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Reducing Terrain Related Helicopter Mishaps In FY10, the NDCEE completed a demonstration of a rotary wing terrain awareness (RWTA) technology to reduce terrain-related aviation mishaps. The RWTA technology was demonstrated at three test sites: Fort Eustis, Fort Rucker, and Andrews Air Force Base. Based on survey data collected from the pilot study participants, the RWTA technology has significant potential to reduce mishaps and was found to be beneficial to a large majority of users. In FY11, the NDCEE will continue to address terrain related mishaps by investigating technologies to reduce pilot disorientation in degraded visual environments.

Problem Statement Cruise controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) is the single leading cause of death in the Army and U.S. Air Force (USAF) helicopter force, resulting in materiel losses that exceed $1.5 billion. Over the past two decades, cruise CFIT mishaps in the U.S. Army and USAF have killed approximately 200 people and destroyed nearly 150 helicopters. Terrainrelated aviation incidents, particularly in military aircraft, are frequently associated with reduced visibility and/or adverse weather. Brownout—in-flight visibility restriction due to dust or sand in the air—can cause CFIT. The pilot cannot see nearby objects that provide the outside visual references necessary to control the aircraft near the ground which leads to spatial disorientation and loss of situational awareness. Brownout causes accidents during takeoff and landing in arid desert terrain when intense blinding dust clouds are stirred up by the helicopter rotor downwash. While it occurs during combat and during training, brownouts have claimed more helicopters in recent military operations than all other threats combined. Brownout is a $100 million/year problem in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Army cites brownout in three out of every four helicopter accidents there.

Technology Description DoD Executive Agent

Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment the NDCEE is operated by:

The RWTA is an automated warning system for rotary-wing aircraft (e.g., helicopters). Fixed-wing aircraft use an Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology, such as the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS), to prevent CFIT. However, systems such as GCAS are not adaptable to rotary-wing aircraft because helicopters lack digital flight controls and are slower than most military fixed wing aircraft. Therefore, the development of alternative warning systems for rotary wing aircraft could help them avoid CFIT incidents. The NDCEE team worked with Army and USAF stakeholders to demonstrate and evaluate the Garmin GNS530AW. The system is 6¼ inch-wide and includes the following features: „„ Compatible with Night Vision Goggles „„ Contains an updateable world-wide terrain database and an updateable worldwide aviation navigation database „„ Has satellite datalink capability for weather data and precipitation radar images „„ Includes a traffic detection and warning interface „„ Includes a real-time lightening data display „„ Contains a very high frequency (VHF) communication capability and VHF navigational capability

Specific technologies have been developed to address brownout. The NDCEE will „„ Investigate the Brownout Landing System Technology (BLAST)/Sandblaster Lite solution to diminish the effects of brownout conditions for the UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) rotary wing aircraft „„ Complete a prototype design in preparation for aircraft integration of a new commodity for rotorcraft, an integrated Ladar and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) turret solution to mitigate the effects of brownout conditions for the CH-53

from the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), C/MV-22 Osprey from the USAF, and the UH-60 Blackhawk CH-47 Chinook from the Army „„ Support the demonstration/validation and transition of the prototype Tactile Situation Awareness System (TSAS) for Army and USMC helicopter platforms to reduce mishaps caused by CFIT and Degraded Visual Environments (DVE) brownout mishaps

Environmental, Safety, Occupational Health, and Energy (ESOHE) and Cost Benefits

CFIT is the leading cause of helicopter accidents and crew fatalities in the Army and Air Force.

„„ ESOHE Benefit. Technologies to reduce CFIT and brownout mishaps will save lives and reduce injuries to helicopter air crews. „„ Cost Benefit. An approximate investment of $400,000 plus $150 million+ to acquire the RWTA technology for the helicopter fleet could yield an initial savings of $38 million and five lives a year. Full payback would be achieved in four years with the additional benefit of saving 20 lives.

Technology Benefits „„ RWTA technologies would significantly enhance the DoD’s capability of meeting the European Very High Frequency and Frequency Modulation immunity requirements for navigational receivers. „„ RWTA increases situational awareness of terrain, weather, and traffic conditions. „„ Technologies to reduce disorientation during brownout would reduce loss of aircraft and crews during landing and take off.

Technology Limitations „„ Existing technology will need to be militarized prior to DoD-wide implementation. „„ Demonstration and validation testing may identify software modifications required to be compatible with military aircraft.

Accomplishments „„ Completed an approximately one-year pilot survey, which included more than 20 pilots, three test aircraft, 718 in-flight hours, and 449 sorties. Participants were administered surveys to obtain their opinion of the functionality and applicability of the technology. The initial survey results were largely positive, with most participants in support of adopting this technology.

Technology Transition Opportunities RWTA and brownout technology would be applicable across the Army, USMC, and USAF helicopter fleets.

Points of Contact „„ Col. Peter Mapes, OSD, Operational Readiness and Safety (OR&S), 703-693-5240, „„ Jerry Aslinger, OSD, OR&S, 703-614-0367, „„ Karen Nelson, NDCEE/CTC, 703-310-5652, printed on high recycled content paper.

Rev. 5-11

Reducing Helicopter Terrain Mishaps  

Reducing Helicopter Terrain Mishaps

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