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NASA, FAA Plan Helicopter Crash Test

By Woodrow Bellamy III | August 23, 2013
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NASA is teaming up with FAA to improve helicopter airframe designs, as the two agencies are planning to crash test a helicopter fuselage next week in an effort to assess the reliability of lightweight composite airframes. 
(CH-46 fuselage during a pre-test dry run. Photo, courtesy of NASA/Langley/David C. Bowman.)
The drop test will occur Wednesday at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Researchers will drop a 45-foot-long CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter fuselage from 30 feet. The fuselage will transport 13 crash test dummies, and is equipped with high-speed cameras filming at 500 images per second to record exactly how the fuselage collapses under a crash load. 
"We have instrumented a former Marine helicopter airframe with cameras and accelerometers," said lead test engineer Martin Annett. "Almost 40 cameras inside and outside the helicopter will record how 13 crash test dummies react before, during and after impact."
Onboard computers will record data about the fuselage. The researchers plan to swing the airframe from cables and then release it onto a bed of soil. Technicians also placed a motion sensor inside the helicopter test bed to track the movements of the crash test dummies prior to impact. 

NASA and FAA researchers are collaborating with the U.S. Army and Navy for the test. A similar test is planned for next year. 


Related: Aviation Today's Checklist 

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