopters. In addition to its exceptionally low space requirement, its modern design language and its modular composition, the seat is also characterized by its modified Energy Absorption System (EAS). Through its special design, the EAS is able to fulfill its task reliably throughout its whole lifetime.

This was proven in an extensive test cycle, in which the seat was first artificially aged through the application of a wide range of vibrations, before it demonstrated its performance in a subsequent dynamic test. The ability to precisely calculate the triggering time and triggering threshold of the new EAS also allows the efficient adaptation to additional seat variants in the FLYWEIGHT® seat family, which are now being worked on and some of which are already in the qualification process. The use of composite materials for the seat shell as the major structural parts of the seat is yet another innovation for the market. “This is an area in which choosing the right composition of the composite materials is very important,” explains Matthias Gerhard, Senior Vice President Engineering at AUTOFLUG, upon inquiry. “Through the selected matrix in the seat structure, we have developed a lightweight, robust and optimized seat shell that distributes the occurring loads very effectively and evenly over the complete structure,” Gerhard continues. The dynamic performance in the tested crash scenarios is similar to the behavior of textile safety seats – a field in which AUTOFLUG has several decades of experience.

The feedback received from the civil helicopter seat market, in which AUTOFLUG already has an excellent network, has been very positive. In particular, retrofitters of existing helicopter fleets have confirmed the innovative nature of the seats in initial reviews. As a logical consequence, the first projects are currently being implemented. Over the coming weeks an initial series production seat will be installed and put into service in a Leonardo AW109SP from the American medical transport specialist Intermountain Life Flight. In addition to the wide range of different sized helicopters, the seat also offers attractive benefits to the rapidly growing market in the field of Urban Air Mobility, with the developments of air taxis and medical drones. In this respect, along with the high degree of safety, the slim and lightweight design of the seat plays a decisive role. Additionally, in this market segment, some initial contracts have already been signed for the integration of AUTOFLUG FLYWEIGHT® seats into eVTOL projects from various suppliers – with Volocopter, for example. “The market is developing rapidly, and with our innovative seats, we are proud to contribute to an increased level of safety in the flight systems of the future,” explains Alexander Bode, who is Head of Marketing & Sales at AUTOFLUG. According to Bode, the current developments in the area of modular seats, such as the FLYWEIGHT® SPIN UP – a seat with a swivel unit and a foldable seat pan – are especially interesting in this market. “The limited amount of space available in some aircraft often calls for innovative solutions, which we are happy to develop in agreement with our customers,” Bode continues. According to Bode, the declared goal is to increase the range of seats that are on offer by at least one additional variant this year to be able to respond to the requirements for flexible solutions on a long-term basis.