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Survitec kits out 1,000th pilot

Posted 15 July 2019 · Add Comment

In what marks a significant milestone for Survitec’s involvement in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme, the UK based maritime and defence safety equipment supplier has kitted out its 1,000th pilot using the Pilot Fit Facility (PFF) introduced specifically to support F-35 Pilot Flight Equipment.

Survitec Luke PFF staff Keith Geltz and Jennifer Bryan fitted out the 1000th F-35 pilot, Colonel Skalicky, on the 3rd of July.
Courtesy Survitec

The 1,000th fitting took placed at the Luke Air Force Base PFF in Arizona on the 3rd July.

Using Survitec’s PFF, each F-35 pilot undergoes an extensive fitting process using anthropometric data to ensure all equipment and clothing is designed according to the pilot’s exact dimensions.

This means all sleeved and sleeveless flight jackets, anti-G garments, lightweight coveralls, cold water immersion suits, chemical and biological protection suits, thermal protective layers – the whole ensemble – fit perfectly to provide the highest level of protection during all flight operations.

“Standard aviation suits that do not fit properly can actually be dangerous,” said Randy J. Epperly, F-35 Pilot Fit Facility Manager, Survitec.

“Each garment needs to fit the pilot’s individual physique otherwise it won't function as designed. For example, an improperly fitted anti-G suit will not provide the requisite protection or inflate speed or pressure to protect the pilot against the different forces of ‘G’. This can result in pilots passing out or create in-flight distractions.”

According to the results of post-fit surveys carried out by Survitec, pilots that been kitted out at a PFF routinely state that they “have just received the best flight equipment and fitting” of their entire careers. 

Once measurements have been taken during an initial visit to the PFF, where specialist Survitec personnel record some 18 anthropometrics, a fit validation is accomplished using established size roll of each garment from a predicted sizing matrix.  Once a fit validation is complete the teams at the production facility in Ohio, USA manufacture the bespoke equipment.

Survitec then integrates the fully kitted-out pilot with a F-35 ejection seat to ensure all gear is fitted correctly and works without impediment to flight operations. The kit is fitted accurately and safety to protect the pilot in the event of an emergency ejection from the aircraft.

“Within a matter of days, a pilot can be fully kitted out with certified, robust equipment designed specifically to their physical attributes. Every pilot leaves the facility with their ‘perfect fit’ PFE, which is key to enabling optimal performance and safety,” said Epperly, who has been involved in the F-35 program since 2007.

Epperly assisted in setting up the PFFs with Survitec’s technical team comprising Paul Oliver, Brendan Smith, and Ricky Griffins, as well as contracting officer Chris Pugh Bevan, and F35 Programme Manager Graham Robertson, all of whom play major roles in the rapidly growing JSF program.

Graham Robertson said: “The first PFF was established at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where we kitted out the the first F-35 pilot. Since then we have introduced the PFF concept to the Beaufort MCAS in South Carolina, the Luke AFB in Arizona and the Lemoore NAS in California.”

Survitec has also integrated the PFF program with its Performance Base Logistic (PBL) concept, introduced in 2017, which streamlines deliverables from its JSF PBL warehouse in Ohio, shipping directly to the four PFFs. Once the pilot has been measured and fit-validation tests completed, orders are turned around in no more than two days.

Three more PFFs are scheduled to open mid-2020.

Lockheed Martin awarded Survitec the JSF F-35 contract in 2003 to design, qualify, manufacture and fit all below-the-neck flight equipment for U.S. Department of Defense pilots as well as those of 13 other partner nations, including the UK.

However, based on the success of the PFF concept in these areas, Survitec looks to establish facilities in other countries that operate the Lockheed Martin-designed fighter.

Dave Abbott, Head of Sales, Americas, Survitec, said: “We would like to extend this capability to other programs and next generation aircraft and introduce the concept to other nations operating the F-35.

“PFE is different and unique. In terms of safety, there is absolute value for pilots in knowing exactly why and how their suits are worn and why the need to fit like a glove. It’s good for hearts and minds.”


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