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Thu, Jul 31, 2003

OOOPS! Honey, I Dropped The Airplane

FAA Tests ATR's Ability To Handle Impact

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.

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 second.

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.

FMI: www.tc.faa.gov

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