NASA Crash Tests Airliner

NASA just crash-tested a full-size commercial airliner in an attempt to learn more about crash-worthiness of large aircraft. The crash test, which drew a large crowd of spectators, happened at the NASA Langley Research Center’s Landing and Impact Research Facility (LandIR) – also known as “the gantry”. The aircraft used for the test was a Fokker F28 jet, which was dropped into the landing target from a height of approximately 150 feet in the air. The Fokker F28 was outfitted with many state of the art sensors designed to capture as much data as possible from the crash. The Fokker F28 was also painted in a special pattern that made the aircraft look a lot like a black and white spotted leopard. The black spots on the fuselage and wings of the plane were painted on the F28 to assist in determining the damage assocated to each component during the impact with the earth. High-tech cameras outfitted around the research facility are designed to capture many frames of data as the aircraft falls, and the spots assist in determining aircraft crush associated with the crash landing forces. Seated inside the Fokker F28 airliner were many crash test dummies, or more specifically Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin (WIAMan) from the US Army. These specialized crash test dummies are equipped with force sensors that model the impact severities present to the airliner passengers during the crash. The purpose of this crash is to begin to learn about crash worthiness of airliners. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of establishing standards for aircraft crash worthiness for large aircraft in an attempt to design safer, more resilient commercial aircraft. Previous crash tests simply dropped aircraft from a vertical position, and this particular impact allowed the aircraft to sail from a sideways position into the crash landing site. The test will allow researchers the ability to define shortcomings in aircraft design so that they can be improved upon, resulting in a much safer aircraft of the future.

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