Boeing Looking at Vibrating Cockpit Seat to Alert Pilots

Posted Mar 3rd 2011 03:00 PM


boeing vibrating seat

Artist Renderings, US Patent Office

The cockpit of a commercial airplane has a variety of warning systems to help keep pilots out of unsafe situations. In many circumstances, visual and audible indicators will notify a pilot when he needs to take immediate action. Boeing is considering a new method: vibrating the pilot's seat assembly.

Throughout a flight, pilots do numerous tasks that might not require instant action, but are needed to complete a flight. During longer flights, pilots might get distracted and miss warning indicators that advise them if an action is required, the seat inventors say.

Pilots are also prone to getting sleepy during extended flights. A recent survey conducted for the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK found that out of 389 pilots, 48% said they fell asleep "once" or "rarely" and 2% indicated they fall asleep "often."

Recently, a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) Boeing 737 pilot fell asleep mid-flight while the co-pilot was out of the cockpit. In November 2010 an Air India Boeing 737 crashed killing 158 people, which was blamed on a sleep-deprived pilot.

Boeing is trying to determine if an alert system that uses more than lights and sound could be more effective in keeping fatigued pilots awake during flight. Many aircraft are already designed to shake the control column if a stall is imminent. But with the new seat a pilot would actually feel a vibration thanks to a module mounted under his or her seat.

The Tactile Pilot Alert system patent filed by Boeing, and co-authored by chief pilot Frank Santoni, states the vibrating seat would comprise of, "a tactile module that may be mountable to a seat assembly and which may include a vibrating unit and/or a probing unit."

Presently, Boeing is not giving details on how the system might be used on future planes. "We're studying the concept, but there are no plans to implement the technology right now," Doug Alder Jr. with Boeing Communications told AOL Travel News.
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All these ideas are debatable but what about sleep
deprived pilots??? what systems are going to help
overworked pilots on some of the very longest
flights of up to l9 hours?? Now that the Boeing 747
series 800 has just made news headlines,these new
jets are supposed to fly across multiple time zones
from side of the world to the other without any
refuelling stops. There are many Boieng 777s that
fly typical routes like Chicago to Shanghai,London
to Mumbai,all or most of the Tokyo runs between
USA's major citiies,to name a few. What about
having smart seats that alert flight attendants IF
the pilots fall asleep???? Having alert flight
attendants on board during red eye flights can be
a total saviour if the pilots' seating can somehow
send an alert signal to the alert flight
attendants to bring COFFEE to the sleeping or
sleep deprived pilots. Doesn't this make any sense???

March 04 2011 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They already have vibrating rudder pedals, and stick shakers for stall warning systems. I doen't see how this is novel enough to justify a patent.

March 03 2011 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Little Tommy

I quite agree! Depending on how the manufacturer installs this device, many pilots might actually like it!!
Would they pretend to be asleep, to get their "reward?"

March 03 2011 at 3:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris J

If Boeing wants to have their pilots sit in vibrating (or probing) seats they don't need to invest in new expensive equipment. Just have them sit in the last row on the aisle. The engine vibration back there, coupled with the odors from the toilets and the jossling from the passengers in line to use them, will keep them awake and alert...Believe me!!

March 03 2011 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Harry Hurt

A probing unit? What's it going to probe. The drawing shows something sticking up where the pilot's anus could be. I don't think that's a good idea.

March 03 2011 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Harry Hurt's comment

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