Aircraft Crew Seating
The crew of a microlight aircraft represent a significant proportion
of the fuselage volume. For this reason, their seating position has
a great influence on fuselage design. Side-by-side seating is very popular
for modern aircraft but before adopting a specific layout, a brief survey
was conducted, considering 4 contrasting "seating" positions
to ensure that the one selected was the most appropriate.
Prone position. Well, hang glider pilots manage it like
this. They fly in prone position to minimize their frontal area and hence
reduce drag. It's not unpleasant because they are suspended from above
and free to move quite easily. For a conventional aircraft, prone position
is not so appealing. How do you support the body and still offer freedom
of movement? Before the advent of the g-suit, tests were carried out on
pilots flying in prone position as a method of reducing the detrimental
effects of g. Even though there was a good reason for doing it, pilots
disliked flying in the prone position and the idea was abandoned.
Back to back. Back to back is not a serious consideration
since it is pretty unpleasant for the rear passenger - not to mention
anti-social. It is included here only for completeness. Aircraft adopting
this configuration had a very good reason for doing so, e.g. warplanes
that required a rear gunner. The Colditz glider used this seating layout,
to enable 2 occupants to fit into the relatively small fuselage of this
escape glider. Nobody would object to sitting backwards on a short flight
that got them out of a PoW camp!
Tandem. This is a common seating position amongst
older light aircraft. Although it enables the aircraft designer to reduce
the fuselage cross-sectional area, there are centre-of-gravity considerations
to be accounted for. Greater care had to be taken to ensure that the
C.G. fell within the right range. The Tiger Moth, for instance, has
to be flown solo from the rear cockpit.
Side by side. Side-by-side seating is very popular amongst
crews. It offers better communication and reduces the risk of miscalculating
the C.G. position by putting both occupants on, or very close to, the
centre-of-gravity. Although this configuration creates a relatively large
cross-sectional area, the effect can be reduced somewhat by slightly reclining
the occupants. The side-by-side configuration is popular for a good reason
and is considered to be the most appropriate for our canard design.