By Phillip Swarts
November 2, 2015
The F-35 helmet is back in the news again, after Defense News, sister publication of Air Force Times, reported that F-35 pilots weighing under 136 pounds have been grounded due to concerns with the plane’s ejection seat.
Tests showed that a lighterweight pilot’s neck could snap during an ejection at slow speeds. While the ejection-seat issue is separate from the helmet, there are concerns that the heavy headgear is contributing to the problem of neck injuries during ejections.
“What we found was if the pilot has a helmet on his head or her head and that helmet weighs more than 4.8 pounds, then the neck loads on that light-weight pilot — by a very little bit — exceed what we would consider to be perfectly safe,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office. “Today our helmets weigh about 5.4 pounds, so we’re talking about six ounces of weight to get out of the helmet,” Bogdan told the HouseArmed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces Oct. 21. “We need a lighter helmet, it’s as simple as that.