HKPA technical note: EN966 Helmets - What makes a paragliding helmet different?

19 Apr 2022 18:30 | Anonymous

Note: Most of the standards referred to in this note are not publicly available, and this note relies extensively on secondary sources for the information contained. This data may therefore contain inaccuracies, and is provided to give a general overview of current standards, rather than offer specific guidance.

EN966 is the only global airsports helmet spec available and it limits our choices for helmets. 

For competitive paragliding use, the FAI allows three other snowsports standards that are similar but not identical (EN1077, ASTM F2040, and RS98) to widen the availability, and to encourage more regular replacement of helmets.

This note explores what differentiates paragliding helmets certified by EN966 compared to potentially similar helmets certified to other common standards.

First of all, what does EN966 actually test for?

  • Blunt impact - measured by the shock experienced by dropping a helmet containing a head-sized object onto various solid objects from a height of 1.5 meters [Front, top, sides, and back]

  • Penetrating impact - measured the hole produced by hitting the helmet with a cone shaped metal object driven by a 3kg hammer

  • Securing of the straps - measured by the force required to pull the helmet off [must not break under a certain value, but must break away if a high force is applied]

  • Peripheral vision - The vision must not be obstructed within certain limits [25 degrees up, 45 degrees down, 105 degrees left/right]

  • Head movement - the head must not be restricted from moving within certain limits 

  • Environmental degradation of impact performance [heat, cold, water, UV light]

  • Potential for line entanglements

  • The ability to wear goggles or be fitted with integral visor

How does this compare to other helmet standards?

Blunt impact

The blunt impact tests are quite similar across several helmet standards, particularly the European ones. EN966 tests are towards the more stringent end, and are higher than (for example) most cycle helmet standards such as EN1078. 

Generally, there is a tradeoff between light helmet weight and better blunt impact performance.

Penetrating impact

Only some sports helmets test for penetrating impact. The test involves hitting a metal cone into the helmet with a hammer. Resistance to penetrating impact causes several visible aspects to the design-

  • The shell of the helmet tends to be made of a stronger and/or thicker material that better resists sharp objects. This can be a thicker plastic shell, or an “in-mould” constructed helmet using fibreglass and sometimes kevlar or carbon fibre layers.

  • The vents on the helmet (if any) tend to be very small and covered with mesh or plastic guards. The foam layer usually does not have any large cutouts for airflow.

These attributes make EN966 helmets quite recognisable, and very different to cycle helmets in particular. EN1077 helmets also undergo similar but weaker penetrating impact tests.

⚠️The large vents and thin shell of cycle helmets (including rugged mountain bike / bmx standard ones) generally offer low levels of protection against impacts from pointed objects⚠️


⚠️ASTM F2040 helmets have good blunt impact ratings but no penetrating impact test unless also EN1077 certified⚠️

The Chin Bar (Full Face helmets)

The chin bar of a helmet (if present) has no impact testing under EN966, EN1077, or ASTM F2040. Of the paragliding-accepted standards, only RS98 helmets (few if any exist) require chin bar impact tests.

Some chin bars are designed to break away in a severe impact to prevent neck injuries, and others are designed to be more rigid.

On an EN966 helmet, the chin bar is usually quite thin and angled down at a 45 degree angle to comply with the visibility requirement. This is very different from mountain bike and motorsport helmets which tend to block more vision.

Snow sport chin bars have mostly disappeared from the market. The few that exist are unrated and appear to be designed for slalom skiers hitting slalom-gates, not for falling into the ground at speed.

Peripheral vision

The EN966 standard is very rigid on peripheral vision, and this is why full face paragliding helmets have a very large opening in the front. EN1077 has the same vision requirement, while other standards tend not to have such stringent requirements.

⚠️Full face helmets designed for cycling and motorsports tend to obstruct vision substantially more⚠️

Line Entanglements

EN966 requires helmets to not present a line-entanglement risk.

While snow sport helmets tend to have a slick exterior, ⚠️cycling helmets in particular often have visors and other hooking extrusions that present an entanglement hazard⚠️.

Using alternative standards

EN966 is a relatively rigid standard for helmets. This usually works to the benefit of paragliders, but due to the relatively small number sold can lead to narrower selection of sizes and slow adoption of newer technologies.

Other FAI approved standards

If using an alternate FAI-approved standard (EN1077 / ASTM F2040 / RS98) leads to achieving a better fitting helmet, more regular replacement, and / or having advanced technologies that protect against specific risks you are concerned about, it might be worth consideration. However, you should also strongly consider the gaps in these standards compared to EN966.

Manufacturers of EN1077 / ASTM F2040 / RS98 helmets are unlikely to recommend their helmets for airsports use.

Of the snowsport helmets, the EN1077 Class B impact tests for both blunt and penetrating impacts are less stringent than EN966. For this reason, ⚠️the BHPA does not recognise EN1077 Class B as an acceptable helmet standard⚠️. 

Many snow helmets are certified to both EN1077 and ASTM F2040. The combination of both these standards closes the gap significantly (although not completely) with EN966. This is of particular importance to flying in the UK where EN1077 Class B is not an accepted standard.

RS98 is a very rigid standard and in part exceeds EN966, however commercial availability of helmets certified to this standard is almost non-existent.

Non-approved standards

While some other helmets offer improvements over EN966 standards, there are numerous risks involved. Some of which, such as line entrapment hazards, visibility, and low penetrating object performance have been called out in this note. The inability to fly in other overseas locations 

Standards comparison table

Table

Standard

FAI Approved

Intended use

Drop height for anvils

Allowed shock (Gs)

Penetration (▼) Test Hammer Drop Height

Chin Test

Flat (—)

Curb (˄)

Hemi (◠)

EN966

Yes

Airsports

1.5

1.5

n/a

250

1

No

EN1077 Class A

Yes

Snowsports

1.5

n/a

n/a

250

0.75

No

EN1077 Class B

Yes; ex BHPA

Snowsports

1.5

n/a

n/a

250

0.375

No

ASTM F2040

Yes

Snowsports

2

1*

1.2

300

None

No

RS-98

Yes

Snowsports

2

1.6

1.6

300

1

Yes

ASTM F1952

No

Downhill MTB

2

1.6

1.6

300

None

Yes

B-95

No

Cycling

2.2

1.5

1.5

300

None

No

DOT

No

Motorsports

1.829

n/a

1.324

400

3

No

ASTM F2032

No

BMX

2

1.2

1.2

unk

None

Unk

EN1078

No

Cycling

1.5

1.1

n/a

250

None

No

Note: The ASTM F2040 standard tests using an “edge” anvil of different shape to the curb used in EN standards

Data Sources

Most of the standards referred to in this note are not publicly available, and this note relies extensively on secondary sources for the information contained. This data may therefore be inaccurate.


The following resources were used

https://www.fai.org/page/helmets-paragliding
https://www.satra.com/ppe/EN966.php
https://www.satra.com/ppe/EN1077.php
https://www.helmetfacts.com/standards/astm-f2040/
https://www.helmetfacts.com/standards/astm-f1952/
https://www.helmetfacts.com/standards/snell-rs98/
https://www.helmetfacts.com/standards/snell-b-95/
https://www.helmetfacts.com/standards/dot/
https://www.helmets.org/testlinecomparison.pdf
https://www.helmetfacts.com/standards/en-1078/
https://www.sweetprotection.com/en/blog/tech/tech-certifications.html




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