Non-aviation grade leathers usually contain more flammable dyeing and tanning chemicals, which can require heavier concentrations of retardant — which can lead to stiffness.
Clabough concludes by saying that technicians can do their own treatment "as long as they send out a sample of the fabric to get certification." They have to be aware of and follow the rules.
Working with Fire Resistant Foams
By Vicki Saffer
Traditionally, many seating manufacturers and upholstery shops have used a fire-retardant polyurethane cushioning which, by itself, is quite flammable and would not be acceptable for this environment. However, with the addition of an inner secondary fire-blocking fabric acting as a barrier between the polyurethane cushioning and the exterior covering, this product can satisfactorily comply with FAA regulations.
While it is true that polyurethane foams are lighter in weight and provide a slight advantage in terms of total aircraft weight, the disadvantages of the use of this cushioning are mainly economic.
The required fire-blocking cover is very expensive, and the extra cost of sewing this cover further adds to the price of the seat cushion assembly. Whatever savings might be achieved through the weight reduction provided by polyurethane foams, are substantially offset by the high cost and labor intensity of this process.
It should also be noted that this fabric will experience wear through time and use, possibly having an adverse effect on the fire performance of the initially certified seat cushioning composite. In addition, a secondary cover can detract from the overall aesthetics, and place limitations on achieving maximum cushioning performance and comfort.
The second option to attain compliance with FAA oil burner testing is fire-resistant foam cushioning. Fire-resistant cushioning inherently does not require the alternate fire-blocking covering fabric to achieve this compliance — eliminating the additional cost of the fabric and the extra labor charges. Although fire-resistant foams are slightly more expensive than fire-retardant polyurethanes, the elimination of any secondary covering more than makes up for the initial price difference.
Many aircraft upholstery personnel do not realize that modifications to this type of cushioning in recent years have substantially improved both performance and comfort, making the use of fire-resistant cushioning an even more attractive and ideal prospect for the aircraft industry. These continued modifications have also resulted in drastic improvements relevant to the aging characteristics of fire-resistant cushioning.
Regardless of which option you choose to use within your operation, it is important that your cushioning supplier is someone qualified to assist you through the certification process. Having someone to guide you through the maze of forms and questionnaires, assist you in collecting all necessary paperwork, and to oversee communication and actual testing between you and the FAA, can help ease the headaches. Ideally, a cushioning manufacturer employing an FAA certified DER can make this process a much smoother and simpler one for you.
Although FAA certification is important, we must not lose sight of the importance of creating a comfortable seat to attain complete customer satisfaction. Remember the customer who performed the "butt" test on the cushions prior to installation? In order to satisfy him, it was crucial that we carefully choose the cushioning firmness used in his (and all) seat cushions designed by our engineers.
Too many times, we have run into cases of upholstery shops not fully understanding (or aware of) the firmness options available to them or how to best combine them to achieve the maximum comfort in their cushions.
The fact is that a comfortable seat can rarely be achieved by using a single cushioning firmness. Upholstery personnel must approach the building of a seat as an art — using a firm cushioning base which graduates to softer external top layers, combined with narrow sides (or wedges) to achieve a firmer support.
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