The growing demand for crash-worthy seats

They are not an optimal solution, but crash-worthy seats are standard in some designs, and are being added to existing platforms or new designs.

‘Crashworthiness’ can be defined as the ability of an aircraft and its internal systems to protect occupants from injury in the event of a crash. In general, injury in aircraft crashes can be considered to arise from three distinct sources:

(1) Excessive acceleration force

(2) Direct trauma from contact with injurious surfaces

(3) Exposure to environmental factors such as fire, smoke, water and chemicals resulting in burns, drowning or asphyxiation

Consequently, effective crash-worthy designs must consider all possible sources of injury and eliminate or mitigate as many as practical for a given design impact limit.

The US Army UH-60 BlackHawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters were the first helicopters built to modern crashworthiness specifications, but in recent years demand has grown steadily.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is in the business of designing and manufacturing crash-worthy seats for fixed-wing and rotorcraft.

The company has recently been selected as the sole provider of crash-worthy passenger seats to Bell Helicopter for its Bell 525 Relentless programme.

The long-term contract includes the development and certification of the seats in accordance with FAA regulations, as well as serial production.

The crash-worthy and lightweight seats – developed and manufactured by IAI – are made from advanced composite materials.

A company source said on 12 June that the seats were tested under extreme environment conditions. He added they are designed to handle severe crash-landing conditions and meet FAA regulations (FAR part 29).

He said the crash-worthy seats are a part of IAI’s wide range of life-saving seats installed in leading aircraft, helicopters and ground combat vehicles.

These seats are considered a “luxury” by some operators, but the growing demand shows that many more deem them essential.

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