NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Naval Aircrew Systems program office (PMA-202) is leveraging data from recent fleet assessments to enhance the HGU-99/P Hearing Protection Helmet (HPH) for flight deck crew members exposed to extreme noise environments.
Flight deck crew members face challenging conditions due to high noise levels, affecting their communication, effectiveness, and overall flight operations tempo. In response to this issue, the new HPH has been developed to provide three layers of hearing protection, impact head protection, and electronic “hear-through” functionality to restore auditory situational awareness. The refined helmet aims to improve crew communication and personal protection and mitigate the hearing loss caused by prolonged exposure to extreme noise—a top safety concern for the Navy.
Capt. Carey Castelein, PMA-202 program manager, explained, “The HPH provides improved impact protection and increased hearing protection for flight deck crew members working in the loudest areas of the deck. Based on the data collected from our fleet assessments, we have enhanced the communication capabilities further, which will improve operations tempo on the deck.”
To develop the new HPH solution, the program office utilized fleet assessments incorporating data collected from verification and qualification tests. These assessments focused on equipment compatibility, speech intelligibility, and face-to-face communication near jet noise. The collected data was crucial in selecting the most suitable HPH design.
The HPH is designed to be compatible with external communication systems, and all variants feature the face-to-face “hear-through” electronic communication system while utilizing the same battery, improving overall compatibility. The communication system for each variant is tailored to the noise level and communication needs in proximity to jet noise. This includes a sound-powered phone system for areas with the highest noise levels, a boom or cup microphone for medium noise attenuation, and face-to-face communication only for the lowest extreme noise areas.
Kimberly Gould, PMA-202 HPH team lead, highlighted the importance of thorough research, testing, and fleet assessments in determining the optimal solution for improved extreme noise hearing protection, communication capability, and head protection. “Taking into account performance and user feedback, our team has been able to develop the best possible solution,” said Gould.
The program office initiated fleet assessments of the HPH in 2020 and anticipates limited production to support operational tests and evaluation starting in June 2023.
The refined HGU-99/P Hearing Protection Helmet offers a promising solution to the challenges of flight deck crew members in high-noise environments. By incorporating data from fleet assessments and extensive research, the Naval Aircrew Systems program office aims to enhance crew communication and personal protection and ultimately reduce the risk of hearing loss. As production begins, the Navy moves closer to equipping its flight deck crew members with state-of-the-art hearing protection technology that ensures their safety and effectiveness in extreme noise conditions.