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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
LIFE VEST
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2008/017116
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A life vest (10) including a body (12) having an inflatable bladder and one or more straps (20, 22) with respective inter-engageable clasps (18) for fitting the body to a person. A pocket (38) is provided on the body (12) or other component of the life vest, containing a personal respirator tank (30) and attached mouthpiece (36). Means (44), tethering the personal respirator tank to the life vest, is provided, both when the tank is contained in the pocket and when it separates therefrom.

Inventors:
MACCHI, Piero, Giorgio (3 French Street, Burwood, Victoria 3125, AU)
Application Number:
AU2007/001115
Publication Date:
February 14, 2008
Filing Date:
August 09, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
GREGORICH, Thomas (595 North Road, Cranbourne South, Victoria 3977, AU)
MACCHI, Piero, Giorgio (3 French Street, Burwood, Victoria 3125, AU)
International Classes:
B63C9/08; A62B7/00
Domestic Patent References:
2003-04-10
Foreign References:
US7047966B22006-05-23
US4324234A1982-04-13
JP2005247034A2005-09-15
US5887585A1999-03-30
FR1577373A1969-08-08
FR2727380A11996-05-31
US6203390B12001-03-20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FREEHILLS PATENT & TRADE MARK ATTORNEYS (Level 43, 101 Collins StreetMelbourne, Victoria 3000, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:

CLAIMS

1. A life vest, including:

a body having an inflatable bladder;

one or more straps with respective inter-engageable clasps for fitting the body to a person;

a pocket on the body or other component of the life vest, containing a personal respirator tank and attached mouthpiece; and

means tethering said personal respirator tank to the life vest, both when the tank is contained in said pocket and when it separates therefrom.

2. A life vest according to claim 1 , wherein the inflatable bladder is one that is selectively activated by the wearer when appropriate to do so.

3. A life vest according to claim 2, wherein said activation occurs by manually pulling a release cord.

4. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the body includes an outer cover, to which the pocket is attached, and a separate internal inflatable bladder.

5. A life vest according to any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the body solely includes the inflatable bladder.

6. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the pocket is mounted on a backing portion, which provides local stiffening of the life vest casing.

7. A life vest according to claim 6, wherein the pocket is permanently attached to the backing portion, such that the backing portion forms the rear of the pocket.

8. A life vest according to claim 7, wherein the pocket is removably attached to the backing portion.

9. A life vest according to any one of claims 6 to 8, wherein a backing portion is provided on both sides of the life vest, such that the pocket may be moved between sides of the life vest.

10. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the respirator tank includes an oxygen cylinder and a regulator.

11. A life vest according to claim 10, wherein the mouthpiece is attached directly to the regulator.

12. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the respirator is activated by placing the mouthpiece into a person's mouth and commencing breathing.

13. A life vest according to claim12, wherein the respirator is activated after exhaling sharply to clear the regulator of water before inhaling.

14. A life vest according to claim 12, wherein a purge button is provided to automatically clear the regulator of water.

15. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein a mouthpiece cover is provided to protect the mouthpiece from dirt and debris.

16. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the means tethering the personal respirator tank to the life vest is a coiled strap, cord or other tie line.

17. A life vest according to claim 16, wherein the coiled strap is made out of wire or plastic covered wire.

18. A life vest according to claim 16, wherein the tether is made from a fabric.

19. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein a secondary pocket is provided on the respirator tank pocket to at least partially house the tether and protect it from catching on objects.

20. A life vest according to claim 15, wherein a tether is provided between the mouthpiece cover and the pocket.

21. A life vest according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the tether(s) are detachable to allow the personal respirator tank to be removed from the life vest for reasons such as refilling.

22. A life vest kit, including:

a body having an inflatable bladder;

one or more straps with respective inter-engageable clasps for fitting the body to a person;

a personal respirator tank and attached mouthpiece;

a pocket on the body or other component of the life vest sized for containing said personal respirator tank and attached mouthpiece; and

means for tethering said personal respirator tank to the life vest, both when the tank is contained in said pocket and when it separates therefrom.

Description:

Life vest

Field of the invention

The present invention relates to a life vest. The life vest finds particular application for use by pilots, crew and passengers of helicopters, but such use is not limiting on the scope of the invention.

Background of the invention

Helicopters are often employed in over-water flight. In a country such as Australia the coastlines are a tourist attraction and the use of helicopters allows tourist to see the vast areas quickly and easily from the air. Another use for helicopters is for off-shore oil rigs, where they are utilised to transport staff to and from offshore installations. Helicopters can have large passenger capacity, and can carry as many as twenty passengers. The military is another example of where helicopters are provided as transportation means.

When a helicopter is crash landed into the water it is called ditching. Ditching can be caused by loss of engine power, mechanical failure of critical components, excessive vibrations, poor weather conditions or pilot error.

Once ditched into water, in many cases the helicopter rolls over and submerges. The submersion of the helicopter happens relatively quickly, causing passenger disorientation.

People can be trapped in either the cockpit or the passenger cabin. To escape from a submerged helicopter, a person must release their seat belt, open a door or hatch, manoeuvre through the opening and swim to the water surface, all whilst the helicopter is inverted and before losing consciousness. Injury can occur during ditching making escape even more difficult. The water may be cold and visibility poor, both contributing to disorientation.

Of particular concern is the time needed to escape when several passengers are seated in a cabin and all must escape through a single escape port. The escape from the

helicopter and swimming to the surface must all be completed on one breath. This is especially difficult given the likely panic in an emergency situation. A person frozen or frenzied by panic may block the escape of others.

Due to all of the above, the survival rate of passengers in such situations is relatively low, especially without prior training. The frequency and danger of these situations has resulted in the development of specialised training programs for pilots, crew and regular passengers of helicopters. However, this alone will not prevent all deaths.

It is therefore an object of the invention to increase the survival chances of the pilots, crew and passengers of helicopters involved in over-water flight.

Summary of the invention

According to a first aspect, the present invention provides a life vest, including:

a body having an inflatable bladder;

one or more straps with respective inter-engageable clasps for fitting the body to a person;

a pocket on the body or other component of the life vest, containing a personal respirator tank and attached mouthpiece; and

means tethering said personal respirator tank to the life vest, both when the tank is contained in said pocket and when it separates therefrom.

According to a second aspect, the invention provides a life vest kit, including:

a body having an inflatable bladder;

one or more straps with respective inter-engageable clasps for fitting the body to a person;

a personal respirator tank and attached mouthpiece;

a pocket on the body or other component of the life vest sized for containing said personal respirator tank and attached mouthpiece; and

means for tethering said personal respirator tank to the life vest, both when the tank is contained in said pocket and when it separates therefrom.

The inflatable bladder is typically one that is selectively activated by the wearer when appropriate to do so. This activation may occur by manually pulling a release cord.

The body may include an outer cover, to which the pocket is attached, and a separate internal inflatable bladder. Alternatively, the body may solely include the inflatable bladder.

The pocket may be mounted on a backing portion, which provides local stiffening of the life vest casing. The pocket may be permanently attached to the backing portion, such that the backing portion forms the rear of the pocket. Alternatively, the pocket may be removably attached to the backing portion. A backing portion may be provided on both sides of the life vest, such that the pocket may be moved between sides of the life vest.

Typically, the respirator tank includes an oxygen cylinder and a regulator. The mouthpiece is typically attached directly to the regulator. Advantageously, the respirator is activated by placing the mouthpiece into a person's mouth and commencing breathing, perhaps after exhaling sharply to clear the regulator of water before inhaling. Alternatively, or additionally, a purge button can be provided to automatically clear the regulator of water. A mouthpiece cover may also be provided to protect the mouthpiece from dirt and debris.

The means tethering the personal respirator tank to the life vest may be a coiled strap, cord or other tie line. The coiled strap may be made out of wire or plastic covered wire. Alternatively, the tether may be made from a fabric. A secondary pocket may be provided on the respirator tank pocket to at least partially house the tether and protect it from catching on objects.

An additional tether may also be provided between the mouthpiece cover and the pocket. Either tether may be detachable to allow the personal respirator tank to be removed from the life vest for reasons such as refilling.

Brief description of the drawings The invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a perspective view of a life vest according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 2 is a perspective view of the life vest of Figure 1 with the personal respirator tank removed;

Figure 3 is a perspective view of the pocket shown in Figure 2;

Figure 4 is a perspective view of the pocket of Figure 3 with the personal respirator tank inside; and

Figure 5 is a perspective view of a life vest according to an alternative embodiment of the invention.

Detailed description of the embodiments

The life vest 10 is based on the standard inflatable aircraft type. The life vest 10 includes a body 12 having an outer cover 13 generally in the shape of an inverted U, having a head supporting area 14 and two side areas 16, and an internal inflatable bladder (not shown) within cover 13. Straps with respective inter-engageable clasps 18 fit the body 12 to a person. The straps include a waist strap 20 and a rear strap 22 that connects the head supporting area 14 to the waist strap 20. Two leg straps 24 are also provided, which both extend centrally from the base of the rear strap 22 to spaced apart locations on the front of the waist strap 20. As can be seen in Figure 2, the inflatable bladder is selectively activated by the wearer when appropriate to do so, by manually

pulling a handle 26 connected to a release cord 28 to release the contents of a nitrogen bottle (not shown) or by blowing into a mouth tube (not shown).

Inflatable life vests are commonly worn by pilots, crew and passengers in helicopters that conduct any flying over water. If the helicopter ditches into water it typically inverts. If the passengers successfully remove their seat belts, open the doors and manoeuvre out of the cabin, they then inflate their life vest to assist them to float in the water until rescued. Unfortunately, all of the above steps are needed to be done quickly as there is little or no air present.

The life vest 10 of the present invention incorporates a personal respirator tank 30, which can be used as an emergency air supply for a person trapped underwater. The respirator tank 30 includes an oxygen cylinder 32, a regulator 34 and a mouthpiece 36 attached directly to the regulator 34. A respirator tank that could perform this function is the "Spare Air"™ produced by Submersible Systems, Inc. The cylinder 32 is filled with compressed air under about 3000 psi operating pressure and would typically hold 48 litres of compressed air. This equates to approximately thirty breaths at sea level atmospheric pressure, which would allow a person time to escape from the cabin and swim to the surface.

A pocket 38 is provided on the body 12 on the front surface of cover 12 in one of the two side areas 16, although it will be appreciated that it could be provided on another component of the life vest 10. The pocket 38 houses the respiratory tank 30 when not in use. The placement of the pocket 38 on the front surface of one of the two side areas 16 makes access by either hand convenient, particularly when seated. The user may still be wearing a seat belt and the location of the pocket 38 makes the respirator tank 30 still easily accessible. The pocket includes a backing portion 40 attached to cover 14, which is made from a stiffened material to provide local stiffening to the life vest casing to hold the respirator tank in the correct position. A bottom hole 42 is provided in the base of the pocket 38 to let in water when withdrawing the respirator tank 30 from the pocket 38.

A means for tethering the respirator tank 30 to the life vest 10 is provided in the form of a coiled strap 44. One end of the coiled strap 44 attaches via a loop arrangement around a neck 46 of tank 30 between the oxygen cylinder 32 and the regulator 34. The other end is threaded through a secondary pocket 48 on the outside of the pocket 38. The secondary pocket 48 houses most of the coiled strap 44 and prevents it from catching on objects. Once it has passed through the secondary pocket 48, the coiled strap 44 exits through a hole 50 in the base of the secondary pocket 48 and is detachably connected to an attachment device 52 on the outside of the secondary pocket 48. The coiled strap 44 tethers the respirator tank 30 to the life vest 10 both when it is contained in the pocket 38 and when it separates therefrom for use by the wearer of the life vest 10.

A cover 54 is provided to protect the mouthpiece 36 from dirt and debris. An additional tether strap 56 may extend between the mouthpiece cover 54 and an attachment device 58 on the pocket 38. The additional tether strap 56 may be detachably connected to the attachment device 58.

In use, if a helicopter ditches into water and inverts, the pilot, crew and passengers can each activate their personal respirator tank 30. Activation occurs by removing the respirator tank 30 from the pocket 38, and placing the mouthpiece 36 in their mouth. The mouthpiece cover 54 will be automatically removed as it is tethered to the pocket 38. The person simply exhales sharply into the mouthpiece 36, which clears the regulator 34 of any water, and then inhales the oxygen contained in the cylinder 32. This person now has at least thirty breaths to remove their seat belts, open a door or hatch and manoeuvre out of the cabin. They then manually inflate their life vest, by inflating the internal inflatable bladder, to assist them to float in the water until rescued. If the respirator tank 30 is accidentally dropped after withdrawal from the pocket 38, the coiled strap 44 prevents its loss and makes it easy to retrieve.

An alternative embodiment of life vest 10 is shown in Figure 5. Respective backing portions 40 are attached to the cover 13 in the two side areas 16 of the body 12. The backing portions 40 have a Velcro™ (hook and loop fastener) panel 60, or any other suitable fastening device. The pocket 38 includes a corresponding Velcro™ panel (not

shown) on its rear surface. This makes the pocket 38 removable, such that it can be attached to either side area 16 of the body 12. This embodiment may be particularly useful for helicopter pilots, so that they can place their personal respirator tank 30 on their preferred side.

The advantage of the present invention is that a single unit is provided with the life vest having a personal respirator tank housed in a pocket on the body. This makes it easy for the user to simply grasp it, put the mouthpiece into their mouth, if necessary blow sharply to remove any water and commence breathing. The device is then fully operational. This gives the person enough air to escape and potentially to help other passengers that have been injured or are trapped. Access to the emergency air is very straightforward, and entails a minimal number of actions: an important attribute in a life- threatening situation where speed is critical and any complexity or possible source of confusion dangerous.

It will be understood that the invention disclosed and defined in this specification extends to all alternative combinations of two or more of the individual features mentioned or evident from the text or drawings. All of these different combinations constitute various alternative aspects of the invention.