REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – A global pandemic can’t stop U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center airworthiness engineers.
On behalf of the Army Airworthiness Authority, DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center airworthiness engineers are responsible for assessing all aircraft modifications to ensure that they do not adversely impact flight safety. As part of this role, DEVCOM AvMC engineers provide airworthiness support to the Utility Helicopter Project Office and the medical evacuation Product Director HH-60M Medical Interior Upgrade program, using creative ways during these unprecedented times. This recently included virtually witnessing environmental test setup and execution; activities typically conducted in person.
On Dec. 8, 2020, the program successfully completed vibration and crash hazard shock component qualification testing at a local testing facility. The broadcast was done in real-time via Zoom for Government and Microsoft Teams, so that all appropriate stakeholders were able to witness the test events and interact virtually with members of the test facility.
Using these virtual platforms, AvMC personnel were able to view and support a walk through and review of the test facilities prior to start of test, provide go ahead approval to start testing following real-time virtual witnessing of mechanical installation, test setup, and pre-test data runs, combined with real-time communication via email and text with the test lead to relay questions, status and comments. Test results were reviewed real-time by AvMC personnel in order to give a quick look approval and agreement to tear down and move to the next test configuration. On multiple occasions, AvMC personnel asked questions during the test setup/conduct that proved beneficial in receiving the concurrence to test, identifying potential issues with setup, and obtaining post-test approvals to proceed to the next test configuration.
“This successful demonstration of real-time, virtual methods to inspect test setup and witness test results will likely yield future efficiencies and flexibilities to also benefit other airworthiness qualification projects,” said Keith Darrow, director of the AvMC Systems Readiness Directorate.
The HH-60M is an aircraft built by Sikorsky for the Army. The aircraft is a MEDEVAC version of the UH-60M Black Hawk multi-mission helicopter. Army aviation strives to ensure the medevac mission has the most advanced capability available to successfully conduct missions.
One of those advancements includes an upgrade to the medical interior system to address current gaps through modularity. The upgraded system will provide adequate space that is required for treating patients in multiple configurations. Storage and equipment racks will be relocatable to allow extra accessibility throughout the cabin and enable future capability by allowing commercially available first-responder racks to be attached. The new railed pallet floor system will provide fluid barriers for additional fluid intrusion resistance into the aircraft tub resulting in a reduced maintenance burden.
Remaining component qualification testing is scheduled to be completed in February, with prototype installation scheduled to begin this month. All remaining testing will be supported by AvMC virtually. Future benefits of real-time virtual test support may be realized in reduced overall test time and schedules, as well as a reduction in travel costs.
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.