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USAARL works to make medevac missions safer

FORT RUCKER, Ala. --Medical evacuation operations are very complex and dangerous for evacuation helicopters, crewmembers, and patients. Medevac missions consist of retrieving the wounded from a dangerous environment and transporting them to medical triage or a medical treatment facility. In the event that a helicopter cannot land, medevac crewmembers are trained to send down a medic, who evaluates and packages the patient, and to use a rescue hoist device to lift the medic and patient into the aircraft.

One complication of medevac hoist operations is the uncontrolled spinning of the stretcher at the end of the hoist cable. This spinning can cause harm to the medic and patient.

Medical equipment, like hoist cables and stretchers, used aboard an aircraft must be tested and evaluated for aircraft compatibility to improve products or techniques that may reduce risk and increase efficiency of medevac missions.

Scientists and engineers of the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, Fort Rucker, Ala. Enroute Care and Airworthiness Division and Flight Systems Branch recently tested an anti-rotational device that when used on a hoist cable is intended to reduce the spinning of a load when lifted from the ground to the helicopter. The purpose of the test was to observe how the device interacted with the rescue basket and hoist system during helicopter transport over open terrain, an urban environment, and a ravine. USAARL also tested the tagline hoist that is currently used in many hoist missions and compared the performance of the tagline hoist to the performance of the anti-rotational device.

USAARL conducted the mock rescue hoist missions using an HH-60M Medevac helicopter, an Army medic trained in hoist operations, a rescue basket, and an anthropomorphic test device or crash test dummy that was wearing a standard rucksack. Each hoist configuration was tested at 40 feet over open terrain, at 80 feet over an urban terrain, and at 100 feet over a ravine. During each test scenario, ECAD assessed the safety, usability, and effectiveness of the anti-rotational device in comparison to the tagline hoist.

“USAARL develops, tests, and evaluates performance solutions within the military environment,” said David Jones, a USAARL test manager assigned to ECAD. “Testing equipment is one of the ways we contribute to preserving the health, safety, and performance of the Warfighter.”

After data collection is completed, analyses will be conducted to verify whether the anti-rotational device allows for a safer and more efficient hoist mission than standard hoist techniques. Results may be used to determine if the tagline currently used for hoist operations should be replaced with the anti-rotational device.

USAARL provides knowledge and expertise to plan and conduct studies to improve patient outcomes by addressing patient movement equipment and patient care capability gaps related to ground or rotary-wing transport. Specifically, the studies include research, development, tests, and evaluations to support the selection of medical devices used in air and ground ambulances, as well as to improve knowledge and treatment of injury and disease under the unique physical, mechanical, and physiological stresses of the patient movement environment.

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The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, Fort Rucker, Ala., donated excess computer equipment to Eastgate Christian Academy, Ozark, Ala., Nov. 19. The donated equipment included three desktop computers, 11 laptop computers, and three printers. As a federal laboratory, USAARL is authorized by the Education Partnership Act, Title 10 United States Code 2194, to transfer excess defense laboratory equipment to educational nonprofit organizations. Transfer of excess computer equipment under an Education Partnership Agreement from the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory to ECA is intended to facilitate and nurture the study of science, art, and mathematics by students of ECA. Pictured left to right: James Strickland, ECA co-administrator, Kathy Strickland, ECA principal, Andrew Alvarado, USAARL information technology specialist, and Jasper Stallworth, ECA high school teacher. (Army photo by Catherine Davis)

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USAARL optometrist soars to aerobatic competition victory

Dr. William McLean, research optometrist at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Fort Rucker, Ala., enjoys figure flying in his 160 horsepower aerobatic airplane.

McLean may be a research optometrist by trade, but he is also a skilled aerobatics pilot who participates in aerobatic competitions throughout the southeast. He recently competed in the International Aerobatic Club’s Blue Ridge Hammerfest, Morganton, N.C., and won first place in the sportsman category.

IAC is the world’s largest aerobatic club that promotes and enhances the safety and enjoyment of sport aerobatics.

McLean began flying in 1957 and entered the military service in 1964 as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.

“I’ve always wanted to own an aerobatic airplane and compete in an IAC contest,” said McLean. “So in 2004, I bought a Van RV-4, and have since put over 1,000 hours on it, more than 500 of which are aerobatic hours.”

The IAC’s aerobatic competitors are graded by a team of judges who, based on the aerobatic figures the pilot flies, look for precision of the lines and angles, symmetry of figures, and, in the sportsman category, other factors such as remaining within the aerobatic ‘box,’ which is 1,000 square meters and between 1,500 and 3,500 feet altitude.

During Blue Ridge Hammerfest, competitors with powered aircraft participated in four categories known as primary, sportsman, intermediate, and advanced. Within the categories, two competitors participated in the primary category, nine competitors participated in the sportsman category, three participated in the intermediate category, and four competitors participated in the advanced category. Each category of competitors flew a different set of sequences with varying degrees of difficulty.

This was McLean’s 10th competition and his second, first place win. In 2010, he won the best first-time sportsman at Keystone, Fla., second place in 2011 at Keystone, Fla., first place at Sebring Fla. in 2013, third place at Keystone, Fla., and received four grass roots awards for achieving the highest score for an aircraft with 180 horsepower or less.

So when you look to the skies, and the weather is clear, don’t be surprised if you see McLean soaring through the air in looping, rolling, and vertical figures.

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FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 23, 2014)—Col. Mark Adams, front, british exchange flight surgeon, Survival Analysis Division, U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, briefs Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Farnsworth, director of Army Safety and commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center during a tour of USAARL.

During his visit, Farnsworth flew in USAARL’s UH-60 flight simulator and experienced first-hand the capabilities of the Tactile Situation Awareness System, a one-of-a-kind system developed to enhance a pilot’s situation awareness to prevent spatial disorientation while flying. Farnsworth also toured the laboratory’s sensory research and injury prevention research divisions.

USAARL collaborates with the USACR/SC by briefing and conducting tours for the Aviation Safety Officer Course and Ground Safety Officer Course. USAARL also supports Class A, B, and C mishap investigations by providing to USACR/SC analysis reports on safety and protective equipment.

USAARL develops, tests, and evaluates performance solutions within the military operational environment to preserve the health, safety, and performance of the air and ground Warrior.