Dainese’s D-Air protection system has been in use on the Grand Prix
motorcyle tracks for several years now and has some big supporters. A year
ago, an agreement was signed with the FIS to pursue the use of the “air
bag suits” to enhance ski racing safety. At Kitzbuehel on Jan. 19, Dainese
and FIS held a press conference to show the progress made and confirm a
commitment to the project. A feasibility study is set to run through the Sochi
2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Chief among those engaged in the collection of data are Aksel Lund Svindal
and Werner Heel.
The D-Air Ski prototype, worn like a back protector that comes over the
shoulders, inflates through small gas generators triggered by a “sophisticated
set of sensors” in 50 milliseconds and reaches full capacity in 100 milliseconds.
Studies indicate it will reduce impact forces transmitted to the shoulders and
back up to 85 percent.
Several Grand Prix riders have the same technology built into their race suits.
Marco Simoncelli was the first to inflate one in a race. “It’s not a load of bull to
advertise a product,” he says in a testimonial video on the Dainese website. “I
tried it on my own skin and it works. Now I would never think of riding without
Valentino Rossi said when he fell at Mughello, “My upper body, where the air
bag was, was unharmed.”
Which raises the point that most ski related injuries are to the lower body or
“This is just the first step,” said FIS race director Guenther Hujara. “Crashes
will happen. Our goal is that they walk away without being seriously injured.”
Much of the data that has been gathered in the last year and will continue to
be at the forefront of studies, is focused on the “brains” of the system — the
part that will read the sensors, digest that information and tell the system
when to inflate. It includes GPS, accelerometers and gyroscopes, among
other devices, to fulfill that mission.
“I’m honored to be part of this high-level project,” Svindal said. “The
development of an airbag for ski racing can increase the level of safety.”
Can Air Bags Reduce
Ski Racing Injuries?
Aksel Lund Svindal and Werner Heel are helping
the FIS gather data By Hank McKee