Schnell worked with the company to provide feedback during operational use.
Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Lab (OPL) was among those who evaluated the next generation fixed-wing helmet that was recently selected by the U.S. Air Force as the new standard helmet for many of its aircraft.  

Led by Tom “Mach” Schnell, OPL’s founder, director, and chief test pilot, OPL has been flying with the helmet since early 2022. Schnell worked with the company to provide feedback during operational use. The helmet has also been tested by Air Force pilots and others. 

“We are honored organizations around the nation turn to us for feedback as they develop new technology,” said Schnell, also a UI professor of systems and industrial engineering and Jim “Max” Gross Chair in Engineering. “We are proud to contribute our experience and knowledge to equipment that will make our service men and women safer, less prone to injuries, and more effective pilots. It is a testament to the OPL team we have built over the past 25 years that we have gained the trust of the aviation industry.” 

The product brochure for California-based LIFT Airborne Technologies‘ AV 2.2 helmet features a double page photo of Schnell in the cockpit during flight. He is wearing the helmet, along with patches for OPL and the UI Tigerhawk on his flight suit. Find on page 4:

The helmet is expected to provide more comfort and maneuverability for the aircrew. In addition, the model will be better able to accommodate modern technologies, such as helmet mounted displays, than what is being replaced – a helmet first introduced in the 1980s. 

OPL is part of the Iowa Technology Institute, a research arm of the UI College of Engineering. OPL has developed a reputation as a trusted flight-testing center with more than 11 crewed and uncrewed aircraft that allows manufacturers to test technology early and often.