Attenuating custom communications earpiece system (ACCES®)

Award Year 

Imagine standing on the flight line at Edwards Air Force Base, trying to communicate with the cock-pit of an F/A-22 Raptor while the pilot runs up the blasting engines for preflight checks. What did he say that instrument was reading? “One” or “none?” You have to ask him to repeat the information three times, and your ears are ringing by the time you get back to the hangar. Repeated scenarios (more) such as this drove the Raptor ground crew to think there must be a way to protect their hearing while still allowing clear communication with the cockpit. Now, finally, there is. The Attenuating Custom Communications Ear-piece System (ACCES®), developed by John A. Hall and his team at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Human Effectiveness Directorate, has rev-olutionized hearing protection and communication in high noise environments. ACCES® integrates specialized electronics and cabling into a custom-molded earplug that pro-vides 40dB of mean noise reduction while pro-viding clearly intelligible voice communication. Westone Laboratories, the technology transfer partner producing this state-of-the-art device, was recently awarded a General Services Administration (GSA) contract. With this devel-opment, ACCES® has achieved all of a program manager’s dreams: rapid tech-nology development and delivery, tech-nology transfer and transition, partnering with private industry, improving warfighter effectiveness, and acquisition reform. Au-gustine Vu, Air Force technology trans-fer program manager, calls the contract award a “landmark example of technol-ogy transfer facilitating transition of prod-ucts to the warfighter.” The Office of the Secretary of Defense applauded the development as a milestone in technology transfer.Even before gaining the GSA contract, ACCES®had its inaugural commercial use in none other than Spaceship One, the first private craft to fly more than 50 miles above the earth. “Before these plugs, we had problems,” said Spaceship One pilot Mike Melville. “When I switched to AC-CES®, I had perfect hearing of what was going on from mission control throughout both my flights and had no discomfort at all from the noise of the rocket motor.” The ACCES® plugs, he said, were perfect. “I am very, very pleased with how they work.” (less)