It was a relatively quiet
flight to nowhere but straight down at the FAA's William J. Hughes
Technical Center in Egg Harbor (NJ).
On board the ATR-42-300 were 23 dummies -- no, really,
mannequins -- all fitted with accelerometers, to see how a
"survivable" impact with the ground might affect the people inside
The aircraft was hoisted on a crane until its belly was 14 feet
from the ground.
And then, the FAA dropped it
Cameras recorded the impact from every angle,
both inside the aircraft cabin and out. Somewhat surprisingly, the
wings didn't shear off under the tremendous G force, as the
aircraft impacted the ground at approximately 30 feet per
The middle of the fuselage, however, weighted down by the wings,
did buckle to some degree. The liquid that filled the test
vehicle's wing tanks poured onto the ground as the aircraft gave
its final lurch.
The test was designed by the FAA to test conditions inside and
outside the aircraft during a crash on take-off or landing. Of
particular interest to the engineers conducting the test was the
ability of the seats aboard the commuter aircraft to handle the
stress of multiple G's.
While bigger aircraft have seating that is strictly regulated,
the commuter industry has no standard for seat safety at this time.
As researchers analyze the data, they'll look at how they can turn
an 80 G acceleration upon impact into a survivable 15-30 G's.