USAARL is a - U.S. Army Medical Department - Medical Research Materiel Command Subordinate Command
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Flight System Branch Graphic
Flight Systems Branch

The Flight Systems Branch (FSB) effectively utilizes its personnel and research assets to provide the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory’s (USAARL) internal divisions and an ever growing number of external organizations with aeromedical research support. 

The FSB is directly supported by two Department of the Army civilian research helicopter instructor pilots, two uniformed aeromedical evacuation instruction pilots (Army Medical Department [AMEDD] officers), three flight surgeons, one flight medic, an aerospace psychologist, a host of research technicians, and excellent contract maintenance personnel who are provided by Army Fleet Services.  The two USAARL research helicopter pilots are the only research helicopter pilots in the U.S. Army.  They provide expertise in aerospace physiology, aerospace medicine, human protections, spatial disorientation, learning, and human factors engineering (i.e., cockpit design, helmet mounted displays, and hypoxia/oxygen solutions for rotary wing).  All of the FSB pilots have extensive experience flying alongside novice aviators.  Because of their instructor pilot background, USAARL’s research pilots know when and how to take control of an aircraft being operated by an impaired research participant pilot.  Research pilots assist our researchers in developing aeromedical research flight protocols and provide subject matter expertise regarding the aircraft man-machine interface and operational considerations as it pertains to aviation missions.

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The FSB operates a JUH-60A (Alpha model) Black Hawk helicopter and an NUH-60FS aeromedical/environmental Black Hawk flight simulator.

The JUH-60A Black Hawk helicopter is a research and development airframe modified by the manufacturer with an in-flight data collection system called the Airborne Information System (AIS).  The AIS records in-flight aircraft performance parameters such as airspeed, altitude, ground-speed, instrument landing system (ILS) indications, distance measuring equipment (DME), position, and ground track.  The USAARL custom tailors software to meet the specifications of research protocols and also merges AIS data with physiological data collected from the research participant pilot.  The aircraft is equipped for all weather operations with a storm scope Wx1000+ and Bendix-King color weather radar.  The JUH-60A also features a DME, ASN 128D instrument flight rules (IFR) certified global positioning system (GPS), medical evacuation carousel, provisions for both internal and external hoist, pilot locating system (PLS), a 200-gallon Robertson internal auxiliary fuel tank, Lima model transmission, and a suite of communications radios.  The communications radios allow uninterrupted communication to USAARL and the capability to relay physiological telemetry to the laboratory.  In spring 2009, the aircraft will receive the Garmin 530 modification in preparation to conduct a demonstration and evaluation of the system for an upcoming project. 

The NUH-60FS flight simulator is the world’s only environmentally controlled, full-motion, full visual Blackhawk aeromedical research flight simulator.  It replicates hot and cold environments (i.e., climate controlled to produce temperatures between 40 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit [°F]) and visual databases from around the world.  The simulator features infrared lighting and cameras, specially adapted sound and noise replication, and a night vision goggle (NVG) head-up display (HUD).  The simulator also configures to the Alpha or Lima model Black Hawk.  The NUH-60FS has the unique ability to capture pilot performance and physiological data, such as core body temperature, electroencephalogram (EEG), electrocardiogram (EKG), and eye-tracker data.  During studies conducted in the simulator, a USAARL research pilot monitors data collection on-board the simulator, while medical and research staff observe data collection from an external, monitored, flight simulator observer station.

The USAARL’s research assets also include and sometimes utilize the HH-60L (Lima model) Medical Evacuation Black Hawk helicopter, an HH-60M (Mike model) Medical Evacuation Black Hawk helicopter, and a nearby anechoic chamber for noise floor assessments for carry-on patient movement items.

To reserve USAARL’s JUH-60A or NUH-60FS or for additional information, contact us via e-mail: usarmy.rucker.medcom-usaarl.list.sic@mail.mil or phone 334.255.6920.

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During 2008, the JUH-60A Black Hawk helicopter was used during in-flight studies including, a sustained operations study investigating the impact of different medications on pilot performance and alertness; an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) air controller study evaluating the effects of motion on UAV airborne control; and electromagnetic interference (EMI) and human factors assessment of numerous patient movement items (PMI).  The sustained operations and UAV studies were conducted in support of USAARL’s Warfighter Performance and Health Division, whereas, the EMI and human factors testing was conducted in support of USAARL’s Airworthiness Certification and Evaluation (ACE) Program (AR 40-61).  The JUH-60A was also flown in support of several U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) local dignitary and VIP support missions.

The NUH-60FS Black Hawk flight simulator was used in many research projects during 2008.  These include an investigation to determine the noise volume attainable for replicating the actual UH-60 aircraft noise pattern for an upcoming Speech Intelligibility Study and an assessment of the ability of pre-flight school level trained students to hover.  The flight simulator was also used for research tours; tactile situational awareness system (TSAS)-Lite demonstrations; pilot training; flight crew aircraft and instrument proficiency evaluations; and assessments for aviators in the process of obtaining aeromedical waivers for continuing aviation service.