The Royal Air Force Merlin Mk3 helicopter was originally purchased by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) without formal emergency exit lighting, and therefore did not have an over-water clearance for carrying troops.
In 2002, to address this situation, a working group was formed by QinetiQ to assess the potential for retro-fitting an emergency lighting system to the aircraft. The system would have to clearly define the various exits if the aircraft was involved in a controlled heavy landing on water. Each exit system had to be individually powered and must be able to be seen in murky conditions.
Having decided that it was feasible for a system to be retro-fitted to the aircraft, QinetiQ invited interested companies to put forward their designs for independent evaluation. Dunker trials were carried out on the submitted systems at RNAS Yeovilton.
Sakerhetspartner Norden AB contacted Daniamant (known to be leading manufacturers of life jacket and life raft lights), to discuss the possibilities of using their existing technology to produce a bespoke lighting system for the Merlin Mk3 aircraft.
The system which was submitted by Sakerhetspartner, which included shock-proof halogen lamps, a flasher unit to give better orientation and guide troops to the exits was deemed to be the brightest and most visible during the evaluation process, and subsequently lead to a contract being placed with Sakerhetspartner by QinetiQ to supply WAELS to the entire Merlin Mk3 fleet of 22 aircraft. This was completed in February 2008.
The WAELS system has allowed the Merlin Mk3 to gain an over-water flight clearance for over 20 troops, and should the aircraft suffer a controlled landing on to water, it will give those on board the greatest chance of escape and survival.
Some of the features of WAELS:
• Uses shock-proof halogen lamps tested to +40g deceleration forces
• Has a self-contained power supply, activated upon contact with water
• Employs NVG-compatible photoluminescent strips and exit marker signs to orientate cabin occupants during flight
• Has a unique door jettison handle locator
• Tested to UK turbid 5 (murky) conditions
• Is easy to retro-fit
• Is lightweight and affordable
The WAELS system, although originally designed to highlight helicopter emergency exits, can be transferred for use on any platform, from rotary and fixed-wing aircraft to marine applications.
To see the system in action please click on the link below:
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