Finally, Comfortable Seats!
(Greg Amy's Letter to The American Star)
Supplement to Greg Amy's article
I had been suffering with the original front seats in my 1977 Tiger since I bought the plane more than three years ago. I really didn't like those seats. Since I was refurbishing the interior, I decided to make a change.
As a first step, I had a well-known Grumman aficionado upgrade my seat backs to the 78-79 version. This required bolting the later-style backs onto my modified seat pans.
Next, I wanted to make the cushions a lot better. We've heard many a testimonial for Temperfoam. A few years before, I had put the standard you-cut-it-to-fit Temperfoam in my stock '77 seat bottoms, and that was a pretty good improvement. This time around, since I had to replace the seat bottoms anyway, I took a different tack.
Oregon Aero offers generic seat bottoms made of Conforfoam—effectively the same stuff as Temperfoam. Oregon Aero's are different in that they offer a complete contoured seat bottom, with an attractive and durable upholstery cover. They're available in one- or two-inch thickness, with or without a Conforfoam lumbar support built in. I ordered the two-inch model with the lumbar cushion—about $250 delivered for a pair.
Oregon Aero also offers complete replacement seats, with contoured foam both on the bottom and back of the seats. I thought about doing this, but decided against it for two reasons. First, they needed the seats on site for the work, and I was too impatient. And second, it would have cost about $425 per seat, with a standard material for a covering.
Initially, I tested the seat bottom by simply replacing the original seat bottom with the Oregon Aero cushion. What a difference! I'd suggest this to anyone as an immediate upgrade. I was concerned about the height, though, as I'm over six feet tall. Once I tried it on for size, I decided to trim the seats down to one-inch thickness instead. According to Oregon Aero, this still provides optimal support and comfort without bottoming out.
Next, I took the later-model front seat assemblies and the new Oregon Aero bottoms to a local upholstery shop and had them covered in my favorite print material. The Grumman aficionado had returned the seats with only the seat back frame hoop—no foam, no other webbing. To support the foam, the upholsterer riveted in fire-retardant seat belt webbing in a grid across the main hoop and carved out foam to fit around it. We used standard foam for the seat back. The high-tech stuff would have been prohibitively expensive. The upholsterer did a fantastic job.
Since I had ordered the Oregon Aero seat bottoms with the lumbar cushion but still wanted my seat bottom to be removable, we disconnected the lumbar cushion from the seat bottom and added it to the foam on the seat back.
I bolted them into the airplane, and they're way cool! These seats are as comfortable as the sport seats in my Audi!
I can see the next question coming: How much?
Late-model seat backs: cost unknown. The Grumman aficionado hasn't sent me a bill yet. It won't be free.
Oregon Aero parts: $250 for the two seat bottoms with generic material (mine were charcoal). I got the two-inch thickness, I suggest you get the one-inch thickness with the lumbar cushion, unless you're vertically challenged and you need the altitude.
If you're just looking for a more comfy seat bottom, this is what you should get, in your favorite color.
Seat covers: Well, I'm into the interior (all four seats and side panels) for about $1,500. That's for a custom job with automotive prints and vinyl, but that's still not much more than, for instance, a standard Airtex kit.
Note that Oregon Aero strongly urged me not to try to cram their foam into a standard seat cover, as it may compress the foam the wrong way and hurt the safety and comfort of the design. If you get the lumbar cushion, you can remove it and stuff it under your existing seat back cover, or Velcro it to the outside.
I love my new seats!
Reprinted with permission from The American Star, the bimonthly newsletter of the American Yankee Association. Contact (530) 676-4AYA or http://www.aya.org/