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Pro Flight Gear, headquartered in Marana, Arizona, is providing aircraft operators with physiology and aviation life support equipment (ALSE) training designed to improve the safety and efficiency of their operations.
The company currently has three certified instructors who teach courses on topics such as spatial disorientation, situation awareness, aviation nutrition, fatigue management, and high altitude acclimation, to name a few.
“We adjust [the courses] for the organization,” said Kevin Divers, staff physiologist at Pro Flight Gear. “They hire us, and we learn more about exactly what they do — it’s highly tailored.”
Pro Flight Gear’s spatial disorientation courses focus on identifying the ways in which different flight profiles can cause the body to become disoriented; for example, when pilots experience flicker vertigo from hovering with the sun directly overhead. Instructors suggest ways to prevent these issues through mission planning before flight, as well as procedures to minimize the effects in flight once a pilot recognizes the situation.
“A lot of it is reminding [pilots] to trust their instruments and [give] the controls to another pilot if possible,” Divers said.
Situation awareness is another focus of Pro Flight Gear’s training; Divers defined it as “how well your training and prep is helicopter you maintain the proper picture of what is going on around you” (distinguishing it from situational awareness, which he described as “a pre-action to a task”). With the variety of glass screens available in cockpits today, the company offers courses on strategies for preventing information overload from screens while maintaining a proper scan outside the windscreen. The courses are designed to improve pilots’ ability to maintain a full picture of what is going on around them while behind the controls.
And, to ensure that pilots are well equipped to handle any in-flight issues, the company helps organizations determine peak performance times for aircrews. This comes down to observing a pilot’s workload, when they tend to get called in, their normal sleep hours, and diet. Based on this information, Pro Flight Gear can assist with schedules to best accommodate pilots’ peak performance times.
“These are things I would do for B-2 crews and Navy Seals to help them have peak performance on missions,” Divers said, adding that the company’s services are equally relevant to medevac or utility operators.
Pro Flight Gear also specializes in ALSE training on any type of equipment a company operates with. “We recently went out to the Delaware State Police, and we taught them how to do maintenance on the three different types of helmets they have,” Divers said. “We had them take apart and put back together helmets, we talked about common failures and how to fix them, and then we worked with the person in charge of helmets overall to talk about record keeping — just tailoring it to what they can handle.”
This type of training offers a cost-efficient solution for companies to keep equipment relevant, Divers said. “We know an organization is sometimes stuck because that year all they could afford was a certain helmet, so we do everything we can that is cost savings to the user.”
Divers said the company customizes ALSE training based on the equipment an organization carries in its shop, encompassing anything from harnesses to night vision goggles. And for operators in search of new ALSE, Pro Flight Gear sells a variety of equipment designed to improve comfort and safety, including Alpha Eagle helmets, in-ear systems, and helmet liners and bladders.
The demand for aviation life support equipment has recently inverted from civil aviation to the military sector, with military operators being the company’s biggest customers right now, Divers added.
“Right now it’s mainly getting our foot in the door and showing [organizations] the capabilities we have.”