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The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a safety alert to raise awareness of the potential hazards of direct-to-airframe flight helmet cord connections.
According to the alert, the NTSB and Transportation Safety Board of Canada have investigated two accidents in which these type of connections have affected egress from the aircraft. In both cases, the occupants were able to exit the aircraft, but the NTSB said the incidents highlighted the potential for direct-to-airframe intercommunication system (ICS) cord connections to impede egress during an accident or emergency.
“The cord connecting the flight helmet to the aircraft’s ICS might not release readily from the airframe ICS port if the direction of egress is contrary to the direction needed to easily release the cord,” the alert states. “For instance, if a cord needs to be pulled downward for release and an aircraft occupant is attempting a sideward egress, the cord may not release readily, which could cause excess delays in egress.”
One of the accidents highlighted in the alert involved a Canadian Coast Guard Airbus Bo.105, which hit the water while flying a low altitude over a bay in snowy conditions. The pilot and passenger were able to exit the aircraft in the water, but the passenger drowned while awaiting rescue, while the pilot died from hypothermia.
A post-accident examination of the pilot’s flight helmet revealed that the end fitting of the ICS cord was fractured where it attached to the port. Metal remnants showed that the cord was being pulled sideways toward the pilot’s door (as opposed to downward for release) when it fractured. A test of a similar fitting required a 70-pound pull before the cord failed.
The alert calls for pilots to ensure they, and their passengers, understand and are proficient with the egress procedures of the aircraft before takeoff, and suggests using an intermediate cord between the ICS cord and the airframe ICS port to help ease separation during egress.