Well-Known Member
Hello all,

I was watching this promotional video on the Russian Navy's recent 285th. anniversary celebrations. At about 0.31 into the video, the pilot of a Tupolev Tu-95 Bear bomber is seen wearing a leather helmet and oxygen mask designed 58 years ago, which came into production in 1961. As a helmet nerd, it's always interested me how some aviation technology reached it's near zenith years ago, and others are developing constantly.

In almost six decades, the only change in mask technology is the addition of a plastic outer hard shell which carries the attachment straps, with the rubber or silicone face piece attached inside of that. The latest of the latest have a soft bendable T shaped metal insert in the nasal bridge area of the facepiece, along with a cutaway in the plastic hard shell so the pilot can access the metal insert and mould it to his nose and cheek profile to provide a better seal. Not big advances in 60 years, but a case of not having to re-invent the wheel. Similarly, the current partial pressure suits are the same ones designed about the same time. They have a set job, they work, and there's not a big deal of wriggle room for advancement in technology there. The bomber crew in the video still use the older gear as they don't pull G's and don't need the level of pressure sealing that a fast jet crew requires.

Aircrew life support equipment reached the point a long time back where the bulk of the science was done, and the future is just a series of tweaks. The big advances seem to be outside the wearable gear, in engine technology, aerodynamics, avionics and aircraft systems. I'd say there would be a lot of potential for major advances there for a lot more years to come. As an example, the anti gravity suit designed for the new 5th. generation Sukhoi 57 is basically the same suit designed back in the 50's. It's just a pair of pants that inflate. The big advancement now is the aircraft mounted system that drives it. The system computer reads a lot of factors, such as pilot weight, airspeed, AOA etc., and is quick enough to combine all data with control inputs to predict the amount of G's about to be encountered. The result is that the correct amount of air pressure is fed to the G suit a moment before it's actually required. This enables the pilot to handle a higher G factor by about 2 to 3. In older systems, the air pressure was fed to the suit in response to G's pulled, so the lag effect was there. Same old speed jeans mated with improved system technology.

So what's the future? I would guess engine technology will always improve with issues like weight, power, fuel economy etc.. With avionics, I would think the sky's the limit.
How far aerodynamics advance is anyone's guess. In the LSA and ultralight field, will we ever see a completely different engine type in the future, and move away from glorified lawnmower engines. End of rant.

Cheers, Willie.

Top Bottom