Home' Heliweb Magazine : Heliweb Magazine October 2014 Contents 12 heliweb.com
HAMPTON, VA— NASA researchers will drop a 45-foot-long
helicopter fuselage from a height of about 30 feet for the second
time in a year – all in the name of safety.
News media representatives were invited to observe the drop test
at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
NASA is collaborating with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, Federal Aviation
Administration, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the
Australian Cooperative Research Center for Advanced Composite
Structures on the Transport Rotorcraft Airframe Crash Test Bed full-
scale crash test at Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility.
“ The big difference in this year’s experiment is that we are testing
three energy absorbing composite subfloor concepts that should
help some of the dummy occupants sustain fewer injuries than
they did in the first test last August,” said lead test engineer Martin
Annett. “ We have also made other improvements based on things
The team has instrumented a former Marine helicopter airframe
with crash test dummies, cameras and accelerometers. Almost
40 cameras inside and outside the helicopter will record how 13
data-recording crash test dummies and two manikins react before,
during and after impact.
Some of those cameras will be trained on the side of the
helicopter where technicians have painted black polka dots over
a white background — a photographic technique called full field
photogrammetry. “High-speed cameras filming at 500 images per
second track each dot, so after the drop we can plot and see exactly
how the fuselage buckled, bent, cracked or collapsed under crash
loads,” said test engineer Justin Littell.
During the test, onboard computers will record more than 350
channels of data as the helicopter is swung by cables, like a
pendulum, into a bed of soil. Just before impact, pyrotechnic devices
release the suspension cables from the helicopter to allow free
flight. The helicopter will hit the ground at about 30 miles an hour.
The impact condition represents a severe but survivable condition
under both civilian and military requirements.
“ The crash won’t look all that visually exciting,” said Annett. “Unlike
in the movies there’s no huge fireball or spectacular special effects,
but the occupants certainly get a jolt. According to the data some
of the dummies would have sustained serious if not fatal injuries
in last year’s crash test.”
Both tests are part of the Rotary Wing Project in the Fundamental
Aeronautics Program of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission
“ We are looking for ways to make helicopters safer,” said Rotary
Wing Project Manager Susan Gorton. “ The ultimate goal of NASA
rotary wing research is to help make helicopters and other vertical
take off and landing vehicles more serviceable — able to carry
more passengers and cargo — quicker, quieter, safer and greener.
Improved designs might allow helicopters to be used more
extensively in the airspace system.”
For this test NASA supplied six crash test dummies, built two
composite subfloor concepts and installed four emergency locator
transmitters that researchers are evaluating. The Navy provided the
CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter fuselage, seats, crash test dummies
and other experiments. The US Army Aeromedical Research Lab
(USAARL) contributed a litter experiment and the Army CH-47
program office (PEO CARGO) provided a crash resistant troop seat.
The FAA provided a side-facing specialized crash test dummy and
part of the data acquisition system. Cobham Mission Systems also
contributed an active restraint system for the cockpit. The German
Aerospace Research Center (DLR) and the Australian Cooperative
Research Center for Advanced Composite Structures supplied a
third composite subfloor technology. Other industry participants
have also contributed experiments.
NASA will use the results of both tests in efforts to improve rotorcraft
performance and efficiency, in part by assessing the reliability of
lightweight composite materials. Researchers also want to increase
industry knowledge and create more complete computer models
that can be used to design safer helicopters.
For more information about NASA Langley, go to:
NASA crashes helicopter to test safety
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