As a leading supplier of urethane-coated material used in making aircraft evacuation slides, Trelleborg Coated Systems U.S. Inc., Spartanburg, S.C., keeps a close watch on airline industry requirements, which only get stricter over time. In 1960, an evacuation slide had to be deployed in 25 seconds in average weather conditions. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires slides to deploy in six seconds in temperatures ranging from -65 to 160 degrees F and winds up to 28 miles per hour. The most recent guidelines, issued in 1999, require an evacuation rate of 60-70 passengers per minute, enough strength to accommodate three people sliding down the ramp bunched together, actual testing in the dark of night with real people and a minimum time-to-failure rating of 90 seconds.
Trelleborg Coated Systems’ Engineered Fabrics business includes chemists and engineers who stay ahead of the requirements, designing coated fabrics that withstand higher temperatures and harsh weather while meeting the all-important weight-reduction needs of airlines struggling to reduce fuel costs. In addition, the company has 100 years of in-house textile testing expertise, putting coated fabrics through physical and chemical tests to ensure tear strength, flame resistance and durability. “The nature of emergency products means that you hope they never have to actually be used,” says Johan Frithiof, commercial director of Engineered Fabrics. “But when they are needed, it is imperative that they are in full working order.”