New seat rails … vital, but …

The infamous Cessna “seat-slip” accidents of the 1970s and early 1980s prompted a recurring Airworthiness Directive to inspect the seat rails for wear. If the holes in those rails were elongated from wear, then disaster could strike.

The seat’s locking pins could slide out of the holes. This could produce fatal consequences on takeoff, when seats slid back as the airplane entered a climb attitude. What happened next is anybody’s guess. Most likely the pilot instinctively grabbed the control yoke in an attempt to pull himself forward. The result was a low-altitude stall.

The Crossover Classic was given new seat rails, thanks to McFarlane Aviation Products of Baldwin City, Kansas. That was a significant safety improvement. The new rails have nice, round holes that grip the seat locking pins firmly. And there are secondary seat stops farther aft on the rails, which serve as a backup.

In one blog I said that adding the new seat rails did away with the AD requiring inspections every 100 hours. I was wrong, McFarlane said. Though new seat rails may provide peace of mind, that 100-hour recurring inspection still stands. But I suspect that it will be quite some time before the freshly-installed rails will show any signs of wear.

In other news, the sweeps Skylane is being readied for its voyage to EAA AirVenture, which takes place from July 25-31 at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I’m planning on leaving the morning of Friday, July 22. Here’s hoping N182CX realizes its potential of  160-knot cruise speeds along the way! Those interested can check the ship’s progress on

  • Joanna Smith

    Thank you for your updates! You just answered a big question I had, “In addition to the rudder extension pedals do the seats move forward and back allowing for short individuals such as myself to make use of both allowing for absolute comfort when flying? Oh yeah, no more booster seat–that’s what I’m talking about-yeahhh!!!

  • Dick Moran

    It’s ironic that you discuss problems with the Cessna seat rails. One of my instructors in Indianapolis had a fatal accident just becuase of that problem. She was a short person to begin with and as she was taking off, the seat slipped, she went into a stall and crashed. It was devasting to all who knew her. I certainly hope that the AD’s are being complied with and those problems will not occur again. I’m glad that you have corrected the problem.

  • J Beazer

    I had it happen to me. Luckily I had a co-pilot at the time that grabbed the yoke. You can bet now I do a real hard “jiggle” to my seat when completing the pre-take off checklist.

  • Stephen

    I’m trying to keep my mouth shut after the last session, but… I’m curious how the old rails looked?

  • C Fred Crawmer

    Happened to me in a C-150 out of College Park in the late 60’s…fortunately I threw the column forward, did a real fast shuffle relatching the seat & cheated fate once more. A cold brew later that day tasted espically good!

  • Rick Bazzo

    Not too long after receiving my private pilot certificate (at about 140 hrs), I experienced a similar incident while flying a C150 rental. As I was climbing out on take-off through 300 ft AGL, for a routine trip around the circuit, the seat slipped backward without notice. “Instinctively”, simultaneously and fortunately, I had the presence of mind to “lunge” forward, which effectively kept the control wheel in a relatively normal “climb-out” position, but the seat had slipped far enough backward such that it left me leaning forward and just barely able to reach the rudder pedals. The airplane continued to climb normally and remained stable. So at about 700 ft AGL, and with absolute neutral pressure on the control wheel, I decided to “scooch” the seat forward a bit, hoping to re-lock it into place. Instead, it slipped backwards even farther! This left me leaning severely forward as far as a could and barely able to work the rudder pedals with my toes. The airplane continued to climb normally so, “no panic – fly the airplane”. I decided at this point that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to continue my circuit and attempt a landing in my present “configuration”. SO, I made my announcement to depart the pattern, continued to climb straight out until I reached about 2800 ft MSL, nosed the airplane into a shallow dive and then “scooched” the seat forward again. This time it stuck and remained locked in position but, needless to say, I decided to cut my flight short and immediately headed back to my home field. From that point on, whenever I fly a 150/152, I always jam the cowl plugs behind the seat!

    • phil

      um…… guys isn’t there only 3″ of movement on the seat of the 150, perhaps you could say you were flying a turbo 210 or something

  • C Greb

    As long as we are telling stories…
    On my “pre-solo check flight with a different instructor”, we were at about 50 ft agl on our first t/o and my seat slipped back.
    I immediately thought “CRM” said to her “You have the plane.”.
    My guest instructor responded with “No, I don’t, you do. [a slight pause] Don’t pull on the yoke”.
    I reached forward and grabbed the glareshield with one hand with finger tips and the yoke with the other, stabilized the plane’s attitude and reset the seat, along with a really dedicated fore and aft rocking session to make sure.
    To this very day, I do a minor St. Vitus Dance in the front seat on every flight just to make sure………

  • Peter O Ludke

    I’ve seen no mention of the Cessna SK210-174 Secondary Seat Stop service kit. I highly recommend the installation of this kit. The “Seat Rail” AD was just superseded with a new AD (2011-10-09). The AD covers not only the seat rail, but also the rollers, pins and roller housings on the seat itself. Replacing the seat rail does not affect the other parts of this system. I like the Service Kit because it uses a seat belt like system to prevent the seat from sliding backwards even if the seat is entirely OFF the rail. A good back up. Better yet, Cessna will cover the cost of both the kit AND installation.
    Peter Ludke A&P/IA
    Durango, Co

  • John F. Banas

    Well, as long as the stories are unfolding…

    I rented a 172 out of Preister Aviation in the early ‘80’s. They were based as what is now called Chicago Executive – KPWK – Palwaukee airport.

    The planes seemed like they were rode hard and put away wet, but they were cheap and since I just got my license a year before and had just graduated college, it was worth the ‘risk’.

    I had filled the plane with my girlfriend riding shotgun and my future Best Man behind me and his future wife next to him.

    Just after rotation and a climb of about 2 or 3 hundred feet, my seat slid all the way back. Scared as you know what, I yelled to my buddy Jim, “If you don’t push me forward with all your might, we’re dead.”

    Not to be funny, but that got his attention and he nearly crushed me against the panel. I actually had to ask him to ease off so I could work on the seat while flying the plane.

    When we landed, I found a small flat pebble in the circle where the pin would lock in. I had rocked the seat vigorously beforehand, as this was just when the news of these accidents were surfacing. Turns out that the pebble was thin and flat enough to allow the pin to seem like it was locked in position on the ramp, but once the airframe flexed as the weight was transferred to the wings, the pin just slipped out and the spring did the rest.

    So now I not only check the seat, but my shoes and the track as part of my preflight. Thought you guys should know.

    So…I thought that litigation was passed to absolve a company from liability if it discovered a flaw in the design and reworked it – otherwise it’s an admission of liability (so we’ll perpetuate the flaw and kill some more people…!). Why doesn’t Cessna just work the spring to push the seat forward? I know that will make it hard to get in, but when you think about it, if you just locked the seat in, climbed aboard, and pulled the latch so the seat would help you glide FORWARD, wouldn’t that make more sense? And if something is under AD, the government should wave fees for certifying the fix, don’t you think?