Flight Helmets?

Homebuilt Aircraft & Kit Plane Forum

Help Support Homebuilt Aircraft & Kit Plane Forum:

Pops

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Log Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2013
Messages
9,390
Location
USA.
My boxing training from my father started at 8 years old. Didn't used boxing gloves until about 12 years old. Nothing like taking a hit to learn how to take a hit.
Have had 10 concussions in my life.
 

cluttonfred

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2010
Messages
8,450
Location
World traveler
Actually on the topic of flight helmets, does anyone have any specific recommendations of brands and models that work with a headset, are reasonably light, and don’t cost an arm and a leg? This is for low-performance puddle-jumper flying, not racing at Reno.
 

TigerMoth#16

New Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2021
Messages
1
Actually on the topic of flight helmets, does anyone have any specific recommendations of brands and models that work with a headset, are reasonably light, and don’t cost an arm and a leg? This is for low-performance puddle-jumper flying, not racing at Reno.
way back in the thread there are two links:

 

Appowner

Active Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2021
Messages
39
Looking at those helmets in the links they appear to be little more than glorified bicycle helmets. I'd be curious what specs they're required to meet for aviation use and how it compares to what motorcycle helmets go through.
 

patrickrio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
328
Required protection environment matters a lot with a lot of very specific requirements that change helmet form dramatically. A motorcycle helmet needs to slide on pavement without catching while still having higher speed direct impact protection... F1 race helmet needs good fire protection... bicycle race helmet needs extreme light weight and extreme ventilation.... ski race helmet needs to protect against twist catches and forward gate hits while remaining aerodynamic.

In airplanes, if you include all aircraft, a very large range of protection environments exist so you would expect the best solution in these various environments to have a large variability in best helmet design. Some environments are likely to be best served with something similar to a bicycle helmet, and others might look more like a fighter jet helmet. Still other environments will have other features.

A one size fits all airplane spec requirement would probably weaken possible helmet ability to meet a specific environment at best, and actually be counterproductive at protecting in that environment at worst.

The best regulatory solution would be to specify several general environments, and then set required helmet specs for each. Really complicated for such a small market and unlikely to result in reasonably priced helmets.

This means the only real solution is to put this environment evaluation and resulting helmet choice back on the pilot, like we already do for a lot of things.

The only regulation you really could do effectively would be something like: "Pilot must evaluate flight, airplane and cockpit environment and select appropriate helmet for that environment." Helmet would be required, but responsibility and liability for a poor choice falls on the pilot.

Even then, in some cockpit environments, a helmet almost never has any value at all. I expect that someone flying a 747 is not likely to encounter many life threatening environments where having a helmet increases survivability. Some environments, like donning an auto pressure mask in an emergency, are likely to be hindered even.

Also, not likely to make pilots very happy to have one more "gotcha" that can be assigned to them after the fact by the NTSB.
 
Last edited:

Vigilant1

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
6,495
Location
US
The only regulation you really could do effectively would be something like: "Pilot must evaluate flight, airplane and cockpit environment and select appropriate helmet for that environment." Helmet would be required, but responsibility and liability for a poor choice falls on the pilot.
If we trust the pilot to choose an appropriate helmet, then why mandate one at all? Maybe we could just skip the regulation entirely and let the pilot and adult passengers choose not only the type of helmet but whether to wear one in the first place?
 

cluttonfred

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2010
Messages
8,450
Location
World traveler
Call me crazy but my thinking would be that most *survivable* airplane accidence happen at landing/takoff speeds while strapped in to some sort of structure and the primary head trauma risk is banging your head on parts of the airplane around you. With that in mind, a cycling or mountaineering helmet would probably be fine for 90% of cases and far less onerous to wear than something heavy like a motorcycle helmet. Add an in-ear headset and you've got a pretty comfortable package.
 

Vigilant1

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
6,495
Location
US
With that in mind, a cycling or mountaineering helmet would probably be fine for 90% of cases and far less onerous to wear than something heavy like a motorcycle helmet. Add an in-ear headset and you've got a pretty comfortable package.
And reducing helmet weight can be a big advantage in a fast stop where your torso is effectively restrained but your noggin is flailing around at the top of your cervical column. Or in the case of a flat drop-in on the plane's belly.
Now, if we have a personal parachute on and could bash our head on a part of the plane while getting clear of it, maybe more helmet is required.
 

patrickrio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
328
If we trust the pilot to choose an appropriate helmet, then why mandate one at all? Maybe we could just skip the regulation entirely and let the pilot and adult passengers choose not only the type of helmet but whether to wear one in the first place?
Kind of the point of my post, in a backward way. My post essentially shows that there isn't an easy way to do it, and the only realistic way will essentially become a way for blame to be put on the pilot after the fact and still not necessarily be effective at it's desired task.
 

patrickrio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
328
Call me crazy but my thinking would be that most *survivable* airplane accidence happen at landing/takoff speeds while strapped in to some sort of structure and the primary head trauma risk is banging your head on parts of the airplane around you. With that in mind, a cycling or mountaineering helmet would probably be fine for 90% of cases and far less onerous to wear than something heavy like a motorcycle helmet. Add an in-ear headset and you've got a pretty comfortable package.
different environments I can think of off the top of my head:

open top cockpit (stearman like)
completely open cockpit (feet in air Moyes dragonfly style maybe?)
glider/motorglider with 21G cockpit cage and crush zones
High wing with spar in cockpit in front of pilot (flight design ct) (probably best with hard helmet combined with hans device???)
Steel structure enclosed
composite structure enclosed
High altitude unpressurized
Front gas tank above legs or wing tank above head....

Some of these different environments are likely to have some significant variations in a helmet design to have best results. Helmet might be part of a system of other safety features/equipment/clothing too.

My thinking is that this is not fully strait forward to choose a helmet and certainly not one size fits all.

MAYBE a majority of airplanes with enclosed cockpits could be best served by bicycle style helmets though...
 
Last edited:

dwalker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2021
Messages
268
If we trust the pilot to choose an appropriate helmet, then why mandate one at all? Maybe we could just skip the regulation entirely and let the pilot and adult passengers choose not only the type of helmet but whether to wear one in the first place?
I am in agreement, mandating anything is generically sub-optimal.

Since I am getting "close" to having the Dragonfly ready to start its test program- in my case close means within18 months or so- I have been studying flight test procedures, programs, and test pilots to get some idea about how to structure my own program so it has the best chance of success. Part of that has been equipment I had not actually considered, but have a fair amount of familiarity with.

The first is the harness. Not seat belts but an actual 5 or 6 point harness like this one from TeamTech which I have used in many racecars. I want it to have a sternum strap, camloc, and sub belts.

Next is the Helmet. Motorcycle helmets are ok for the most part, but the linings are not generally Nomex, and they do not generally have provisions for fresh air/cool air/oxygen systems. The usefulness of an oxygen system is likely self evident, but a cool air/fresh air system probably does not seem important. Where I am it gets hot as blazes here, and hotter in a helmet. For every degree your body temperature rises cognitive ability- decision making and reaction time- are reduced. Add in mild dehydration from perspiration and the issue grows. There is a reason we use cool-suits, hydration tubes, and helmet air systems in race cars, because a momentary lapse may or may not have unfavorable consequences, but we want to minimize that component as much as we can.
On the other side of that, some full face helmets can restrict vision to some degree, although I have not myself found that to be the case. The case for a "3/4" open face helmet with an oxygen mask, a fresh air system duct, goggles or lens, can for sure be made. Not sure which way I am going to go, but will be using a motorsports rated helmet. To go along with the helmet I do intend to have emergency oxygen on board in the event of smoke in the cockpit.. or worse.

HANS- I feel like this is a really vital piece of equipment. The forces on the head and neck during a crash are very high, and a HANS device or similar can help prevent bad things. I am a huge fan of the original HANS, but the Simpson Hybrid has potential as well.

Last thing is the fireproof suit. Here a single layer fire suit should be fine. I *think* I still have one around here somewhere, but they are cheap enough I can order as needed.


I feel like that, with a fresh/chilled air system along with a hydration system i would have no issue flying with a helmet pretty much all the time. All of my current helmets (racecar) have both earbuds and in-helmet speakers and mikes, so would not be super hard to go from my IMSA plug to a GA plug system.
 

cluttonfred

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2010
Messages
8,450
Location
World traveler
All good points, Patrick, and there is quite a bit of variety in bicycle helmets. The fully-exposed ultralight types could use bicycle helmets with visors and face protector or, of course, lightweight motorcycle ones.
 

dwalker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2021
Messages
268
different environments I can think of off the top of my head:

open top cockpit (stearman like)
completely open cockpit (feet in air Moyes dragonfly style maybe?)
glider/motorglider with 21G cockpit cage and crush zones
High wing with spar in cockpit in front of pilot (flight design ct) (probably best with hard helmet combined with hans device???)
Steel structure enclosed
composite structure enclosed
High altitude unpressurized
Front gas tank above legs or wing tank above head....

Some of these different environments are likely to have some significant variations in a helmet design to have best results. Helmet might be part of a system of other safety features/equipment/clothing too.

My thinking is that this is not fully strait forward to choose a helmet and certainly not one size fits all.

MAYBE a majority of airplanes with enclosed cockpits could be best served by bicycle style helmets though...
MMM.. I disagree. Bike helmets are fine for a low speed roll onto pavement, but a high speed impact with metal/wood/etc.- especially such bits as a dash, door frame, etc is not going to be good.
Now a bump helmet like you might find from Team Wendy/Hard Head Veterans/ Ops Core etc. would be better, but at that point just get a 2lb or so motorsports helmet and be done.
 

patrickrio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
328
MMM.. I disagree. Bike helmets are fine for a low speed roll onto pavement, but a high speed impact with metal/wood/etc.- especially such bits as a dash, door frame, etc is not going to be good.
Now a bump helmet like you might find from Team Wendy/Hard Head Veterans/ Ops Core etc. would be better, but at that point just get a 2lb or so motorsports helmet and be done.
Your thinking here makes sense.
 

patrickrio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
328
I am in agreement, mandating anything is generically sub-optimal.

Since I am getting "close" to having the Dragonfly ready to start its test program- in my case close means within18 months or so- I have been studying flight test procedures, programs, and test pilots to get some idea about how to structure my own program so it has the best chance of success. Part of that has been equipment I had not actually considered, but have a fair amount of familiarity with.

The first is the harness. Not seat belts but an actual 5 or 6 point harness like this one from TeamTech which I have used in many racecars. I want it to have a sternum strap, camloc, and sub belts.

Next is the Helmet. Motorcycle helmets are ok for the most part, but the linings are not generally Nomex, and they do not generally have provisions for fresh air/cool air/oxygen systems. The usefulness of an oxygen system is likely self evident, but a cool air/fresh air system probably does not seem important. Where I am it gets hot as blazes here, and hotter in a helmet. For every degree your body temperature rises cognitive ability- decision making and reaction time- are reduced. Add in mild dehydration from perspiration and the issue grows. There is a reason we use cool-suits, hydration tubes, and helmet air systems in race cars, because a momentary lapse may or may not have unfavorable consequences, but we want to minimize that component as much as we can.
On the other side of that, some full face helmets can restrict vision to some degree, although I have not myself found that to be the case. The case for a "3/4" open face helmet with an oxygen mask, a fresh air system duct, goggles or lens, can for sure be made. Not sure which way I am going to go, but will be using a motorsports rated helmet. To go along with the helmet I do intend to have emergency oxygen on board in the event of smoke in the cockpit.. or worse.

HANS- I feel like this is a really vital piece of equipment. The forces on the head and neck during a crash are very high, and a HANS device or similar can help prevent bad things. I am a huge fan of the original HANS, but the Simpson Hybrid has potential as well.

Last thing is the fireproof suit. Here a single layer fire suit should be fine. I *think* I still have one around here somewhere, but they are cheap enough I can order as needed.


I feel like that, with a fresh/chilled air system along with a hydration system i would have no issue flying with a helmet pretty much all the time. All of my current helmets (racecar) have both earbuds and in-helmet speakers and mikes, so would not be super hard to go from my IMSA plug to a GA plug system.
You are showing the comprehensive race car protection starting point I thought of too here. Then you take away protections that are not necessary in a particular situation and modify for needs like cooling and heating, hearing protection, high altitude oxygen, etc.

I also think that hans is underutilized as a protection device. It's just such an amazing improvement for a significant injury path.
 

dwalker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2021
Messages
268
You are showing the comprehensive race car protection starting point I thought of too here. Then you take away protections that are not necessary in a particular situation and modify for needs like cooling and heating, hearing protection, high altitude oxygen, etc.

I also think that hans is underutilized as a protection device. It's just such an amazing improvement for a significant injury path.
Airplane drivers have almost parallel needs ad a top level race car in an experimental aircraft, so most if not all needs are addressed there, and since all racers must have required safety equipment the industry has progressed far beyond what GA has done. Helmets are rare. I only see flight suits in the CAP and .mil arenas. It is pretty rare I see an Experimental with emergency oxygen, fire suppression, any form of pilot cooling etc..
I myself fly in shorts, short sleeve shirt, and cap most of the time. I have put a lot of thought into this lately, because the last few trips up in the Cherokee I do not really notice the heat until back on the ground, when I notice I am covered in sweat.

Still, it is not unusual to read or even see video of a smoke filled cockpit, or a plane on fire, or worse. Like I mentioned, this has been on my mind a lot lately, and my decades of playing with racecars, which also catch fire, hit immovable objects, or..worse... gives me a frame of mind warped in a particular way. Am I saying I will make every flight in my little Dragonfly or in the Long-EZ wearing the full rig? I mean... probably not, but at least during the test flight/40 hours I feel strongly about that as the SOP.
 

Saville

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
Messages
188
Location
Boston Ma
"Am I saying I will make every flight in my little Dragonfly or in the Long-EZ wearing the full rig? I mean... probably not, but at least during the test flight/40 hours I feel strongly about that as the SOP."

This is why, as I wrote above, I wore the full rig during my flight testing of the fuel system updates and the new prop.
 
Last edited:

dwalker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2021
Messages
268
In fact, in terms of this discussion, we're not talking about driving a car at all, and yet any and all of the reasoning given here for airplane use applies equally to a road car. And yet how many of you drive to work - using a car - with a helmet on?



I don't think anyone is. Nor is anyone explicitly arguing that nobody should wear helmets. What you're missing is that this is truly an individual choice, an individual balancing of risk versus benefit. If you choose to wear a helmet when flying, hey, more power to you. If I choose not to, that's my choice. Don't take the choices made by other people so personally. They're not saying you're wrong. They just haven't made the same choice you have.
Road cars have airbags, which are the best the average soccer mom will put up with on a day to day basis.
 

starrtit

Active Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2020
Messages
31
I have been using my old Cooper Hockey helmet with Telex phones carved into it for years.
 
Top