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Randolph division puts its own spin on Bárány chair

  • Published
  • By Robert Goetz
  • Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs
The 902nd Mission Support Group Trainer Development Division is responsible for the development and production of numerous training aids that support the Air Force's flying and technical missions.

Some of their better-known aids are cockpit and ejection seat mock-ups, but personnel at the division have been designing and building another device integral to the flying mission for nearly a decade.

The division manufactures the Bárány chair, a spinning device named for Nobel prize-winning Hungarian physiologist Robert Bárány that acclimates subjects to the stresses of flying. The training aid helps aviators cope with the sensations that can result in airsickness.

"Our first Bárány chair was delivered in 2005," Jim Cochran, 902nd MSG TDD project manager, said. "We started working on it in 2003. Now we have 23 in the field and more on order."

Like other training aids at the division's workplace in Hangar 74, the Bárány chair is custom made, including most of the parts. It consists of 30 to 40 machined parts made primarily of aluminum or stainless steel. The plastic armrests are built on-site with the use of a stereo lithography machine.

"We also have several vendor parts, including the upholstery for the seat and armrests, as well as the base, which is cast in Floresville," Cochran said. "It's a unique chair. Nobody else makes one like it."

The team has created two different versions, using a Bárány chair that was manufactured in the 1940s as a template, and is working on a third version featuring a stainless steel vertical axis and upgraded remote control.

"We used the original version to get the height and width," Cochran said. "We try to make something more durable. We have a motorized version that is wireless and we also changed the way people get into the chair to make it easier."

The Bárány chair is no lightweight - between 400 and 500 pounds - but Cochran said the weight is necessary.

"It's needed for stability and to support the bearings," he said.

Machinist Jimmy Seymour called the production of the Bárány chair "a team effort."

"We manufacture the parts and we assemble the chair after Paul is finished welding the frame," he said, referring to welder Paul Love. "All of us have a hand in it."

All members of the team contribute to the design. Any tweaks result in new drawings, Love said.

"As we come up with new ideas, all the blueprints are redrawn," he said.

Because of the division's workload - about 15 projects at this time - a Bárány chair takes six months to complete, from start to finish - but about 500 to 600 hours of hands-on time, Cochran said.

Most of the Bárány chairs are used by the Air Force, but the Navy has also purchased a few. The 359th Aerospace-Medicine Squadron Aerospace Physiology Flight at JBSA-Randolph employs one - the first one manufactured by the division - for its Air Sickness Management Program.

"The Air Force uses them daily out in the field," Cochran said. "If pilots don't get time in the Bárány chair, they can get washed out. The device saves the Air Force a tremendous amount of money."