NASA Researchers Purposely Crash Plane for Science!

  • Jul 30, 2015 8:53am GMT

This past week, researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia were pleased with the outcome of a Cessna crashing into the ground. The crash was part of a controlled experiment to collect data to improve the reliability of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs). The ELT, required to be onboard all aircraft, automatically transmits a signal alerting rescue personnel in the event of a crash. And sometimes in the event of a harder than planned landing.

Unfortunately, the ELT can be damaged in the crash and fail to transmit. Which means longer times for emergency and rescue teams to find and reach the crash site. This is the second test in a set of three to collect data to improve the system.

NASA researchers raised a Cessna 172 with cables 100 feet up and then dropped the aircraft into a slab of dirt. The plane impacted the ground at 55 MPH. The startling “accident” provided tons of valuable information to the group. The first test took place at the beginning of the month. The set up was different in that the aircraft wasn’t raised as high and the plane was dropped onto concrete. Most people would think that the crash into concrete would be more violent than onto soft dirt, but it’s actually the opposite. The plane will skip across the concrete, but with the dirt, the aircraft will come to a sudden stop. “So all that force is absorbed by the airframe and the occupants,” said Chad Stimson, project manager. “This was clearly more severe than the first test. No one would have walked away from this. They might be alive, but they’d need help right away. In that sense, it’s the perfect search and rescue case.”

You can watch footage from the test from all angles. And check out the gallery with more photos of the wreckage.