GKN Aerospace has designed two new systems for helicopters, aimed at improving safety and reducing weight and maintenance costs.

The first is a new direct inflation helicopter emergency flotation system (EFS) that uses cool gas generator technology usually employed in European Space Agency programmes.

This new EFS replaces large gas pressure vessels with small, lightweight CGG units. Each unit stores gas as an uncompressed solid material and can produce large quantities of usable gas at ambient temperatures through a controlled reaction.

This modular, float-mounted direct inflation system replaces the traditional system of heavy pressure vessels and piping and is said to offer a 25% weight saving and a 50% saving in volume.

GKN director John Pritchard says: "On average, we estimate it will provide an equivalent performance with only half the volume and three-quarters the weight of a nitrogen-based system - and will require virtually no maintenance."

GKN's single-skin, flexible fuel bladder material is able to offer crash resistance and puncture tolerance. Portsmouth-based GKN estimates that use of this material could lead to a 60% reduction in the use of volatile organic compounds and a 30% reduction in manufacturing times.

"The weight of each fuel bladder could be reduced by approximately 5% through the removal of the adhesive coatings used in traditional bladder construction," says GKN.

Fuel bladders for the aerospace industry have traditionally been manufactured using multiple layers of composite materials with adhesives joining the bladder to the protective textile layers.

GKN says it has received a promising response from helicopter airframers for both systems, which will ititially be available on new-build aircraft only.

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Source: FlightGlobal.com