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When the USAF discovered the "flaw" of averages

In the early 1950s, the U.S. air force measured more than 4,000 pilots on 140 dimensions of size, in order to tailor cockpit design to the "average" pilot. But it turned out the average airman didn't exist. ( More...

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BigFED 3
And add in the "maturity factor", you know, the one where our body rearranges lumps and other migrating matter... I can still wear the clothes I once did, if I take them to a tailor and have two pairs of pants made into one pair!! All of my bones matured, especially my fat bone!!!
lynx318 1
While I appreciate the humour in your comments,I'd say that they some of cleverest ones here.
lynx318 1
*they "are" some of* (mental note: proof read more)
Hugh Somsen 3
I recall being told, "you won't fit in the cockpit."
I retired MOSTLY because of my size! Things (cockpits) seemed to be getting SMALLER!!!
BigFED 3
Some folks are missing the point. Yes, there are folks that meet, for instance the average, height. And there are those that meet the average weight. But the NUMBER of folks that meet the averages for BOTH height AND weight goes DOWN! The point is as the numbers of MEASURING points goes up, the NUMBER of people that meet ALL of those "average" points goes down and continues to decrease as the number of points being compared goes up!!!
In the late fifties I was in flight training at Bryan AFB (now the airfield is part of Texas A&M) flying the T-33. We had both back pack and seat pack parachutes for us to use but about half way through training the AF measured our thigh length while sitting. They had discovered that if you were wearing a back pack chute and your thigh length was greater than a certain length you would lose your knee caps if you had to eject from the front seat. After getting my wings I was assigned to a fighter squadron, flying the F-86D. In this plane you had to wear a back pack chute because you sat on a survival pack. In this configuration if you had to eject your back would be broken and most pilots died upon hitting the ground. Finally a pilot survived the broken back and was able to explain what was going wrong. The back of the seat was curved, to accommodate, the back pack chute. When you ejected there was nothing to support the chute so it plunged to the bottom of the seat breaking your back. They solved this problem by cutting a piece of 2x4 lumber to fit under the chute and support it, no more broken backs.
Tom Clark 2
Thanks for posting this amazing article!
Larry Blaker 2
Architectural Graphic Standards could take a clue from the air force study. Architectural Graphic Standards is the most relied upon architectural references in the design homes and almost all building. But the measurement don't fit modern man. Your bathtub is too short. Counter tops at the wrong height, doors too small. Architectural Standard measurements has not been updated from the 1950's. The standard sizes for bathtubs, sinks, counter heights and all cabinetry and doors etc.. is set to a standard that no longer exists.
Vern Schulze 2
This concept doesn't only apply to body size. In a study we did in Eastern OR, we measured annual precipitation over a 30 year period to determine the mathematical average. We found that 3 out of ten percip. was greater than average and 7 out 10 were below the mathematical average.
erisajd 1
same here in Los Angeles - you need to look at the mean to have any 'mean'ingful understanding about snnual rainfall in a Mediterranean climate
blueashflyer 2
the mean IS the average. The MEDIAN (the middle-most number in a range) is often an interesting number. Or the MODE (the most-often-appearing number in a range) can help interpret the data.
erisajd 2
I meant Standard deviation . . . never mind.
linbb 1
And that seems to be the same as the temps for this global warming episode as it runs along the same lines.
lynx318 2
That we want "normalcy" is human nature, no-one wants to be different. But without genetic variation it would be too easy for a bacteria or virus to attack a "standard" genetic code and wipe out most human life in a worldwide pandemic never imagined. Not just external variation but internal as well is what gives us an immunity barrier to such problems. So everyone be happy in your own body as different as it may be, it may just save yours & your descendants lives.
In that setting you can NOT use the "Law of Averages". i wonder what MENTAL GIANT decided on that!
Mark Jacob 2
The difference between mean and median can be subtle but miss leading to the average planner...
Excellent synopsis article.

Humanity has had struggles to leave preconceptions behind.
Tom Lull 1
I knew more than one A-4 driver who admitted that if required to eject he would lose both the canopy bow.
matt jensen 1
When you're 200cm tall and weighing 99kg, the only a/c I fit was a C119-130.
Egadnow 0
Close is good enough. Let the Giants and Dwarfs go Army!!
Ridiculous. There may not be an "average airman" as far as the USAF is concerned, but there are certainly average heights, average weights, average circumferences, etc. An average, or arithmetic mean, is simply the sum of a list of numbers divided by the number of numbers in the list. The "standard deviation" is a measure of how far away from the average a measurement is, and cockpits can certainly be made adjustable within the standard deviation. Auto manufacturers do it all the time to design seats.
jcsjcs 10
It is generally recommended to read the article before posting comments.
Parker Blount -2
Michael is exactly right. There is always an average number for a set of numbers. There may not be a single unit in the set that corresponds to the average, though. And that is the problem with the author and the original researchers. They failed to understand basis statistics. Using a simple range, rather than the arithmetic mean, or average would have been far more effective. Besides, you can't take the average of a number of different components and come up with one average over all size.
jcsjcs 3
Michael is right, but that was exactly the point of the article that he declared to be "ridiculous". Auto manufacturers do it now because the practice spread once the USAF implemented it.

VKSheridan 3
You're missing the point. Yes, there is an average height, an average weight, an average inseam, an average shoe size, an average torso length and an average chest size. Now, attach all those individual average dimensions to a singular body dimension. That body does not exist, hence the fallacy of designing to such a nonexistent dimension of form comprised of an assembly of averages. Goes with what we learned in grade school, you can't average an average.....
Parker Blount 0
VKS, I'm not sure how I missed the point, since I was saying, or attempting to say, what you wrote.


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