Oshkosh Day Four: Trudging numbly through yet another steamy vendor hangar, we were struck not by our fascination with yet another clever geegaw, but by an overwhelming need to sit down. By sheer happenstance, we stumbled into one of those booths flogging magic seat cushions, the kind guaranteed to rejuvenate a ravaged back and restore pep to tired legs. Frankly, this is no way to test a seat pad. By now, we would have found a sharp tree stump to be a relief.
Nonetheless, we were intrigued by a couple of the seat pad options and borrowed them for some flight trials. These pads are designed to address an unfortunate shortcoming of most airplane seats: with regard to comfort, they are truly awful. Supplemental pads and gadgets are supposed to address this.
Moller Back Support
The Moller Back Support System is the most sophisticated supplemental pad weve seen and at $100, youd expect it to be. It consists of a convex/concave hard polymer pan upholstered with a light layer of springy padding. There are two elastic straps on the back long enough to span the back of the typical aircraft seat. The straps may interfere with a seatback pocket but we found it remained in place without using them.
There are two models, the Orthopedic Pro and the Orthopedic Back Support, both of which retail for $99.95-find them on Mollers Web site for $89.95-and the only difference between the two appears to be that Pro model is equipped with permeable mesh to reduce sweating. The Pro version is the model recommended for airplanes and other vehicles. Its available in three sizes-sorted by height-and three color combinations.
Moller makes substantial claims for this product, touting clinical research that shows reduced fatigue and less neck strain when its used.Further, Moller claims that test subjects showed increased respiratory capacity and stronger hand grip capability after using the back support.Fine, but is it comfortable?
We flew with the Moller throughout August and September of last year.Initially, we found it to be somewhat uncomfortable. Its stiff and unyielding and forces an upright seating position that slouchers will hate.And thats the point, apparently. Slumped posture is a leading cause of back and neck discomfort and by forcing a more upright posture, the Moller addresses this. Bottom line: you have to learn to sit correctly to benefit from this device.
Eventually, we adapted to the Moller and noticed a couple of things.First, the mesh backing performs as claimed. In the hottest weather, no sweaty backside. Second, the Moller forces you to be constantly aware of your posture and while this might not be more comfortable in the moment, we found it results in less stiffness and pain at the conclusion of a long trip. The company offers a 30-day money back trial so we think its worth a try.
Oregon Aero SoftSeat
Oregon Aeros SoftSeat system consists of various combinations of pads for the back and bottom of the seat. These are available in different thicknesses and sizes and with and without a lumbar support pad. The seat pad alone sells for $99, add another $42 for the lumbar portion, which attaches to the seat pad with a robust zipper. The pads use the conformal or visco-elastic foam Oregon Aero uses in many of its products. The foam responds to body temperature and molds itself to the appropriate contours, without taking a set or cupping.
Although we found the SoftSeat to be an improvement over the stock seat in our Mooney, it doesnt force upright posture, as the Moller does. Youre on your own to avoid slouching in the seat and thus take advantage of the pads lumbar support. As with the Moller, the pads rugged upholstered surface noticeably reduces sweating. Theres one other curious bonus with this pad: our landings improved. The pad puts your eyes in an inch or two higher than they would normally be, making it easier to judge the wheels relationship to the runway in the last seconds of touchdown.
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