TenCate Defender™ M contributes to safety and comfort of pilots
After training to become an air traffic controller and having worked as a navigation communications officer with the Dutch Navy, Eric van de Weerd became a helicopter pilot with Noordzee Helicopters Vlaanderen. His flight suit is made of TenCate Defender™ M protective fabric.
This lightweight material is flexible, resistant to radiation and completly flame and heat retardant.
Eric van de Weerd is a helicopter pilot with Noordzee Helicopters Vlaanderen: ‘Because I have absolute confidence in the flight suit I wear, I can concentrate entirely on flying the helicopter.’
He could have flown an F16, but that didn’t appeal to Eric van de Weerd. Instead, he opted for the helicopter: an aircraft that is at least as complicated to fly as a plane. He demonstrates the intricacies: ‘you determine the direction with your feet and apply the brakes with your toes. With your left hand you take the helicopter up and determine the direction in which you go up with your right hand. And then we have the theory. The aerodynamics of a helicopter are much more complicated that those of a plane, because the rotating blades themselves also create an airstream.’
Eric van de Weerd is now a helicopter pilot with Noordzee Helicopters Vlaanderen (NHV). From the airport at Den Helder he and his colleagues mainly transport personnel and freight from and to drilling platforms and ships. ‘You could regard us as a taxi company’, he says. ‘The coastguards also use us when looking for missing persons and during sea rescue operations and we are also able to help in putting out fires.’ Helicopters are manoeuvrable and fast, they can land on a very small area and under difficult conditions. The largest helicopter of the NHV fleet, the Airbus H175 which Eric van de Weerd flies, can carry as many as sixteen passengers. He is an experienced pilot, who flew for a long time for the defence forces: on the Cougar and the Apache. A year in Afghanistan demanded the utmost of him. ‘What the most difficult part was? Night landings near a mountain top while the enemy is just around the corner. In that respect my work is now a great deal easier.’
An Airbus H175 in action
The greatest risk factor for a helicopter pilot is the weather. That is why he always has to be prepared for water, wind, cold or heat, as well as for fire. The fuel tanks are close by and, in the rare event of the helicopter crashing, they could burst into flame. All these factors are taken into consideration for the pilot’s outfit, even though he is sitting comfortably in an enclosed space with climate control for most of the time. In additoin to the above factors, wearing comfort is of course an important requirement. ‘We wear a flight suit as standard practice’, says Eric van de Weerd. ‘This has to have a comfortable fit and not be too tight. Our suits are made to measure, and thus they fit perfectly.’ The dark blue flight suits worn by the NHV pilots are made of TenCate Defender™ M protective fabric. The material is comfortable, has a low weight and is thoroughly flame and heat retardant – even after being washed a thousand times. The material can also withstand ‘cosmic radiation’: radio waves at a great height.
‘We fly at a maximum of six thousand feet, so for us that specific feature is not so relevant’, says Eric van de Weerd, ‘but for F16 pilots for example it is certainly important.’ In winter we need another couple of layers of clothing on top of this. ‘If the seawater is colder than 14 degrees Celsius we have to wear a dry suit over our flight suit’, Eric van de Weerd tells us. ‘I myself like to wear long underwear underneath my flight suit.’
The complete package – the more layers, the better – is the best protection against the elements. And having that certainty makes it a lot more pleasant, is his conclusion. ‘My clothing protects me against the elements, but I rarely think about that’, says Eric van de Weerd. ‘Since I have complete confidence in the flight suit that I’m wearing, I can concentrate entirely on flying the helicopter. And I also know that my aircraft is one of the best in the world. I never feel unsafe, and actually, I feel safer in my helicopter than I do on the road!’