NASA is collaborating with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and Federal Aviation Administration on the Transport Rotorcraft Airframe Crash Test Bed full-scale crash tests at Langley's Landing and Impact Research Facility.
The Navy provided the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter fuselages, seats, crash test dummies and other experiments for the test. The Army contributed a litter experiment with a crash test dummy. The Federal Aviation Administration provided a side-facing specialized crash test dummy and part of the data acquisition system. Cobham Life Support-St. Petersburg, a division of CONAX Florida Corporation, also contributed an active restraint system for the cockpit.
Computers on the helicopter recorded more than 350 channels of data as the helicopter was swung by cables into a bed of soil. The helicopter hit the ground at about 30 miles per hour, which represents a severe but survivable condition.
The outside of the helicopter was painted in black polka dots over a black background so researchers can track the buckles, bends, cracks and collapses of the aircraft by high-speed cameras.
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.