Heat strain in Royal Navy helicopter aircrew

James R. House

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A review of the literature on heat strain and aircrew and a questionnaire survey of Royal Navy aircrew have been completed. Aircrew appreciate, some 50% from first hand experience, that heat strain can reduce their operational endurance and performance. They are at greatest risk of developing it in the pre-flight period, especially when wearing Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical (NBC) protective equipment. Several techniques they use to reduce this risk are described. Some may be of particular assistance in the field should air conditioned facilities be unavailable. However, opportunities to improve the thermal environment within the aircraft on the ground and in flight are limited as the heat generated within it and high levels of solar radiation impinging on it severely challenge air conditioning units, themselves constrained by weight and size. Other demands placed on protective clothing offer little potential to increase the rate at which aircrew can lose accumulated heat. It is concluded that an appropriate micro-climate cooling system worn next to the skin may be required to achieve truly significant reductions in heat strain. Research at the Institute of Naval Medicine has identified liquid cooling techniques which may be suitable for aircrew in all but the smallest helicopters. Any views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Department.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-107
JournalJournal of the Royal Naval Medical Service
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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