A Field Study: Measurement And Evaluation Of Whole Body Vibration For MH-60S Pilots - Introduction; Proceedings Of The First American Conference On Human Vibration
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A Field Study: Measurement And Evaluation Of Whole Body Vibration For MH-60S Pilots - Introduction; Proceedings Of The First American Conference On Human Vibration

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      Pilots of the MH-60S helicopter are exposed to continuous whole body vibration (WBV). Pilot fatigue is a growing operational concern due to the increased frequency of extended durations of missions (6-8+hours) in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Endurance aspects of the currently used rotary wing seating systems were not optimized for the longer missions and wide range of pilot anthropometric measurements, which is now typical of naval aviation. The current seating systems were designed primarily to meet crashworthiness requirements, not for the wide range of pilot anthropometry or to mitigate WBV. Albeit, an issue, pilot fatigue and reduced mission effectiveness are also critical concerns. Current Hazard Reports indicated that pain in pilots’ legs and backs begin two to four hours into the flight and increase with time. Mission readiness also decreases with an increase in flight duration due to the constant distraction of pilots shifting in their seats while trying to get comfortable. Froom, et al [2] reported a dose-response relationship between the length of military helicopter flights and back discomfort. He also concluded that this pain is typically dull, over the lower back, and its prevalence and intensity are dependent on the total flight hours of exposure. Methods This study evaluated WBV produced in the pilot seating systems onboard the MH-60S. The purpose of the study was to test and compare the effectiveness of two different seat cushions, the current seat cushion versus an anti-vibration seat cushion. Both seat cushions were measured for acceleration levels averaged over five-minute intervals using a triaxial seat pad accelerometer. The recordings were completed for a 3-hour straight and level flight. A frequency analysis from 0-80 hertz (Hz) was conducted on all acceleration measurements to determine the dominant axis and frequency of the pilots’ vibration exposure. The results were then compared to the applicable Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) [1] and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 2631.1 [3] to determine the MH-60S pilots’ permissible exposure time for both seat cushions. Results The results of the study showed that for both seat cushions the vibration levels of the z-axis at 16 Hz had the shortest allowable exposure duration, according to the ACGIH TLVs. In the z-axis at 16 Hz, the MH-60S’s current seat cushion’s acceleration levels indicated an exposure time limit of approximately 6 hours, while the anti-vibration seat cushion’s acceleration levels pierced the 8-hour exposure time limit curve. This is shown in the graph below.
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