Employment History

Qualification and Employer

Ken Fraser graduated with honours from the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering Degree in 1959. He spent his working career in the field of aeronautics as an employee of the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation, a major research arm of the Department of Defence. He retired in 2002 as Principal Research Scientist in charge of the Helicopter Life Assessment area.


During his career, he worked in various aeronautical fields mainly in relation to military aircraft operated by the Australian Defence Force. Research areas included crash data recording, air vehicle kinematics, propulsion data systems, turbine engine health monitoring, turbine engine control, helicopter gearbox life assessment, aircraft health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS), and helicopter structural integrity. A major part of the scientific work on helicopter structural integrity, performed in the last 10 years before he retired, was in support of the Black Hawk helicopter operated by the Australian Army.

Some achievements

He was involved in the development and flight demonstration of the world first "black-box" aircraft crash data recorder that recorded both cockpit voice and flight data on a magnetic wire medium. Further details on this item are provided.

He was the first person at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory (as it was then known) to apply position matrices to analyse the kinematics of air vehicle motion (Ref. 24). That work was done a long time before digital computers became available and eventually became the standard approach.

He developed a system for in-flight monitoring of the accumulated fatigue damage to heavily loaded helicopter gears (Refs 1, 2, 4, 5, 16, 17). It was the first time a full fatigue damage calculation, that included component strength characteristics, had been performed during flight in a helicopter. The data system used for the in-flight fatigue damage calculation was called a Fatigue Life Usage Indicator (FLUI). The data system invention (with co-inventor U.R. Krieser) was granted an Australian Patent No. 550667 on 2 September 1981, a Canadian Patent No. 1181851 on 29 January 1985, and a US Patent No. 4733361 on 22 March 1988.

He introduced a novel way of analysing thermocouple temperature measuring circuits whereby each junction is represented by an open circuit voltage generator in series with a junction/lead resistance (Ref. 21). The normal approach is to start with a closed circuit which is fine when dealing with simple circuits. Conventional network analysis and superposition techniques were used to analyse an aircraft engine turbine inlet circuit that involved 18 tightly coupled hot junctions and a cold junction.

He pioneered the setting up of an Australian Defence Organisation Working Party (with Air Force, Navy and Army representation) that provided guidance on the applicability of accident data recorders and HUMS to Australian Defence Force aircraft (Refs 36, 50). DSTO's scientific work on HUMS, from a system's perspective, was subsequently led by Graham Forsyth (retired) who is well known internationally, particularly as organiser of regular (every two years) HUMS conferences.

Ken initiating extraction of accumulated fatigue 
damage in Sea King helicopter at Naval Air station Nowra around 1980

Ken initiating extraction of accumulated fatigue damage in Sea King helicopter at Naval Air station Nowra around 1980

Fatigue Life Usage Indicator

Fatigue Life Usage Indicator

From 1992 to his retirement he was head of a Helicopter Life Assessment functional area of about 10 staff who were mainly involved in helicopter structural integrity research (Refs 37, 38) and experimental investigations. The majority of this work was focussed on the support of the Black Hawk helicopter operated by the Australian Army. Major work included a Black Hawk flight test program to investigate the cause of cracking of an inner fuselage panel (Ref. 35) and participation in a major structural integrity flight survey conducted by the Australian Defence Force in collaboration with the United States Air Force, with Georgia Tech Research Institute and Sikorsky as main contractors. The survey was purported to be the most extensive survey of its kind ever performed on a helicopter. During the time he was head of Helicopter Life Assessment, he was ably assisted by D.C. Lombardo (Domenico) who is currently (2020) DSTO's lead specialist in the area.