Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP6

HELISAFE TA — Result In Brief

Project ID: 502727
Funded under: FP6-AEROSPACE
Country: Germany

Helicopter safety – for dummies

Although the use of so-called crash-test dummies in the automobile industry is quite familiar to all of us, it is largely ignored in the field of helicopter safety. An EU-funded project enabled design and development of crash test dummies, simulation tools and advanced sensor systems that significantly reduce the risk of injury and fatality in the event of helicopter crashes.
Helicopter safety – for dummies
Most helicopter accidents occur at low altitudes, during take-off and landing or while flying low during bad weather conditions and rescue efforts. Occupants of helicopters flying at low speeds and that go down from low altitudes actually have good chances for survival – as long as safety measures start taking into account the occupants in addition to the fuselage, cockpit and cabin.

The ‘Helicopter occupant safety technology application’ (Helisafe TA) project was designed to investigate occupant survivability scenarios via full-scale crash tests, an innovative new simulation package and crash test dummies designed specifically for helicopter analyses.

The researchers first conducted a full-scale baseline drop test of a helicopter fuselage with sensors enabling reconstruction for further tests using real crash loads. They created a modified Helisafe FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) hybrid III dummy and a second hybrid dummy, enabling inclusion of 95 % of the adult population. They then developed the advanced helicopter occupant simulation software (HOSS) along with an advanced crash sensor system. When used in combination investigators can simulate complex cabin and cockpit systems, more severe crash scenarios and, most importantly, occupant effects.

The results enabled the researchers to elucidate many ways in which decoupling the structural integrity of the helicopter from the human dynamic response may in fact lead to more injuries and fatalities. For example, crushable fuselages often lead to insufficient energy absorption and decreased passenger safety, restraint systems alone do not guarantee survival, and crashworthy seats (capable of surviving a crash) may in fact produce a dynamic response the human body is unable to withstand.

The Helisafe TA outcomes resulted in a 33 % decrease in the probability of injury in the most typical helicopter crash. The researchers estimated that 30–50 % of fatalities can be avoided with effective safety equipment.

The project thus contributed helicopter and occupant safety validation tools, heretofore non-existent in Europe, that promise to ensure the safety of both passengers and pilots during routine take-off and landing as well as during dangerous rescue conditions. Advances in this area contribute to saving lives while providing a significant competitive edge and potential new jobs for the European aeronautical industry.

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