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HeliSafe TA
Helicopter Occupant Safety Technology Application

Background

Flying fatalities are up to ten times more likely in helicopters than in fixed wing aircraft. Due to the nature of use of most civil helicopters (police, emergency service, fire fighting, power line inspection, etc.) accidents occur mainly in risky operations in low altitudes and when lifting off and landing. In both cases, occupants have a greater chance of surviving or avoiding severe injuries by use of improved safety equipment.

Project objectives

The main objective is to improve the probability of survival and reduce the risk of injuries to occupants in helicopter crashes. The research and development work focuses on improving occupant protection, based on the fact that the automotive industry is significantly more advanced in restraints compared to the aeronautical industry safety standards. Passenger safety standards for aircraft are lagging 15 to 20 years behind the automotive state-of-the-art technology. Therefore it is one of the aims of HeliSafe TA to integrate passive/active safety elements into helicopters and, furthermore, to utilise existing experience of the automotive industry to develop and introduce new passive/active safety equipment for occupants in helicopters. Such safety equipment must be able to protect occupants independent of their weight, size and seat position (side-facing seats, resting position, lying on stretcher, etc.).

Description of the work

Specification:

The overall spectrum of real world helicopter accidents will be studied, in order to define a relevant and representative crash scenario to be carried out in a full-scale drop test. The effect of the helicopter interior and the different seat arrangements shall be investigated. Supplemental injury probabilities are to be determined to improve the possibilities for self-evacuation, especially in the risk of post-crash events. A realistic crash pulse and loads will be defined, comparable to real world scenarios to determine the improvements for proposed safety equipment.

Development/ Research:

Improved safety equipment hardware will be defined and produced to carry out all planned experimental static and dynamic tests. Standard dummies will be appropriately modified for helicopter crashes, for injury assessment and critical occupant size. All hardware configurations will be transferred to numerical models. A crash sensor/sensor network and an electronic control unit (ECU) applicable for dynamic crash tests will be specified.

Analysis/ Innovation:

The safety analysis and simulation tool concept (HOSS - Helicopter Occupant Simulation Software concept) shall be optimised to cover the interaction of all relevant safety equipment, in particular to extend the modelling capability to include the more complex cabin and cockpit systems, extended safety system concepts and more complex crash scenarios. Use of the analysis methods will be made to define an active/passive occupant safety concept for helicopters, by performing parameter studies and assessment regarding effectiveness of injury mitigation.

Testing:

Newly developed safety equipment, interfaces and mock-ups will be manufactured for a generic helicopter cockpit and cabin to perform all experimental static and dynamic tests. Data will be collected and feedback will be supplied for validation of the simulation tools technology.

Assessment:

Relevant data will be collected to evaluate the HeliSafe TA results concerning transferability to fixed wing aircraft. The authorities will be supported on their decision process for future rule making on how the proposed safety concept could be introduced in existing/future helicopters.

Expected results

Initial accident investigations show that in spite of using restraints, fatal or severe injuries caused by preventable head strikes and associated neck injuries mean that existing safety equipment in helicopters is not sufficient for occupant protection during a crash. It is expected that helicopter-related crash fatalities could be reduced by 30 to 50% if effective protective devices for occupants could be installed in helicopters. It is intended to transfer HeliSafe TA technology to fixed wing aircraft.

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