Recently an Airworthiness Concern from the FAA found its way to my email, regarding F. Atlee Dodge folding seats. Designed by Atlee Dodge to replace the rear seats in Cessna 170 and 180 series aircraft, these seats are very popular in Alaska and other places that use their aircraft as a utility vehicle. They not only fold, but are easily removable to accommodate the cargo many of us haul in our aircraft. The concern stems from an accident where a passenger using one of these seats was ejected through the windshield of an aircraft when it nosed over. The subsequent investigation determined that how the seats were installed may have played a role. This prompted the FAA to look at other aircraft with these seats installed, which revealed that more than half of those examined were also not installed according to the STC. To address this problem, F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Services LLC has issued a Mandatory Service Bulletin which calls for a visual inspection of the folding seat installation.
I have a set of Atlee Dodge seats in my Cessna 185 that were installed in 1987, prior to the issuance of the STC. And sure enough—I needed to correct two problems: my installation had no seat belt guides, and the outboard belt straps were attached to the old Cessna anchors, not the slide rail. A call to Dave Swartz at the FAA Aircraft Certification Office in Anchorage shed a little more light on the subject. It turns out that not only is the strength of a seatbelt anchor important, the angle the belt crosses your body has a lot to do with how they function during a sudden stop. The seat belt guides, and placement of the anchors are important details. If you have a set of these seats in your airplane, take a copy of the diagram from the service bulletin and look at how they are installed.
Steve Kracke at Atlee Dodge had me email him photos of my installation. That and a phone call got the parts I needed headed my way. Steve tells me he has plenty of the parts that might be needed on hand.
F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Services is a phone call or email away: (907) 344-1755 or [email protected]. If you have questions or feedback for the FAA Aircraft Certification Office concerning the Airworthiness Concern, contact Aviation Safety Engineer Ted Kohlstedt [email protected] or 907-271-2648. You owe it to your passengers to check into this, and make sure your seats are properly installed!