An HH-60W Jolly Green II, the US Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter, completed a month-long trial of extremes inside the McKinley Climatic Lab.
The US Air Force say in a release that the Sikorsky test aircraft endured real temperatures ranging from 120 degrees to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit as well as 45 mph winds coupled with heavy rainfall. All of those scenarios were created within the lab’s 55,000-square-foot test chamber.
The goal of these tests was to prove the new aircraft’s sustainability in any operational environment.
“Operating the HH-60W in the extreme conditions was a truly unique experience as a pilot and a tester,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Coates, 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron pilot, who also performed most of the testing.
“Checking system performance under the stress of heat, cold, heavy wind and rain will give us real-world data regarding the helicopter’s capability to perform the rescue mission worldwide in various environments, which is exactly what the operator needs to make solid employment decisions.”
Once the lab technicians created extreme environments, the aircrew would enter the aircraft and perform various test procedures. The crew would execute their preflight checklists and perform tasks to see if the extreme conditions affected any of the avionics, electronics, engine and other systems.
The aircrew performing the procedures were also test subjects themselves. Their own reactions and movements were evaluated in the harsh environments. For example, the cold-weather gear worn by the aircrew is much bulkier than a standard flight suit.
One of the evaluations was to ensure the pilots could easily reach all of the aircraft controls in the thicker cold-weather gear, according to the US Air Force.