Rugs ‘n Bugs

Posted 01/19/04

By Keith Horton

When one looks at the beautiful rugs on the floors in aircraft and homes nowadays, they all look so great and fit so well that it’s hard to imagine what problems rugs can cause -- even in the case of some well-laid plans by smarty-pants engineers. Let me tell you about a rug episode I was involved with back in the 1940s. I was working for TWA as a tool and equipment engineer, and our fleet of airplanes consisted of about a dozen 14-passenger DC-2s and thirty or so 24-passenger DC-3s.

There were rugs on the floors of all those airplanes, one being a long runner that covered the aisle, with smaller individual rugs under the seats. These rugs were very troublesome as they were not firmly secured and were often mussed up or moved around by passengers' feet.

Also, in those days, there was no radar equipment that would alert the pilot to avoid thunder storms ahead, nor were the airplanes capable of flying at high altitudes, with the result that some flights experienced very rough flying conditions spilling drinks and food and the "syrup" ejected by airsick passengers.

Replacement of soiled rugs was often necessary, and with the rugs being of varying sizes and shapes, a large supply of clean rugs had to be maintained at several locations along the system which extended from coast to coast. A plan was developed to adopt under-the-seat rugs of a common size and shape. In addition, the problem of keeping the rugs securely in place was solved by installing a standardized pattern of small mushroom-shaped posts in the floors.

However, before long complaints started to come in from the field that the rugs that had been cleaned would not stretch far enough to fit over the floor posts, having shrunk when laundered! What was done about that problem I really don't know, because just at that time I had to leave TWA for military duty and I failed to find the answer on my return some time later.

TWA kept growing, and even after we started operating Constellations there still was a problem keeping the rug sections in place. So a plan was adopted to secure them with double-faced tape, and that plan worked out very well until it was necessary to remove the rugs. The adhesive on the tape was so strong, that when the rugs were pulled up the top laminations of the floorboards peeled up as well. After replacement of some very expensive wood, a new tape was obtained that did not have such a strong adhesive action.

These two experiences were early demonstrations of the need (later a routine accepted practice among all airlines) to give careful consideration of all facets when a modification project is considered, along with the desirability of conducting prototype tests if possible. If we had done so, it would have been much easier for us to keep the "bugs" out of the rugs in those early days.

Keith Horton (1941-1983) served in Maintenance/Tech Services - Engineering and Field Maintenance, Kansas City.

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