Fireproof upholstery and experimental aircraft?

Discussion in 'Finishing Techniques' started by Battson, Aug 27, 2012.

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  1. Aug 27, 2012 #1

    Battson

    Battson

    Battson

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    Are there any regulations around this?
    Does the FAA (or your local equivalent) require experimental aircraft to only use certified or fireproof fabrics?
    I know GA aircraft do, here. And it costs!!!

    I asked our local CAA guy, but he was unable / unwilling to give a direct answer...
     
  2. Aug 27, 2012 #2

    TFF

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    GA are when certified. Homebuilts can use anything you want in the US.
     
  3. Aug 27, 2012 #3

    Battson

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    I hope we can too (here)!

    My only upholstery is the seats.
    Me thinks, by the time the seat is on fire, I am pretty well had-it whether or not it's fireproof....
     
  4. Aug 27, 2012 #4

    SVSUSteve

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    You have a point to a certain degree. However, it's not the "huge ****ing ball of fire" crash you should consider here. The issue is more that you have an external fire which heats the cockpit (think noseover with a small fuel or oil leak) or a 'minor' cockpit fire (say in flight) and causes the seats or other upholstery to off-gas toxic compounds. And yes, the fire can sometimes be outside and still produce enough heat to burn people inside as well as melt some fabrics, etc. There are two issues here:
    -Flame propagation (how well it burns, keeps burning and how fast it will spread)
    -Pyrolysis (what it turns into when it burns); it goes beyond CO to things like cyanide, hydrogen chloride and fluoride (which turn into hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid respectively when exposed to moist areas like the lungs, mouth, nose and eyes), acrolein, various nitrogen compounds, etc

    Then again, remember that most people who die in post-crash fires do live long enough to establish toxic levels of these substances in their systems so it might be more of an issue than a lot of us are comfortable thinking about. No one has really done any research on the subject of small aircraft post-crash fire behavior thus far.

    Personally, I would go with the flame resistant and non-toxic smoke producing materials simply because of what could happen if there were an in-flight fire.
     
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  5. Aug 27, 2012 #5

    litespeed

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    If you are worried and do not want to pay for the fireproof stuff-

    Do some natural tanned leather covers- probably cheaper and looks, feels so nice.
     
  6. Aug 27, 2012 #6

    Head in the clouds

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    CASA grounded my C172 for a while because the previous owner, who restored it, used non certified fabrics and headlining. The matter was resolved by having it sprayed annually with a fire retardant, its entered as a requirement in the maintenance log.
     
  7. Aug 27, 2012 #7

    SVSUSteve

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    Actually leather is one of the better materials for fire resistance. Remember that it was, for many years, the standard material covering firefighters' helmets. It is still available as an option if you're willing to pay for it and is the most common material used to make the identification "shields" seen on many of them. In fact, given the flaws that came to light in the FAA's materials testing standards after the SwissAir 111 fiasco, I would in many ways trust leather over a lot of the "certified" materials. However, in either case, I would be obtaining a sample and running torture tests on it to see how it performs. Actually, that is the approach I will be taking once I reach that stage with the Vireo and later designs.
     
  8. Aug 27, 2012 #8

    Tony

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    Does anyone use a fire proof suit or underwear? Do you fly in pants and shoes, or do you wear shorts and sandles when you fly? I hope its ok if I ask these questions in this post or thread.

    I myself wear shorts and fly with tennis shoes. I was in a bad fire once and never had a shirt on. The doctor in the ICU told me I was lucky I had no shirt. He said I would have no skin when he removed the shirt. To this day I have burn marks on my skin from the buttons on my jeans, besides those marks, you can not tell I was in a fire. I had 20 gallons of gas explode in my face.

    Tony
     
  9. Aug 27, 2012 #9

    Tony

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    My Airplane has bare wood everywhere in the cockpit. Putting leather on this was always an idea of mine. I thought it would help slow any fire down if one was started somehow. But we all are concerned with wieght so I just shrugged off the idea.

    A freind put leather all over everything in his cockpit and I must say it looks good.

    How many have a fire ext. in thier bird? If so what do you use and size. I have seen a couple but would be nice to see what others are using.

    Tony
     
  10. Aug 27, 2012 #10

    TFF

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    Fire is one of those damned if you do damned if you dont things. In the heat of the summer in the South you will have a heat stroke wearing the fire gear and cockpits are not designed to have hightop boots on GA planes. My feet are wide and will jam on some of the company aircraft pedals when I am in boots. Fire extinguishers should be a must. You do need to remember that extinguishers are designed to smother fire; they can smother people too. You dont want to knock yourself out if you need to be piloting, but then again you dont want to burn either.
     
  11. Aug 27, 2012 #11

    SVSUSteve

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    It's only an issue if you're wearing synthetic fabrics which melt. Cotton and wool don't have that problem. (this is coming from someone who used to work in a burn ICU)

    I usually fly in natural fabrics only, long sleeved shirt and pants with leather WWII style paratrooper boots. Eventually I would like to get a Nomex flight suit for flight testing etc.

    There's a reason why I designed an air conditioner into even my LSA. LOL

    Which is why we who are building experimentals have an advantage. Design them to accommodate such gear.
     
  12. Aug 27, 2012 #12

    Battson

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    Leather is a great idea - I shoot plenty and tan it too, but its very heavy... a no-no for STOL.

    I will use a tough vinyl designed for boats (also a bad place for a fire), so it does not sustain flame - but it also doesn't come with that expensive certificate either... :) I need to look into the combustion products it produces.

    But frankly, it's the only material in the metal cockpit area. If it's hot enough to start burning, I am done.

    The yards of fabric on the back of the plane are probably more of a fire hazard?



    What do we wear when we fly, we wear "survival gear" - woolen jerseys and hiking boots. If you survive a crash where we usually fly, the lack of those two items can kill you before rescue arrives in many cases.
    Wool also has the advantage of not burning very well.
     
  13. Aug 28, 2012 #13

    hogheadv2

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    A saddle with a back, Now were talking. Notch out the horn for the stick and we're golden.
    Flat seats wear on my hips over time unless they are fantastic. {Silverado HD leather, 6 way power, heavy}
    *** Comfort for long periods of time cannot be overlooked, Distraction by discomfort adds to fatigue.
    The other point I will bring up is alergies, many people may have reactions to the treated or type of material. You may want to handle it some before installing it.
     
  14. Aug 28, 2012 #14

    Max Torque

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    What Steve said.

    If you wear a nomex flight suit, ideally, you would wear something such as long cotton underwear underneath it. This is something most guys wearing them don't know or ignore, but its an important part of the equation.

    FWIW - I checked with Naugahyde and, though they don't advertise it, they will supply burn certs that will meet FAA requirements upon request. I prefer leather, but Naugahyde is a bit lighter.
     
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  15. Aug 28, 2012 #15

    SVSUSteve

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    Vinyl is actually really nasty ****. It produces lots of thick, choking smoke laden with hydrogen chloride and very high levels of CO. It's one of the last things I would recommend.


    NOTE: I had tried to post something else but apparently it didn't come up.
     
  16. Aug 28, 2012 #16

    litespeed

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    Glad people liked my leather suggestion.

    If you are worried about wieght- leather is available in many grades and thickness- thus weight.

    It really is hard to beat mother nature- wool, cotton, leather.


    Phil
     
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  17. Aug 28, 2012 #17

    Battson

    Battson

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    I expect to be doing a burn test on this stuff this week, I'll let you know how it goes.
     
  18. Aug 29, 2012 #18

    Max Torque

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    OK, roger that, SVSUSteve - No to vinyl.

    What's out there as a choice for a synthetic fabric?
     
  19. Aug 30, 2012 #19

    SVSUSteve

    SVSUSteve

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    Well, my first choice would be Nomex but then again, I know some people don't like the "feel" of it. I spent enough time as a volunteer firefighter that it doesn't bother me. But there are quite a few other options and I'll provide links to those once I get a chance (in the middle of moving today).
     
  20. Sep 14, 2012 #20

    Battson

    Battson

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    Just to complete this thread for anyway searching for information in future:

    The New Zealand CAA does not currently require Experimental Amateur Built aircraft to comply with standards for certified aviation upholstery fabrics. You may use what ever fabrics you choose, at your own risk.
     

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