Introduction: There have been increasing reports of annoyance, fatigue, and even neck and back pain during prolonged operation of military propeller aircraft, where persistent multi-axis vibration occurs at higher frequencies beyond human whole-body resonance. This paper characterizes and assesses the higher frequency vibration transmitted to the occupants onboard these aircraft.
Methods: Multi-axis accelerations were measured at the occupied seating surfaces onboard the WC/C-130J, C-130H3, and E-2C Hawkeye. The effects of the vibration were assessed in accordance with current international guidelines (ISO 2631-1:1997). The relative psychophysical effects of the frequency components and the effects of selected mitigation strategies were also investigated.
Results: The accelerations associated with the blade passage frequency measured on the passenger seat pans located on the side of the fuselage near the propeller plane of the C-130J (102 Hz) and C-130H3 (68 Hz) were noteworthy (5.19 +/- 1.72 ms(-2) rms and 7.65 +/- 0.71 ms(-2) rms, respectively, in the lateral direction of the aircraft). The psychophysical results indicated that the higher frequency component would dominate the side passengers' perception of the vibration. Balancing the props significantly reduced the lower frequency propeller rotation vibration (17 Hz), but had little effect on the blade passage frequency vibration.
Conclusions: The relationships among the frequency, vibration direction, and seat measurement sites were complex, challenging the development of seating systems and mitigation strategies. Psychophysical metrics could provide a tool for optimizing mitigation strategies, but the current international vibration standard may not provide optimum assessment methods for evaluating higher frequency operational exposures.