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NASA Technology

NASA Scientists Jubilant After Successful Helicopter Crash 110

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Elizabeth Barber reports in the Christian Science Monitor that when a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter plummeted into the ground at more than 30 miles per hour, there was jubilation from the scientists on the ground at the culmination of some two years of preparation to test a helicopter's crashworthiness. 'We designed this test to simulate a severe but survivable crash under both civilian and military requirements,' says NASA lead test engineer Martin Annett. 'It was amazingly complicated with all the planning, dummies, cameras, instrumentation and collaborators, but it went off without any major hitches.' During the crash, high-speed cameras filming at 500 images per second tracked the black dots painted on the helicopter, allowing scientists to assess the exact deformation of each part of the craft, in a photographic technique called full field photogrammetry. Thirteen instrumented crash test dummies and two un-instrumented manikins stood, sat or reclined for a potentially rough ride. The goal of the drop was to test improved seat belts and seats, to collect crashworthiness data and to check out some new test methods but it was also to serve as a baseline for another scheduled test in 2014. 'It's extraordinarily useful information. I will use this information for the next 20 years,' says Lindley Bark, a crash safety engineer at Naval Air Systems Command on hand for the test. 'Even the passenger airplane seats in there were important to us because we fly large aircraft that have the same type of seating."'
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NASA Scientists Jubilant After Successful Helicopter Crash

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  • by tpstigers ( 1075021 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:21PM (#44713091)
    They actually do shit with data.
  • by Ambvai ( 1106941 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:22PM (#44713101)
    In other news, NASA scientists announced confusion after attempting to crash a helicopter and failing despite repeated tries. The helicopter in question had, in various stages, had its stabilizers, fuel tank and even rotors removed. Despite all this, the helicopter remained aloft. "A failure," one scientist was quoted as saying. "We'll just have to shoot it down and try to crash one next next year after more planning." "A helicopter that cannot crash is a tremendous blow to science," another was heard arguing with another, "How are we supposed to obtain crash data with an infinitely levitating hunk of junk?"
  • Seems about time they start doing this ... others have been doing similar activities with cars and planes. Helicopters have always seemed like a good idea to me, but generally are outside the financial reach of most of us (I've only been on one 20 minute sightseeing tour in Hawaii and it was $200 or $10/minute/passenger - there were 5 passengers). I wonder how much of my fare was to cover insurance premiums? Perhaps with more data for the actuaries to work with, the flight costs could drop to the point w
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Helicopters are not very efficient, require tons of maintenance and are hard to fly. Exactly what about this seemed like a good idea to you?
      • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

        Helicopters are not very efficient, require tons of maintenance and are hard to fly. Exactly what about this seemed like a good idea to you?

        If cost only is in your focus: crash them all, then, and save the costs.
        but... just a hunch... maybe there are some benefits as the reason of helicopters still existing today?

        • maybe there are some benefits as the reason of helicopters still existing today?

          They can land places where other aircraft can't, and other VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing ; the Harrier, essentially) systems are even less efficient.

          The "tilt rotor" system ("Osprey"?) seemed for a time to be a potential competitor, but it seems as if the running costs are even higher than for helicopters, or the reliability is still too low. I don't know of any that are in commercial use - i.e. not military, rescue or ri

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @12:25AM (#44713599)

      I wonder how much of my fare was to cover insurance premiums?

      Given 5 passengers, I'll assume it to be a turbine helicopter. The absolute cheapest turbine (for operating costs) is about $600 per hour, or about $10 per minute. A mid-cost one will run you twice that, or more. So I'd say that half of the cost was aircraft maintenance. The pilot was likely nearly free. Many starting commercial pilots would pay to fly that trip. Insurance isn't that much, as flight-seeing trips are about as much in areas where insurance is essentially free.

      The problem with flight actuaries is that there are so few crashes, and no easy way to differentiate between them. Almost all small craft crashes are pilot error, the most common being loading/power issues (just about all celebrities that went down were a pilot making an error to fly with an overloaded craft or into unacceptable weather.

      • by Resol ( 950137 )
        Thanks for this explanation. So, I guess what you are saying is that to make things more economical, effort should be made into making the equipment less complicated and more rugged to reduce the maintenance aspects. I suppose this doesn't bode well for the personal jet packs we've all be promised for so many years! ;-)
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          Simplicity doesn't help. Reliability helps more. Aircraft are expensive because they need such extensive maintenance. Engine rebuilds at very tight intervals, and very tightly controlled maintenance. Given issues with maintenance (just about all non-pilot errors are labeled maintenance), there are good reasons for it, but some basic changes in fundamentals around safety and costs may result in a similar. The engineering basics were designed around 100 year old engines. Most piston engines are carburet
  • Wow! They probably remote flew a helicopter and then crashed it at a few miles per hour and it went up in a big ball of fire, but not before giving out some exciting new data taken by high-speed cameras placed....

    *watches video*

    It's a fuselage dropped from a crane not 30 feet from the ground. That was pretty anti-climatic...
    • That was pretty anti-climatic...

      I'm sorry you're disappointed. Have this complimentary video to cheer you up: NASA Johnson Style. []

      I guess they could have contracted with the guys from that slow-mo show to spice it up a bit, if we increased their funding...

  • ... will probably blame it on pile-it error.

  • NASA Langley (Score:5, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @11:27PM (#44713399)
    Drop testing with the same gantry they've used since the 60's and Apollo. []
    Now named a National Historic Landmark.
  • Or is NASA really going off topic?
    • Re:Is it just me? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 29, 2013 @11:52PM (#44713477)

      It's just you:

      The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research .

  • by Theatetus ( 521747 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @12:17AM (#44713565) Journal
    "and then had them write a safe landing program in FORTRAN."
  • .... because it's their job to crash helicopters. That it resulted in good data is secondary. :-)

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982