February 28, 2005
By Debra Bingham and Will Daniel
RICHMOND, Va. -- Local media representatives got a firsthand look Feb. 22 at how the Army is protecting helicopter windscreens using a new system developed by Defense Supply Center Richmond engineers. A tear-off windshield laminate, based on a product used by NASCAR, protects windshields from damage and cuts down on costly replacements.
The initiative began with a submission to the Army Suggestion Program by Sgt. 1st Class Paul Kagi and Sgt. Mike “Moon” Mullen, helicopter mechanics assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment of the Virginia Army National Guard at Richmond International Airport.
In the Feb. 22 demonstration, Mullen and Kagi helped apply the laminate to one of the Guard unit’s UH-60 Black Hawks. Media representatives and a Defense Logistics Agency video team recorded the demonstration. DSCR officials, contractor employees and Navy acquisition officials who are also interested in the technology witnessed the demonstration.
“It’s a lot easier to peel this off and put another on than it is to replace the windscreen,” said Mullen, a 29-year veteran of Army aviation.
And it saves the Army nearly $14,000 each time a windshield replacement is avoided.
Their idea caught the interest of the Army and other agencies concerned about the increased consumption rate of Black Hawk windshields from operations in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. That rate reached the point where demand outstripped the manufacturer’s ability to produce them fast enough. The three windshields on a Black Hawk cost $15,000 to replace.
Kagi said he had help from DSCR right from the start. “An item manager for Black Hawk windshields in (DSCR), Richard Stackhouse, was extremely helpful,” said Kagi, who has 23 years aviation experience. “He provided us the cost and the number of windshields purchased, which was very helpful information. That’s the kind of information that propels a suggestion forward.”
DSCR’s Aviation Engineering Directorate provided the “seed money” and partnered with Army officials to find a solution.
An integrated team performed engineering and feasibility studies, and testing on the laminate. The team determined that the laminate, which costs $1,100 to apply, prolongs the life of the windshield from six to 15 months. When the laminate is damaged, it can be peeled off and a new one applied.
“While the project focused on qualifying the laminates for Army Black Hawk helicopters, development and testing was also done on the Chinook,” said Taylor Frazier, an engineer in DSCR’s Sustainment Engineering Branch. “The (Army’s) Aviation Applied Technology Directorate did flight testing of the laminate at Yuma (Ariz.) Proving Ground. The Army Cargo Helicopters Program Management Office allowed us to piggyback during their testing, so we were able to avoid $500,000 in flight-testing costs.”
Pro-Tint Inc. and United Protective Technologies, based in North Carolina, developed the laminate for the helicopters. DSCR now has stock numbers assigned for the laminate and provides a $160 tool kit for preparing the windshield and applying the laminate.
The laminate reduces ultraviolet rays by 99 percent, said Andrew Hough of United Protective Technologies, who assisted in the demonstration. “It (the laminate) will last 3-6 months, depending on conditions.”
Hough also said it takes the laminate only 24 hours to dry and can be easily applied by soldiers. It’s “soldier-proof,” Frazier said.
In November, the Army authorized the laminate for use on its Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan.