December 14, 2009
In an effort to protect pilots and passengers involved in helicopter accidents, NASA engineer Sotiris Kellas developed a high-tech honeycomb airbag known as a “deployable energy absorber.” The device is made of Kevlar and has a unique flexible hinge design that lets the honeycomb be packaged tight and remain flat until deployed. Kellas initially came up with the idea as a way to cushion the next generation of astronaut-carrying space capsules, but soon realized it had many other possible applications.
NASA tested the system using a 240-foot tall structure (once used to teach astronauts how to land on the moon) at the agency’s Langley Research Center. NASA engineers dropped a MD-500 helicopter, donated by the U.S. Army, from a height of 35 feet to see whether its deployable energy absorber could handle the impact. The test helicopter hit the ground at about 54 mph and at a 33-degree angle. Engineers considered that speed and angle to represent a severe helicopter crash. The helicopter was equipped with instruments that collected 160 channels of data.
On impact the helicopter’s skid landing gear bent outward, but the airbag attached to the undercarriage prevented the rotorcraft’s fuselage from touching the ground. The four crash test dummies inside the helicopter showed minor impact damage. One dummy, provided by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, had a special torso equipped with simulated internal organs. Preliminary test results revealed protective benefits to pilots and passengers, allowing NASA to continue testing the concept.
Despite a dramatic decline in 2014 helicopter deliveries, forecasters at Honeywell Aerospace project a steady stream of deliveries over the next five years.
Bell Helicopter has made the first delivery of the Bell 429WLG (wheeled landing gear) in North America.
Garmin International will offer the GDL 84H and GDL 88H Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) datalink specifically designed for helicopters.
VOLUNTEER AT AN AOPA FLY-IN NEAR YOU!
SHARE YOUR PASSION. VOLUNTEER AT AN AOPA FLY-IN. CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>
VOLUNTEER LOCALLY AT AOPA FLY-IN! CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>
BE A PART OF THE FLY-IN VOLUNTEER CREW! CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>