Home : News : News

Aircraft towing made safer thanks to 502nd TDS-designed temporary seat

By Robert Goetz, 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | April 19, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas - A temporary aircraft seat designed and fabricated at the 502nd Trainer Development Squadron is making the towing of aircraft at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph a safer procedure.


Designed by Michael O’Connor, 502nd TDS engineering technician, and built by other members of the trainer development team, the T-6 Texan and T-38 Talon tow seat trainer is now being used by the 12th Maintenance Group and has the potential for use throughout the armed forces.


“The device is a foldable seat for maintenance ground personnel to use when an individual must be in the cockpit for brakes and other operations associated with towing and other activities with the ejection seat removed,” said Paul Ramsay, 502nd TDS design and development supervisor.


The request for the tow seat came from Ross Mills, 12th MXG Aircraft Maintenance Squadron T-38 Aircraft Maintenance Unit branch chief. O’Connor, a mechanical designer for more than 30 years, was tasked with designing a seat that would meet the needs of the maintenance crew.


He designed the seat in a matter of days starting in early December, and by early January, the trainer had been fabricated and successfully tested on the first try. The 12th MXG maintenance crew now has the use of two tow seats for T-6 aircraft and two for T-38s.


“They needed a seat that would fit inside the cockpit of a T-6 and T-38 during the times when the ejection seat is not present,” O’Connor said. “The seat had to provide them with stability and the height to see out of the cockpit while they were applying the brakes during the towing process.”


If the brakes disengage during the towing process, there is risk of damage to the aircraft by moving and striking the tow bar, as well as injury to the maintenance team member, he said.


“I had to design a seat that would fit into the existing ejection seat system,” O’Connor said. “We used standard aircraft parts for the interface between the seat and the ejection rails and built a direct replacement for maintenance use.


“The width dimension was crucial because it has to fit in the rails,” he continued. “The height is important so maintenance personnel can see out of the cockpit. It also had to fit inside the cup that holds the ejection seat in place.”


O’Connor said almost all the parts used in the fabrication of the tow seat are off the shelf, including foam seats from the now-discontinued T-37.


“All we had to order were two brackets from a supply source,” he said.


The seat had to meet a 300-pound weight requirement, but O’Connor was able to beat that limit by 25 percent, designing a seat rated at 400 pounds.


Ramsay said the seat is portable, convenient to use and cost-effective.


“The maintenance community has indicated it has more than fulfilled their requirements and expectations,” he said. “An important consideration is this seat has great potential for application across all Air Education and Training Command wings that operate ejection seat-equipped aircraft such as the T-6 and T-38.”


O’Connor said it is satisfying to design and fabricate a product that benefits the mission.


“It feels good to do something you can see being put to great use,” he said.