Archive for November, 2013

One First-Rate Interior

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

What a pleasure it was to pick up the Debonair from Air Mod and fly it–with its new interior–to AOPA Summit’s static display at the Fort Worth-Meacham airport (FTW). The trip took five hours , 11 minutes, made possible by the airplane’s massive, 120-gallon fuel capacity and its wonderfully comfortable seats. That large Gatorade container also came in handy, if you know what I mean.

Air Mod’s Dennis Wolter is a fanatic about ergonomic design, and it shows with the seats. He’s fond of opining about the design merits of the concept of “the measure of man.” This term refers to the dimensions of a “standard” human, and it’s updated every ten years. Turns out, a standard human of the 1940s is much smaller than the overfed, overweight, beamier version of today. So it makes sense that design convention calls for re-evaluating average human heights, weights, and waistlines every few years.

Think this is baloney? Then you haven’t tried to move around inside a B-17 or other World War II-era airplane. People were comparatively tiny back then! In Rick Atkinson’s excellent three-volume series about World War II’s European theater (An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light), he notes that the average American recruit was five feet, seven inches tall and weighed 150 pounds! (130 pounds was the minimum weight).

How about today? Well, look around….

Me, I’m five feet 10 inches tall and weigh 205 pounds. The last time I was in a B-17 I gouged a pretty good, bloody¬†ding in my skull trying to scramble around in there. But I fit today’s measure of man, which is a sad commentary I suppose.

Anyway, Wolter starts with the measure of man and then custom-tailors the seats of each airplane he overhauls to conform to the customer’s actual dimensions. So when it comes to comfort–and fatigue reduction at the end of those long flight–it’s quite like having your shoes custom-made, rather than buying them off the shelf and hoping they stand the test of time.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Summit, here’s what you missed:

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair's Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair’s Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

 

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

 

The overhead panel was completely repaired. "Everything was broken," Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The overhead panel was completely repaired. “Everything was broken,” Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The front-seat headrests got "The Debonair Sweepstakes" logo embroidered on them. You like?

The front-seat headrests got “The Debonair Sweepstakes” logo embroidered on them. You like?

That’s it for today. Watch for another post later this week…..