AFLCMC team tests ejection seat survival kit

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An Airman parachutes onto the airfield at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 3, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Caleb House)

Ensuring aircrew members can access fully functioning survival kits following ejection is the priority of an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center team that is conducting a test on an ejection seat survival kit.

Located in the seat bucket of ejection seats, survival kits contain survival aids for aircrews to use after they reach the ground or water.

“These items [survival aids] meet the needs of signaling, life sustaining/protection, and escape and evasion,” said Caleb Wagner, lead engineer for the AFLCMC Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory and member of the team that are conducting the test. “Specific items depend on the aircraft and geographic region, but typically kits include a life raft, lowering device – used to repel down if the parachute lands in a tree – compass, signaling mirror, sea dye, radio, knife, matches, water packets, tourniquet, first aid kit, etc.”

The team is using a compression machine on the survival kit to verify it can withstand ejection forces which can be up to several thousand pounds.

“We are interested in how the kit behaves under worst-case loads seen during ejection. Does it become permanently deformed and if so, can it still perform its function,” Wagner said.

To make an ejection scenario as realistic as possible in a lab environment, the team collaborated with SparkPlace: a makerspace in the Xenia, Ohio Public Library.

There the team used a Computer Numerically Controlled Shopbot Router to create a neoprene anatomical model to simulate a sitting aircrew member.

“None of us had experience milling neoprene or using the router’s software,” said Wagner. “You could say we were flying by the seat of our pants. But after some research we cracked the code and milled the part.”

“Our mission is to save and improve Airmen’s lives,” Wagner added. “Nearly all of the systems tested by the lab, including this survival kit are classified as critical safety items, which means failure to perform its function could cause loss of life, permanent disability or major injury. So we take our jobs very seriously and are honored to make an impact on the mission by ensuring the equipment Airmen take into battle functions properly.”