The NBAA convention in New Orleans was a smaller, quieter affair this year, having been rescheduled and downsized as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite that, there were some interesting new products.
Beaufort Defence and Aerospace Division of Survitec Group (fka Beaufort Air-Sea Equipment Ltd.), represented by Revere Aerospace Products in the U.S., showed off their new infant preserver, the "Baby's Survival Cot Mk 4." It was developed as a result of a pending change in Britain's CAA regulations, the change itself the result of a study that concluded that infants are far larger these days than when the former regulations were promulgated. As long as they were at it, they also built it to meet TSO C13f, the current FAA specification.
The preserver is, effectively, a one-person life raft, albeit for a very small person. It is rated for infants up to 18 months of age with maximum weight of 35 lbs (16 kg), maximum length of 33 inches (83.8 cm). The raft is comprised of an inflatable oval single-cell buoyancy tube with two attached auto-inflating canopy support tubes. The hooped canopy supports contribute to the preserver's claimed self-righting capability, a nice feature. The primary material is yellow polyurethane coated nylon life vest material with ultrasonically welded seams, as with all modern aviation life vests. Inflation is via a standard inflation mechanism with single CO2 cartridge.
The floor must be orally inflated from inside the preserver, ideally before placing the infant inside it. I'd be inclined to think that it would be better to allow it to be inflated from the exterior, if it couldn't be inflated automatically, my first preference.
The instructional pictograms on the canopy do not cover oral inflation of the floor, which we would consider a critical point. We were told by the company's representative that they are "discussing the introduction of an instruction card. There is limited room on the Baby's Cot for the silkscreened details, while it is expected that cabin crews would receive regular training in the deployment of the Baby's Cot, including floor inflation." All well and good for the airline customer (numbering 40+ in Europe and Asia as of this writing), but for GA use where training is less rigorous and a great chance exists of there being no flight attendents, we'd consider better instructions critical.
There is a small ballast bag centered on the bottom of the underside of the floor.
The canopy has four clear "windows" to provide the guardian a good view of the infant inside, and perhaps allow the infant to look out. A zipper bisects the canopy from side to side in the middle. Stiff spray flaps should help reduce leakage through the zipper. A pair of protected vents at the head end provide ventilation.
Access to the interior to place the infant appears somewhat tight through the zipper, likely to be worse with a fighting infant who doesn't really want to be there. The infant is held in place with a neoprene foam "jacket" that has a single plastic clip and an adjustable strap to secure it. The oral inflation tube for the floor is necessarily in the same area as the infant, which cannot help but make it less comfortable than otherwise.
The original design had the buoyancy tube manual oral inflation tube on the outside, but the CAA forced them to move it inside, reportedly because of concerns it would catch on something during egress. This means that the preserver must be opened up to use it. I think the CAA was misguided, there are certainly other solutions to prevent the oral inflation tube from presenting such a hazard than putting the infant at risk to exposure.
The carry harness itself is a more likely to snag on something, if you're looking for potential problems. In any case, the harness webbing is attached to the floor of the preserver via lines. They are arranged with a pair at the head and a single on towards the foot. There is a six-foot (2 m) long tether incorporated, with a tear apart thread to keep it neat until needed and a SOLAS grade whistle attached. There is only a hand loop at the end of the tether, no clip of any sort to attach to the guardian's life vest, a failing in my opinion. A vertically mounted water activated life vest locator light is attached to the canopy at the head end. The only retro-reflective material is a small tab on the zipper pull.
All in all, the new Infant Preserver looks to be a
potentially very good solution to a vexing design problem. Packaged size is 8 x
6.7 x 3.5 inches (20.5 x 17 x 9 cm) weighing 3.2 lbs (1.45 kg). It is vacuum packed with a service life of 20 years with only a single inspection required at the ten-year point. At $499, it isn't exactly cheap, but then, it's your kid...
While on the subject of infants and small kids, DME Corporation was exhibiting the production version of their CRS-2000 "PlaneSeat" child restraint system (child seat), the first production seat design based on years of research conducted on the subject by both the FAA and Canada's CAA.
Designed expressly for aviation use, it exceeds by a significant margin FMVSS 213 Design Specification (49 CFR 571.213), meets the latest 16g Seat Dynamic Test requirements, and complies with Parts 121.311and 25.853. The PlaneSeat is far better for aviation use than the allowed automotive child restraint seats usually pressed into service by prudent and responsible parents or guardians (Those who hold small children in their laps, rather than buying a ticket and using an approved child seat, are beneath contempt and should be subject to child abuse prosecution in my opinion. Don't get me started on the FAA and airlines who have stonewalled regulations requiring a child seat for every child on board). The seat is available in a price range of $800 to $1,200 depending upon quantity and upholstery.
It will work as both a forward or rearward facing seat, depending upon the child's size; infants up to 20 lbs. (9 kg) and toddlers 20 to 40 lbs. (9 to 18 kg) or 40 inches (102 cm) in height. It is secured using the standard seat belt and collapses for storage into a 6 x 23 x 13 inches (15.2 x 38.4 x 33 cm) package weighing 12 lbs (5.4 kg).
As a member of the SAE S-9 Cabin Safety Provisions Committee
I have watched this seat evolve over the years as research and development
progressed. If it were my kid, I'd rush
out and purchase one yesterday. Waiting for the airlines or FAA to act is just
sentencing your child to death in the event of an accident.
As long as we're talking about advanced retention devices, AMSAFE Aviation presented their AMSAFE Aviation Inflatable Restraint ("AAIR") air bag system configured for installation in a light general aviation aircraft. The mock-up showed a four passenger aircraft seating arrangement. One of two such systems competing for a place in airliner and biz-jet cabins, AMSAFE is the only one so far to move the technology towards the light GA fleet.
As with automotive airbags, this does not replace your seat belt, in fact it is built right into the belt itself. We were told that of the unit is about $1000 per GA seat, plus installation. AMSAFE expects to absorb the engineering, testing and the cost of the STC for individual seats and aircraft with that cost amortized into the price. Weight penalty is 2.8 lbs. (1 kg) per seat.
Air bags are already in use in a number of military aircraft
applications (attack helicopters). The demonstration videos, using airline
seats and no shoulder harness, are impressive, as was the demonstration of one of the air bags at the
show. The unit inflated off to one side instead of directly in front of the occupant, but we were assured it would still be effective in an actual deployment.
Winslow LifeRaft Company was touting their completely revised Web site, www.winslowliferaft.com, as the first ever full-featured e-commerce site by a life raft manufacturer. Given all the options Winslow offers, developing a site that allows the customer to configure the raft to their personal needs and budget was reportedly quite a challenge.
Our brief testing shows it to have been a challenge successfully met for the most part. The site steps you through the configuration process, providing the various options in turn with links to information on most optional equipment and features. You can even specify customer supplied equipment you want to include in the survival equipment pack. Winslow has also included service information and even all their current service bulletins, a nice touch. All in all, it's an impressive effort.
Winslow was also showing off new range of customized hard
packs designed for specific corporate and military aircraft installations.
These allow their rafts to be placed into smaller volume and irregular shaped
spaces. More impressive to me was my first view of the installation of
Techtest Limited's compact 406 MHz
ELT / 121.5 transceiver on their rafts.
Unfortunately, They didn't have the very latest units to display, with the new flexible
antenna. According to the ELT manufacturer,
even with the conventional antenna in the stowed position, the 5-watt ELT is
perfectly capable of being picked up by the satellites. You would definitely
want to extend the antenna for 121.5 use. (Techtest has also introduced an even
more capable ELT with integrated GPS for delivery early next
year). Winslow's biggest complaint was
they can't get enough of these $2,975 ELTs to supply demand.
Eastern Aero Marine had their latest TSO'd "Alpha Series" life rafts on display, showing both a four person and 10 person version, but weren't very forthcoming with information to this reporter and declined to quote prices. They were pushing their unique feature of a pressure gauge behind a clear window in the raft pack, so you can easily check to see that the cylinder is fully charged. This as a feature previously found only on airline rafts and slide/rafts. We like the concept, though we have some concerns about potential damage and resultant loss of pressure as a result of abuse and mishandling. GA users tend not to be as disciplined as are most airline maintenance technicians. They didn't have an actual unit to inspect, so we'll reserve judgment (as we have for the rafts themselves) until, and if, we ever get a chance to examine how they have done it (the photo is from their display card).
EAM also announced a new, tougher and more abuse resistant
“heavy duty” pack for their Helicopter Life Preserver. This is a good vest for
GA use that we previously marked down due to the packaging that wasn't up to
the abuse of constant wear, in our opinion.
Unfortunately, they didn't have a sample of this vest to examine either,
so we have to again withhold judgment. No price was provided.
Concorde Aerosales was showing off Multifabs Survival's "Quick Donning Anti-Exposure Coverall", designed for one-time use rather than for constant wear. Originally conceived to replace the outmoded “poopy suits” carried on board U.S. military transport aircraft for crew and passenger emergency use (hence the black color of the prototype pictured here), they also see considerable potential General Aviation market. Suits for the GA market would be a bright color
The suit uses a lightweight nylon fabric with a Gore-Tex membrane. It incorporates Multifab's purge valves, so the suit doesn't have to manually purged, and a special waterproof zipper that is lighter weight and less susceptible to damage when folded. One size fits most. Velcro'd cinch straps are provided at the waist and for the feet. Neoprene foam gloves and a balaclava are included, stored in mesh pockets on the suit.
Price is expected to be under $800 each, a big savings over
a conventional exposure suit designed for continuous wear. Each suit will be
packed in a compact pouch with donning instructions. They report that in tests with untrained individuals and with no
instructions, the suits were donned in under two minutes. An exposure suit such as this would provide
a valuable extra margin of safety for those flying cabin class aircraft over
Finally, we found Ken Burton of STARK Survival Training in
the Aircare International Ltd.
booth, having just recently sold the business. Ken will now be focusing solely
on instructing as others take over marketing and logistics. The added support
means an expanded schedule of open water training dates and locations. Ken continues to be the only one in the lower 48 that regularly does his water survival training in open water.
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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
First Published: December 22, 2001
Revision: 02 February 12, 2002
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