Heat stress on helicopter pilots during ground standby

P. Froom, I. Shochat, L. Strichman, A. Cohen, Y. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We attempted to use measurements of ambient thermal conditions to charcterize and then predict thermal conditions in the cockpit before takeoff and during an hour standby period in Bell 206 and Bell 212 helicopters with a crew of two and with the cockpit doors opened. Dry bulb, wet bulb, and globe temperatures were measured on 28 separate summer days. The wet bulb globe temperature index (WBGT) was used to estimate heat stress. Ambient WBGT at time 0 ranged from 13°C to 31°C. There was a 2.9 ± 3.7 degree difference in WBGT between ambient and cockpit conditions at time 0 which increased to 7.2 ± 3.5 degrees after 1 h. Because of the cooling effect of opening the helicopter cockpit doors, the cockpit WBGT actually decreased over the standby period when cockpit WBGT values were 30°C or more at time 0. Thus, there was an inverse correlation between cockpit WBGT at time 0 and the change in cockpit WBGT over the 1-h period (r = -0.767, p < 0.001). The mean WBGT in the cockpit over the 1-h standby period was positively correlated with the ambient WBGT at time 0 (r = 0.783, p < 0.001). We conclude that the greenhouse effect results in a cockpit WBGT which is significantly higher than ambient conditions. Subsequent changes in cockpit WBGT depend on the balance between heat transfer from the pilot's bodies to the cockpit and the loss of heat after the doors of the helicopters are opened. Ambient thermal conditions can be used to predict heat stress during the ground standby period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-981
Number of pages4
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


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