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New Earpieces to Improve Communication for Pilots
By Shad West / 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah , Jan. 11, 2006  – A new earpiece is about to be implemented among Hill's F-16 pilots affording them better hearing protection and an improved mission focus.

The 4th Fighter Squadron's "Fighting Fuujins" will receive the new Attenuating Custom Communication Earpiece System this month. The earpiece was developed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base by the Battle Space Acoustics Department. The Department is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate.

"The new system should increase communication intelligibility for our pilots," said Capt. Eydin Hansen, Aerospace physiologist with the 75th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. "Currently the pilots are using foam earplugs and headsets with speakers that offer 8-12 decibels of protection, while sacrificing communication intelligibility."

Currently, pilots are having a hard time hearing tones, many associated with air traffic controllers and ground-based controllers.

The new earplug system costs less than $600 per person and is made from deep ear canal impressions from the pilots.

It has a speaker system giving the pilots something similar to that used with an iPod, ultimately providing better clarity while giving them 25 to 30 decibels of protection. This technology was initially designed for the ground crews and then adapted for the state-of-the-art F-22A Raptor.

See Caption.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Crystal Martin, 75th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, makes a mold of Capt. Dax Cornelius' inner ear. The mold will be used to make a new earplug system for the 4th Fighter Squadron Demo Team member. Air Force photo by Shad West

Hill pilots are excited to be using the next generation of hearing protection and communications device in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Capt. Dax Cornelius, 4th Fighter Squadron Demo Team member, said that while performing he experiences violent negative and positive G-forces and most of the time his earplugs tend to fall out.

"We'll be flying with one plug in and one out," he said. "It can be very distracting to have the radio blast in one ear and not in the other," said Cornelius. "This new system is really going to allow us to focus on the mission rather than the peripherals."

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