MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Sgt. Zachary Lucas, a UH-1Y crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, was recognized for his technical innovation with a $5,000 check Aug. 19 at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton.
Lucas, 26, from St. Louis, Mo., was awarded with a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and a check for Department of Defense cost savings for his ingenuity in developing a new seat configuration for the UH-1Y Huey.
“During our deployment, we were told to come up with a way to carry five passengers in a way that we would not be affected in the back,” Lucas said. “Our seating configuration goes from three seats to one seat in the center. With three seats in the center, we get limited viability to employ the weapons systems or tend to the packs.”
Lucas, a six-year veteran, designed a two-man bed seat during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. He procured the prototype hardware and coordinated with Marines from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40 for production.
The current configuration allows for a three-man bench seat or a single seat. The modification allows for greater mobility throughout the cabin to assist passengers and maneuverability around weapons systems.
“I modified the support poles that go on the transmission wall,” Lucas said. “I shortened them up and centered seats on the supporting beams.”
The “Lucas seat” gives Huey crews a tactically viable alternative, capable of fulfilling all 13 utility mission and essential tasks including providing better safety and capability during combat missions. Lucas said the modified seats offer both passengers and crew chiefs to view the multi-function displays in front and view the area of operations without obstructions.
Lucas created five modifications and installed them on helicopters during his deployment. A prototype was tested here and approved by U.S. Naval Air Systems Command. Bell Helicopter manufactured more and the prototype became a Corps-wide issue.
Col. Shaun Sadler, the commanding officer of Marine Air Group 39, said the seats will allow for maximum maneuverability and is a critical capability for machine gunners who found it physically challenging to operate their weapon.
Lucas’ initiative has inspired his peers, who are researching and developing other modifications to make operating easier.
A group of Marines are currently developing a map rack to install in the center area between pilots and the crew to keep their maps held down, making it easier for the crew to read them while the aircraft is in flight.
Sadler, praised Lucas’ drive and initiative to create something that would benefit Marine Corps aviation.
“Initiative like that is a rare thing,” said Sadler, as Lucas showcased the new seat. “Once you see it and act on it, there is no limit of where you can go.”
The dual engine UH-1Y is equipped with a modified four-blade rotor and has upgraded engines and transmissions to give it increased payload and performance capabilities including increased speed and carrying capacity. It deployed for the first time in January 2009 as part of the aviation combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.