Engineers from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, collaborating with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Army and industry partners, conducted a simulated helicopter crash here Aug. 28, with the hope of developing safer aircraft in the future.
Using 13 dummies and two manikins simulating crew and passengers, information was collected from onboard computers with 350 channels of data and from 40 cameras located inside and outside a retired CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, once used as a medium-lift rotorcraft for the U.S. Marine Corps. Accelerometers, instruments used to measure speed and motion, recorded the effect of the crash on the dummies.
The helicopter was dropped by cable off a metal super-structure from a height of 31 feet, hitting a bed of soil on the ground at 30 mph. The combined vertical and horizontal impact simulated a realistically severe, but survivable condition for both civilian and military helicopter occupants.
While we have increased the crash standards for military helicopters, we now fly faster and crash harder as a result of higher performance aircraft design, said Lindley Bark, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) crash safety engineer and lead NAVAIR engineer for the test. The results of this test will be studied and applied to the Navyís next generation of rotorcraft.
Several seat designs were tested representing standard troop benches to modern civilian aircraft passenger seats. Crash dummies were also used to test different types of restraints, from lap belts to the new pretensioning aircrew restraint systems. Engineers are particularly interested in how the seats and restraints will work with composite material helicopter designs, officials said.
I think it’s the most ambitious test we’ve done in terms of the instrumentation and in terms of the video coverage we have on board,” said Martin Annett, NASA-Langley’s lead engineer for the test. The data from the instrumentation on the crash dummies recorded reaction before, during and after the impact.
The CH-46 Sea Knight was one of two helicopters transferred to NASA from NAVAIRís Specialized and Proven Aircraft Program office (PMA-226) for testing.