Helicopter Off-Shore Operations – New Flotation Systems

The objectives

The over-arching objective of this research study is to provide answers to technical issues regarding the feasibility of providing a step change in occupant survivability following capsize of a helicopter through the introduction of an air pocket scheme utilising flotation units mounted high up on the helicopter fuselage.

The work shall identify the nature and magnitude of the associated technical challenges to enable a further understanding of the questions still at stake and to subsequently progress to their closure. The goal will be to provide the confidence that the proposed solution is both technically feasible and cost-effective without introducing any undue disbenefits. This is an essential condition for EASA to make confident and informed decisions as to whether regulatory action is justified and proportionate.

The following technical aspects have been identified as being areas which require investigation:

  • Inadvertent deployment in flight of the high-mounted inflatable flotation units - may present a significant flight safety risk due to the potential for interference with the main rotor;
  • Potential degradation of high-mounted stowed inflatable flotation units - due to impingement of hot engine exhaust gases;
  • The possible requirement for external fuselage fairings to accommodate the stowage of additional high-mounted flotation units - potentially leading to adverse aerodynamic effects;
  • The avoidance of damage to high-mounted inflating/inflated flotation unit(s) - due to debris generated by break-up of the main rotor on contact with the water;  
  • The overall integration issues - caused by the required high-mounted flotation unit(s) interfering with other aspects of the helicopter design, e.g. maintenance accessibility and emergency exit availability (afloat, both upright and capsized).

The main tasks and deliverables

The project is structured along the following tasks:

  • Task 1 — Reference Helicopter(s)
  • Task 2 — EFS Deployment System
  • Task 3 — Heat resistance
  • Task 4 — Aerodynamic aspects
  • Task 5 — Overall integration issues