A large crowd saw a crowded 46-year-old Fokker F-28 being deliberately crashed in the US last week. But no-one was hurt. Instead the impact will benefit aviation safety.
NASA researchers assisted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with the intentional crash of a Fokker F-28 mid-size transport aircraft. The crash test took place at the Landing and Impact Research Facility, at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, near Washington DC.
The aircraft ‘passengers’ were crash-test dummies ranging in size from a three-year-old child to a male weighing more than 120 kg and described by NASA as ‘obese’. One ‘passenger’ was a US Army Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin (WIAMan) that was developed to understand the forces exerted on the human body from a mine explosion underneath a vehicle. High-definition and high-speed video cameras monitored the dummies’ ordeal as the aircraft was launched from a 45-metre (150-foot) gantry on trapeze wires to simulate a stall/ hard landing. The fuselage was covered in dots to aid damage assessment.
FAA chief of crash dynamics, Joseph Pellettiere, said the crash was, ‘severe, but survivable. It’s a common misconception that plane crashes are not survivable, when in fact many are,’ Pellettiere said. ‘Looking at the response of the plane, how it crushes in the dirt, as well as the kinematics of the crash-test dummies inside helps us know as much as possible to make them as safe as possible.’
NASA structural dynamics branch head at Langley, Martin Annett, said data from the crash would be used to design safer, new aircraft. ‘The FAA is in the process of establishing new guidelines for transport-category aircraft and their crashworthiness,’ Annett said. ‘Previously NASA Langley assisted the FAA in gathering data from purely vertical drops of fuselage sections. The previous data, combined with the data generated from this horizontal and vertical momentum crash test, will play a role in establishing what the FAA guidelines on crash-worthiness should be.’