Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Off Topic: "Black Hawk - The Story of a World Class Helicopter"

I am taking a break from writing about RV travel to address another subject near and dear to my heart. Those who know me may recall that my Dad, Brian Carnell, worked as a crash-worthiness engineer for Sikorsky Aircraft for the majority of his career. His primary project from the 1970s until his retirement in 1992 was the Black Hawk helicopter. Over 3000 Black Hawks or variants of it have been produced. They serve in all branches of the US military, were used to bring aid to victims of the tsunami in Asia, and to rescue an estimated 35,000 flood victims during Hurricane Katrina.

Ray Leoni, who led the engineering design and test activities for the Black Hawk and was awarded the patent, has written a book called "Black Hawk - The Story of a World Class Helicopter." He explains how Sikorsky developed one of the world's most successful helicopters against daunting odds and how it changed the company's destiny.

I am extremely proud that my Dad's contributions to the safety of the Black Hawk design are referenced in Ray Leoni's book. Dad is cited on page 92 as becoming "the key motivator for creating the Black Hawk's crashworthiness features." In addition, he is pictured on page 95 "strapped in a troop seat supported by energy-absorbing reels attached to the cabin ceiling." Dad's seat designs contributed significantly to the survival of troops involved in crashes. In addition, he worked to reduce post-crash fires, also saving significant numbers of lives.

After Dad's retirement from Sikorsky, he continued to work as a consultant until 2006 with his long-time friend and former Sikorsky colleague, Dave Fansler. Dave is also referenced in the Black Hawk book on page 104, for his leading role in ballistics design for the Black Hawk. As consultants, Dad and Dave continued to analyze crash data, proving the soundness of the design and always searching for ways to improve the safety and survivability of of this incredible flying machine!

A link to purchase the book through the online bookstore, Amazon.com, is provided at the top of this page. Readers will benefit from the unique insights into the challenges of helicopter design and development, as well as the individual technical achievements, and highly successful management strategies presented in the book. I am not an engineer and am certainly a non-technical person if there ever was one, yet I found the story fascinating. It's a great read!

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