Enter the Numbut

by Jerry Thomas

With the pandemic on the wane, more and more pilots are getting back to flying. It hasn’t gone unnoticed in the business world that many pilots have gotten rusty in ways that have little to do with their flight skills. Apparently, most of us haven’t gotten any younger.

Unless you only fly in airplanes that have their own bathrooms, you’ve probably learned that it’s become harder to extricate yourself from cockpits that are easier to get into than out of.  Here’s a thought: what if someone made a seat that actually helped with that process? Well, look no further.

BRS, the company that was built around the invention of the Whole Aircraft Rescue Parachute System (WARPS) has seen the future and it is us: an aging pilot population.

In partnership with La-Z-Boy Aerospace, BRS has been hard at work at something that is, at its most basic, a slow-motion ejection seat for out-of-shape pilots. The working title for their secretive project has been the Assisted Stance System(ASS).

The idea is that once the airplane gets parked, all the pilot has to do is press a button to initiate a jackscrew mechanism that raises the seat and tilts it forward until the pilot is standing upright. What could go wrong? (Ok, the MD-83 crash comes to mind.)

During testing, it was quickly determined that an interlock system was needed, insuring the pilot had detached the seat-belt and harness before activating the lift. Sources tell me that the Jaws Of Life had to be brought to one scene, but no one actually died. In another instance, a canopy had to be replaced due to a head-sized hole in it.

With the thought that certain parts of the anatomy of male pilots might need “special” handling,  Ball Aerospace joined the fray with their version of a rising seat utilizing something they call GENT (Gentile Extractive Non-aggressive Technology).

Developers eventually realized that a seat lift only works in aircraft with open cockpits or canopies. Their suggested fix is to turn the device 90 degrees so that the pilot is launched sideways out the door. Obviously, FBOs will have to establish a standardized scoring system to provide ramp superintendents the ability to rate an especially entertaining egress. I propose they be provided with numbered paddles, like those used on DWTS (Dancing With The Stars).

As more companies pursue the development of electric/hydraulic seat lift systems for the GA fleet, the overactive minds at the FAA, eager to create new acronyms, have declared the Stance Assistive Device (SAD) to be a new regulatory category. It has been noted that a large number of SADs have been ordered for use inside FSDOs across the country, where the devices are being referred to as Numbut retrofits. The word from the maintenance hangar is that A&P’s are scrambling to become Numbut Certified.

You can’t make this stuff up. . . except on April 1st.