Safety kit for copters

Floating devices would save helicopters from capsizing

Published: Tuesday 30 September 1997

british researchers have developed floating devices that would help prevent helicopters from capsizing. The floating devices are fitted at the top of the cabin of the aircraft and are less likely to be damaged by the impact generated after it crashes into the sea ( New Scientist , Vol 155, No 2094).

The floating devices in the helicopters flying over the North Sea are fitted at the bottom of the aircraft. But these devices are not sufficient to prevent helicopters from capsizing. Stephen Rowe, managing director of the fluid mechanics division of the British Maritime Technology ( bmt ) in Teddington, Middlesex, says the heaviest items such as the engine and the gearbox are fitted at the top of the helicopters. At the time, when the waves are higher than 2.5 metres, most of these helicopters may capsize. However, the new deivces would be appropriate in such situations, he says.

Researchers at bmt carried out research to test most promising devices on helicopter models. After studying 10 devices, they found that two devices, both of which add buoyancy around the roof of the aircraft, stopped the model turning turtle. One of the devices consists of a pair of inflatable sausage-like floats which has been positioned on both side of the cabin, roughly in line with the roof. These would expand when the craft hits the sea. The other device is a permanent foam wrapped around the engine and gearbox housing.

Both the devices were able to prevent the helicopters from turning turtle. Even after being hit by a wave, the models were floating on their sides. The people sitting in the helicopter would be able to find some time and not be in immediate danger of drowning.

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