Cessna owners: Check your Atlee Dodge Seats!

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.

Diagram from Service Bulletin showing point to check regarding installation of Atlee Dodge folding seats.

Diagram from Service Bulletin showing points to check regarding installation of Atlee Dodge folding seats.

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.

Seat installation with newly installed seatbelt guide, attached to the end of the seat track.

Seat installation with newly installed seatbelt guide, attached to the end of the seat track.

 

Outboard seatbelt attached to the side rail-- not the original Cessna seatbelt attach point.

Outboard seatbelt attached to the side rail– not the original Cessna seatbelt attach point.

F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Services is a phone call or email away: (907) 344-1755 or atleedodge@acsalaska.net.  If you have questions or feedback for the FAA Aircraft Certification Office concerning the  Airworthiness Concern, contact Aviation Safety Engineer Ted Kohlstedt  ted.kohlstedt@faa.gov or 907-271-2648.  You owe it to your passengers to check into this, and make sure your seats are properly installed!

FedEx donates two 727’s to University Aviation Programs in Alaska

The University of Alaska aviation programs at Anchorage and Fairbanks both offer maintenance training, and have airplanes to work on. But nothing like this…  In late February, FedEx donated two fully functional Boeing 727s that are being retired from their fleet – one to each program.  The aircraft will provide the students (our future mechanics) the opportunity to have hands-on training on a fully functional transport category airplane. These aircraft are part of a larger FedEx program that has distributed over sixty aircraft to schools, airports, museums or other organizations across the nation in the past couple years.  But the exciting part had to do with the arrival of the aircraft at the two Alaskan airports.

Merrill Field Arrival
The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) aviation program is located at Merrill Field, the largest GA airport in Alaska.  It took an exemption from the Municipality of Anchorage to authorize the 727 to land at there, which normally limits aircraft landing weight to 12,500 pounds.  The delivery also had to occur during the winter while the ground was frozen to accommodate the landing weight without damaging the runway.  Quite a crowd was on hand to watch the much-stripped-down aircraft make two practice approaches and then put the wheels down “on the numbers” (see the photo).  Observers indicated that the aircraft was down to taxi speed by the time it reached the control tower which according to Google Earth is about 2,100 feet, using just over half of the 4,000 runway.  (News video of the landing).

Note the touchdown marks of the 727, "on the numbers."  Photo courtesy of UAA

Note the touchdown marks of the 727, “on the numbers.” (Photo courtesy of UAA)

Fairbanks International Airport Arrival
Fairbanks was a different story.  Fairbanks International Airport, where the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) aviation program is located, does it all—from the Russian Antonov An-225 freighter, to a Supercub on floats, the airport has runways that support jumbo jets, corporate, air taxi and general aviation with two paved runways, a gravel runway used by ski planes in the winter and a float pond.  The university recently acquired a hangar on the general aviation side of the airport, which provided the space to be able to accommodate the 727.  While the landing itself was not as exciting, given the 11,000 foot air carrier runway, it was the first time any jet that I am aware of was marshaled into the gate by a polar bear (See photo).  The Nanook is the mascot of UAF. No ordinary bear, this one is also a multi-talented UAF employee named Ted E. Bear, who had the credentials to perform this task. (OK, that is just the name he uses when in character.)

Nanook directing the FedEx 727 into the gate at Fairbanks International Airport. (Photo courtesy of UAF's Todd Paris).

Nanook directing the FedEx 727 into the gate at Fairbanks International Airport. (Photo courtesy of UAF’s Todd Paris).

Two records were set in Fairbanks: It was the first time any jet was marshaled by a polar bear, and the first time a FedEx jet had taxied up to a passenger jet bridge, according to David Sutton, FedEx Managing Director of Aircraft Acquisition.  The aircraft was subsequently towed across the airport, along the ski-strip to its current location on the GA side of the field.  I still do a brief double take when I drive onto the GA side of the airport, and look up to see a FedEx 727 pointed at me!

Benefits to the students
Other than having a big, shiny jet liner parked at the school, how will this help the program? The aircraft will provide hands-on training for the students on systems associated with transport category aircraft.  This is much better than only learning through computer-based training materials, according to UAF program coordinator Kevin Alexander.  Both UAA and UAF’s program have lacked large aircraft experience in the past.  UAA’s maintenance track is headed up by Paul Herrick, who indicated that their graduates have a 100 percent placement.  “They are all over the state and in high demand,” he said.

How did this happen?

Dee Hanson receiving a small token of appreciation from Kevin Alexander at an Alaska Aviation Coordination Council meeting. Signed by the students in the UAF aviation maintenance program.

Dee Hanson receiving a small token of appreciation from Kevin Alexander at an Alaska Aviation Coordination Council meeting. Signed by the students in the UAF aviation maintenance program.

We should realize this didn’t just happen.  The ball started rolling with Nicolas Yale, Senior Manager Northwest Region, FedEx Express, who serves on the UAA Aviation Advisory Board.  Dee Hanson, Executive Director of the Alaska Airmen’s Association, who also serves on the board, spoke up and asked if they didn’t have two aircraft available, so that both UAA and UAF programs could take advantage of this opportunity.  To thank her for her role in this effort, UAF presented Dee with a framed copy of a photo of the FedEx aircraft arriving in Fairbanks signed by the most important stakeholders of all—the students in the aviation technology program.  A big thank you to FedEx, and all the players that made this investment in our students, and the future of aviation!