LIFT Airborne earned the opportunity to develop the United States Air Force’s Next Generation Fixed Wing Helmet (NGFWH) with a bold, compact, lightweight design that won the approval of AFWERX, the force’s innovation department. Koroyd, with whom LIFT Airborne had developed the AV-1 KOR civil aviation helmet, was central to its success.
“We were integral to the development of the helmet’s interior. Weight increases exponentially at the extremely high g-forces pilots experience in fighter aircraft, and Koroyd being 95% air makes is very lightweight and extremely good at absorbing energy through its thickness. Our liner contributes significantly to the helmet’s very low weight,” says Senior Industrial Designer James Rogers.
The AV 2.2 NGFWH, to use its full title, is strikingly futuristic. The sleek appearance of its matte carbon shell is a nod to its obvious technical superiority to the legacy helmet, even with its discrete, understated aesthetic. The AV 2.2’s silhouette is at once stealthy and dramatic, subtle and unmistakably advanced.
Koroyd’s tireless pursuit of smarter, safer, and more sustainable protective solutions, combined with the qualities of its technology – the unique material behaviors of its tubular construction and the lightness of a solution consisting of 95% air – made the company a natural partner for LIFT Airborne.
A historic opportunity in aviation protection
The phrase “military grade” is synonymous with material specifications superior to civilian equivalents. The shell created by LIFT Airborne’s composites partner, Racing Force USA, used the thinnest and stiffest lay-up Koroyd’s engineers had ever encountered. They responded with a liner around one-third of the thickness typically deployed in motorcycle helmet applications.
A constructive partnership evolved to further optimize both shell and liner with each iteration. Its value was proven in the complementary intersection of seemingly divergent qualities: stiffness and absorbency, resistance and compliance, tension and deformation. Inspired by a historic opportunity to define new standards in excellence, both parties aligned seamlessly.
“The composite was different to any we’d worked with before, but we could apply learnings from our work with carbon shells in motorsport and the motorcycle market. We created an almost modular construction, optimizing the positioning and densities of Koroyd technology to manage different impacts in specific areas,” James explains.
“Koroyd’s liner accommodates the AV 2.2’s internal and external requirements. The shell contains an active noise reduction system, for example, and hands-free activation, while accessories like night vision goggles and heads-up display attach to the helmet’s exterior. Our liner supports all of these features.”
Koroyd’s innovation includes the liner’s attachment. In the legacy helmet, an EPS interior was glued to the shell, leaving replacement the only means of maintenance. Koroyd’s liner, however, screws to the AV 2.2’s carbon exterior, making inspection and replacement a simple task.
Rising to the challenge
The most demanding flight scenarios represent only some of the AV 2.2’s protective requirements. The project’s inspiring title – Next Generation Fixed Wing Helmet – merely hints at the breadth of risk contained: everything from the industrial safety concerns of loadmasters working inside transport planes to pilots forced to eject.
Research and Development Engineer Mathilde Nais played a leading role in analyzing test outcomes. Impacted shells were sent to the Koroyd lab in Monaco, where Mathilde correlated her expert observations with spreadsheet data supplied by Racing Force USA. Koroyd’s ability to elevate its partners’ approach to innovation was exemplified in Mathilde’s meticulous analysis.
“We asked Racing Force USA to send the impacted helmets to our office, so we could see how they had deformed and how Koroyd material had reacted with the shell, the EPS frame and other rigid parts. Seeing all the parts together helped us to identify potential issues,” she explains.
“Ultimately, it allowed us to develop a very, very thin liner. The shell utilizes variable thicknesses, and we’ve optimized the liner accordingly. By tuning the Koroyd specification for each area, we’ve ensured the liner responds appropriately to all impacts. The shell structure has different behaviors, and the liner must too.”
The US Air Force is a discerning audience. The helmet made famous by Tom Cruise has earned its retirement. LIFT Airborne’s AV 2.2 NGFWH is poised to become a new icon, and Koroyd, whose liner is integral to its lightweight, protective design, would surely win any nomination for best supporting actor.