All-weather survival suit

A helicopter survival suit is claimed to keep pilots and passengers cool in the aircraft cabin while retaining heat in the unlikely event of a crash at sea.

The suit has been developed by SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research organisation and Helly Hansen, a Norwegian manufacturer of protective apparel.

A core component is a textile that contains tiny in-woven capsules filled with microscopic particles of a specially developed paraffin wax that can transfer heat from and to the wearer’s body. If the wearer’s skin temperature rises above 28ºC, the wax will absorb the body’s heat and change from solid to liquid. The latent heat also ensures the wearer is cool in the cabin on warm days.

If there is a crash at sea, the wax will release the stored heat to the wearer as it returns to the solid state. The suit contains extra insulation where the body releases most heat.

The makers say the suit ensures the wearer’s skin temperature never falls below 15ºC during six hours in water at a temperature of about 2ºC. This means the crash victim will be able to move their arms and legs when help arrives.

Other innovative features of the suit include a breathing lung, an emergency beacon and the ability to turn the wearer onto their back in the sea.

Afloat: the suit is claimed to help keep crash survivors warm in the water

The suit was developed in response to the demands of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF). Offshore workers complained of being ‘boiled alive’ while travelling in helicopters on warm summer days.

They also feared that their original suits would not offer complete protection against heat loss during long periods in cold sea water.