FAA/NASA test at Langley improves precision of Crashworthiness Standards

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FAA and NASA Conduct Crash Test on a Regional Jet

 Fokker-28 “dropped” from NASA gantry

Dots painted on fuselage, instruments everywhere and crash dummies collect data

Results should add to Certification Standards

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) performed a crashworthiness test on a Fokker F28 aircraft at the Landing and Impact Research Facility at NASA’s Langley Research Facility in Hampton, VA on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

The Fokker F28 is a regional jet that is used on short to medium-haul flights to transport passengers from hubs to regional airports. A crashworthiness test was conducted to advance safety research on the structural performance of this style, design and materials for this size of aircraft.

NASA conducted a swing test and simulation of a narrow-body transport fuselage section of the Fokker F-28. The test simulated an aircraft crash onto a dirt surface. Data from the test are used by the FAA to develop guidance on how to determine crashworthiness of various aircraft. The data also help researchers ascertain how portions of the cabin interior and occupants of the aircraft react in a crash. Twenty-four test dummies ranging from small children to adults, one weighing approximately 273 pounds were used in this aircraft test.

Test results will also support the development of a new performance based rule that will simplify the certification process by eliminating or minimizing the use of special conditions to certify aircraft.

The FAA conducted the test in collaboration with NASA, the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, and the National Transportation Safety Board. Reports from the test will be available to the public.

Typical of a government press release, the 100% accurate text leaves a number of interesting details out:


Here is an excellent video of the drop- it shows how the plane was “swung” from the gantry:



NASA and FAA have simulated airplane crashes for a number of years. One of the most publicized was a B-720 aircraft remotely controlled “accident” conducted at Rogers Lake in 1984.








The F-28 has a unique paint job with dots all over the fuselage so that it looked like a pigskin that helps cameras capture the deformation that occurred when the plane crashed.

the 33,000-pound regional jet, plane dubbed C-RASH, was the largest aircraft ever dropped at the gantry, known as the Landing and Impact Research Facility. It is basically a large rack which sets the aircraft for the test drop. Wires and pyrotechnics were used to drop the plane 106 feet .






It took an hour to lift the test object to its proper height and set to the attitude in air to generate the proper dynamic forces generated when it plunged, crashed with a hard, loud thud and jolted its 24 dummy passengers.







Once the “flight” was over, the test team examined the wreckage, consulted the highly instrumented aircraft and checked on its “passengers.”




“If we can better understand what happens when airplanes crash by conducting these controlled experiments, we can make them safer,” said Justin Littell, a NASA engineer in the structural dynamics branch.

Joseph Pellettiere, chief of crash dynamics for the FAA, “We are looking at how an aircraft might perform on impact,”  And added that it was a misconception that plane crashes aren’t survivable — most are, and it’s important to know as much as possible to make them as survivable as possible.

A significant aspect of the FAA’s certification process is determining whether the TC applicant meets the crashworthiness standards. The modeling of compliance of the structure’s response to contact with the terrain involves a number of assumptions along with a substantial known factors. This test provides more hard data to be utilized in the engineering simulation and consequently this regulatory test will include greater engineering accuracy.

Excellent use of federal resources!!!





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