RELEASE NO. 99-072
Test set for Oct. 15
Engineers will crash plane to enhance safety
Researchers at the NASA
Langley Research Center in Hampton plan to drop a small airplane
from more than 150 feet to test whether design changes can help
pilots and passengers better survive accidents.
The Lear Fan composite
aircraft that has been equipped with an energy absorbing sub-floor
and seats that can withstand various "g" forces. Technicians have
installed six instrumented crash test dummies and more than two
dozen acclerometers inside to record conditions on impact.
The plane will be lifted by cable off
the ground and suspended from Langley's Impact Dynamics Research
Facility. On the afternoon of Oct. 15, engineers plan to use
those cables to swing the plane pendulum-style into the ground.
Just before impact, pyro-technic devices will release the
suspension cables from the aircraft to allow free flight. It will
hit the ground at about 60 miles an hour.
Every move the plane and its
occupants make will be recorded by 18 high speed film and four
Researchers will use the
information from the test not only to examine how well the special
energy absorbing features performed, but also to help develop a
more accurate computer model to predict composite aircraft
The test, which is part of
NASA's Aviation Safety Program, is a follow on to research started
five years ago. NASA engineers conducted a previous Lear Fan drop
test in 1994.
The NASA Aviation Safety Program, headquartered at NASA
Langley, is a partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration,
aircraft manufacturers, airlines and the Department of Defense.
This partnership supports the national goal announced by President
Clinton to reduce the fatal aircraft accident rate by 80 percent in
10 years and by 90 percent over two and a half decades.
The aviation safety
initiative was created in the summer of 1997 by NASA administrator
Dan Goldin in response to a report from the White House Commission
on Aviation Safety and Security, chaired by Vice President Al Gore.
NASA has designated about $550 million over five years for aviation
safety research and development, with more funding expected to
Researchers at four NASA
field installations are working with the FAA and industry to
develop affordable, implementable technologies to make flying
safer: Langley; Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.;
Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.; and Glenn
Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Because of advances in the
last 40 years commercial airliners are already the safest of all
major modes of transportation. But with an accident rate that has
remained relatively constant in the last decade and air traffic
expected to go up significantly over the next 20 years, the U.S.
government wants to prevent a projected rise in the number of
For more information on the
NASA Aviation Safety Program please check the Internet at: http://avsp.larc.nasa.gov/
The drop test is scheduled
for about 2 p.m., but could be delayed by weather or unforeseen
circumstances. If you're planning to attend please call and check
between noon and 1 p.m. and expect to be at the NASA Langley Main
Gate at the end of Commander Shepard Blvd. by 1:30 if everything is
on schedule. Researchers will be available for interviews after the
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