Nasa engineers have performed a helicopter crash test to gather data on the survivability of helicopter accidents and improve the design of seats, seatbelts and other safety features.
The team at Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility lifted an old fuselage of a Marine CH-46E helicopter filled with 15 dummies using special cables and dropped it from the height of approximately 10m, simulating a crash landing. The aircraft hit the ground travelling at nearly 50km/h.
The whole process was recorded by 40 high-speed cameras mounted inside the fuselage and filming 500 images per second. Additional data were collected by 350 sensors connected to on-board computers.
"We designed this test to simulate a severe but survivable crash under both civilian and military requirements," said NASA lead test engineer Martin Annett. "It was amazingly complicated with all the dummies, cameras, instrumentation and the collaborators, but it went well."
Researchers will now analyse the data describing every move of the 4,700kg aircraft and its contents. The body of the helicopter used in a test was covered with small black dots for the purposes of photometry – a photographic technique improving the collection of data.
"High speed cameras filming at 500 images per second tracked each black dot, so after everything is over, we can plot exactly how the fuselage reacted structurally throughout the test," said NASA test engineer Justin Littell.
An additional crash test – with CH-46E Sea Knight fuselages provided by the US Navy - is scheduled for next summer.
Nasa engineers want to use the data acquired in the tests to improve computer models used in helicopter design. The ultimate goal of Nasa’s rotary wing research is to help make helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing vehicles quicker, quieter, safer and more fuel-efficient.
The test was performed jointly project of Nasa, the US Navy, US Army and the Federal Aviation Administration.