Seats Pass FAA Part 23 Crash Standards; Company Hopes For Full
Cert By End Of Year
If there's someone
better qualified to say that the race to receiving FAA
certification of a new airplane is a marathon -- not a sprint --
Seawind President Richard Silva would probably want to talk to
them, and swap some war stories. Silva has been trying to get his
Seawind 300C amphibian -- previously available in kit-built form --
FAA-certified for over three years. The company had originally
expected certification by summer 2004.
But like the Energizer Bunny, Seawind is still going two years
later -- still plugging away, and meeting with some success. In
fact, the company recently celebrated a major achievement towards
that goal -- meeting the FAA's Part 23 crash-test certification
requirements on the forward and aft seats.
Why are those tests significant? Silva says there are several
reasons, not the least of which is the unique design and cabin
layout of the Seawind.
"Many people have asked why we didn’t use an existing
design?" Silva said. "...I wanted the Seawind to have seats that
are as versatile as the aircraft. The forward seat can be moved the
full length of the cabin. It can be moved full forward for easy
entry to the rear seats or for sleeping in the Seawind camper
version... The seats also had to be moveable full aft for easy
entry to the front for swimming as well as standing up for
"[M]ost people do not realize how stringent the regulations
are," Silva continued. "The forward seats must sustain a crash load
of 26g (26 times the force of gravity) forward with the floor
severely twisted. It must also absorb a 19 g vertical crash test at
a 60 degree angle. Not only does the structure have to withstand
these loads, the anatomic dummy must also survive without its spine
load exceeding 1500 pounds."
"By comparison, an airline seat need only withstand a forward
crash load of 14g even though the crash speed is far faster.
Airline seats have much greater headroom and are fixed to the floor
making the design much simpler."
Silva added the forward
seatbacks in the Seawind also hold the shoulder belts,
necessitating a seat structure and floor tracks strong enough to
carry the upper body load. The seats also recline for comfort on
"Well, we made it!" Silva said. "Thanks go to the skill of our
engineering staff and their collaboration with the FAA staff CAMI
test facility in Oklahoma City."
According to the Seawind website, the company expects to begin
flight testing with the FAA certification testbed aircraft at the
end of April. The test aircraft will first be flown to the Baker
Aviation test team’s facility. Seawind adds that Baker has
certified a number of land and seaplane STCs and new models in
Seawind says that Baker estimates four to five months to
complete VFR certification, which includes flutter and spin
testing. (The certification tests will be put on hold for Oshkosh
at the end of July, so the company can display the FAA test
The test team has then allowed another month to complete IFR and
autopilot certification, with "probably" another thirty days to
process the paper work, during which time they are also scheduled
to complete the FADEC certification for the plane's Continental
To date, Seawind reports 64 customers have ante'd up deposits
for their own 300C... and despite the significant delays in
certification, only two customers have withdrawn their money.
"We are late for a reason," Silva writes on the Seawind website.
"It is also to let you know that if we uncover a problem, we will
correct it. Our goal is to provide not only the best airplane that
we can, but the best seaplane in the world."
"The evolution of an intelligent design goes on, and we
won’t give up," he added.