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Thread: Flight helmet recommendations

  1. #1

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    Flight helmet recommendations

    Hi,
    I am considering purchasing an HGU55 flight helmet from flighthelmet.com with Bose a20 headset that FlightHelmet installs.
    My motives for purchasing are:
    -protection in the remote chance I suffer a canopy bird strike.
    -increased coverage of the visor versus prescription sunglasses. I don't wear contacts and I typically fly evenings that I change my glasses from dark, medium, and clear glasses in a single flight. I'm hoping the visor would eliminate this and I would be landing with the visor up.
    -Increased passive sound reduction?
    -fun factor

    I've considered the retractable visor versus the bungee and I'm leaning toward the retractable since I should be able to lock it at various amounts of retraction depending on light conditions.

    There is an interesting helmet that some Red Bull racers were using with a more integrated retracting visor. Does anyone have experience with this helmet?

    At AirVenture 2019, I tried on most of the options and the HGU55 seemed the most comfortable, but I also found a sales person at FlightHelmet that was willing to take the time to try different liners.

    I fly a Sonex with a geared engine

    Anyone willing to provide their thoughts and experiences with flight helmets?

    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. #2

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    Some aspects to consider.

    Some HGU's have a big centerline knob that is just waiting to scratch your canopy. The bungee visor on the -55 won't do that.

    The Gallet helmet have a slightly different visor mechanism that might give you the incremental settings that you seem to be interested in. More $$.

    The visor is one tint. You might consider coatings on your glasses that change with UV exposure.

    Audio - I fly with a Bonehead Composites Guner helmet and wear a Clarity Aloft headset under it. The in-ear works as well as or better than ANR if you do not mind the foam in your ear. That said, ANR in the helmet with what is called CEP earbuds really really blocks the engine and wind noise. But a Sonex is not a noisy aircraft.

    I chose my setup because it lets me use the headset in other airplanes. I add the helmet for the aerobatic competition that I do. +6 and -3 every flight in the Pitts which increases the likelihood of needing a helmet.

    A bird in the windshield is a pretty rare event. At Sonex speeds the birds hear you coming and dive out of the way.

    None of the helmet options will strain your neck muscles.

    The HGU and the Gallet are at the high end of the price range. If you are not on a budget go for it. Otherwise there are less expensive options like Bonehead and Lift.

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    Last edited by WLIU; 01-28-2021 at 04:35 PM.

  3. #3
    Mayhemxpc's Avatar
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    I use an SPH-4. Not as high tech or comfortable as an HGU-55, but it is more period appropriate for my plane. The retractable visor is nice. Dual visors (gray and clear) is even better. Tinted visor down instead of wearing sunglasses and a ball cap and I was genuinely surprised at how much better visibility was. Like Wes, I mostly use the helmet for airshow...and when the plane comes out of heavy maintenance. (Ya never know, and I should probably wear it more often, like always.) I don't have to worry about the visor knob scratching my plexiglass, but my cockpit isn't as tight as yours, so be sure you have the clearance you need.

    Good luck!
    Chris Mayer
    N424AF
    www.o2cricket.com

  4. #4
    EAA Staff Tom Charpentier's Avatar
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    First, a disclaimer: I have no training in survival systems, and the following is based on my own personal research. I am speaking for myself, not EAA.

    My understanding is that military fixed-wing helmets like the HGU-55 are primarily designed to protect you during a bailout sequence, not necessarily an impact. Helicopter helmets, on the other hand, like the SPH-4, are designed to protect you from your head hitting parts of the aircraft / parts of the aircraft hitting your head (thanks Newton) in a crash. If you like the HGU-55, take a look at the HGU-84, which is the Navy/USMC helicopter helmet. It’s very similar in style to the HGU-55, but has different rigging and different impact foam.

    I shot a Hints for Homebuilders on my two helmets, an HGU-84 and an SPH-4B, both bought used on eBay and refurbished and converted to civilian comms. Given some studies that say a large portion of GA fatalities are head injuries, a helmet is not a bad idea in many operations. https://www.eaa.org/Videos/Hints-for.../6134271927001
    Last edited by Tom Charpentier; 01-30-2021 at 11:32 AM.
    Tom Charpentier
    Government Relations Director
    EAA #1082006

  5. #5

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    The helmet shell that forms the basis for the -55, -68 and its derivatives is the same, with different visors, comms, and foam liners. You can customize as needed for your application, be it your F-22, special ops Halo jumps, S-3, RV-8, or Pitts Special.

    I will note that an acceptance test for the visor used with the -55 is the firing of a .22 bullet into it. And most ejections end with some sort of impact with the ground as most pilots do not regularly practice parachute landings. So pretty much all of the HGU's are designed to protect from flying debris, shrapnel, and impacts that are survivable. The differences that you see are mostly due to the different armed services having slightly different needs and philosophies.

    The older SPH helmet shells are heavier which is a consideration when pulling G's. Modern carbon and kevlar are much lighter than the older glass fabric based construction. My personal neck size is XL due to the older heavy helmets.

    Helicopter helmets are shaped differently in part due to the need for different comms that must operate in a different noise environment. Jets are quieter. And they were the first to get add-ons for NVG's. That said, ANR circuits have progressed to where they can fit ANR in earbuds today so that is not really a factor in choosing your helmet.

    The jet helmets have provision for oxygen masks where the helicopter helmets have provisions for what is called a maxillofacial shield which protects the wearer from flying debris, which helicopters kick up close to the ground.

    I will suggest that the sum total is that you want a helmet that is light, strong enough for the hazards that you might reasonably encounter, and that can have the comms that you need installed. Oh, and every helmet should have a quick disconnect plug for the comms no farther than maybe 8" from the helmet. Saw a man die because something wrapped around his deploying parachute, preventing its opening. You do not want a 4' trailing comm cord to snag your deploying parachute.

    And to repeat a theme that EAA has advocated for many years, have properly configured should strap restraints installed. If your head does not hit the instrument panel, the cushions in your helmet won't get exercised.

    Everyone who wears a helmet and a parachute to fly should watch Sean Tucker's description of one of his bailouts. Very educational.

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    Last edited by WLIU; 01-30-2021 at 01:33 PM.

  6. #6

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    Just watched Tom C's Hints video. Nice job. Good description and info for folks who are thinking about helmets. I will confess that I started by getting a Navy flight deck cranial off eBay and wrapping that around a David Clark headset that I had. Put a Headsets Inc ANR kit into the headset and was ready for my first Pitts flights. Inexpensive start that like most things in aviation lead to spending more $$ as I learned more about the topic.

    Tom should be aware that an expert is someone who has done something once more than his peers....

    Best of luck,

    Wes

  7. #7
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    A fixed-wing helmet does anywhere near the protection levels of a helicopter helmet. Helicopter helmets are meant for multiple tangential strikes due to the fact that once on the ground the blades continue to rotate, commonly striking objects that cause significant vibration in the aircraft. This energy translates into multiple strikes to the head. This is one of the reasons helicopter helmets are heavier than fixed-wing.
    Dave Shaw
    EAA 67180 Lifetime
    Learn to Build, Build to Fly, Fly for Fun

  8. #8
    Mayhemxpc's Avatar
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    Tom,

    Thanks for posting the link to the video. I also got my helmet from E-Bay, in very good condition. After limited success in converting it to GA, I got help from the people at Pilot Avionics at their booth at AirVenture. Very helpful and it works just great. It is important to note that the Army always required (and still requires) ear-plugs to be worn with the flight helmet (same for tank crew helmets.) As a result, the SPH series may not have all of the hearing protection you might be looking for. As Wes noted, ANR can fit into earbuds today, so if you are getting a used (or preferably new issue from old stock) military helmet, you might think about that.
    Chris Mayer
    N424AF
    www.o2cricket.com

  9. #9

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    I have an SPH4 but decided to buy a Comtronics ProCom with a clear visor. Lighter and more comfortable, and for me and the little Zenith 701 I fly, I should never need the level of protection a helicopter or fast mover helmet provides. By the way, Impressive display of military helmet knowledge in this thread. Looks like we have a few ALSE techs here. Me, not so much, I just work at a place called Air Warrior.
    LownSlow

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