By Mrs. Catherine Davis (Army Medicine)September 6, 2013
Engineers and scientists crashed a former Marine CH-46 helicopter airframe at Langley's Landing and Impact Research Facility in Hampton, Va., Aug. 29.
As part of the Rotary Wing Project in NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Fort Rucker, Ala. is collaborating with NASA, the U.S. Navy, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Cobham, an occupant restraint system manufacturer, on the Transport Rotorcraft Airframe Crash Test Bed full-scale crash test.
The purpose of the crash was to collect baseline data in preparation for future crash research with composite structures, and to answer questions aimed at occupant protection and injury mitigation during a helicopter crash. This was the first of two planned tests in the Rotary Wing Project.
Loaded with 15 crash-test dummies, the helicopter was lifted 30 feet into the air and released -- crashing onto the ground at about 30 miles per hour. The impact represents a severe but survivable condition under both civilian and military requirements.
The interior and exterior of the helicopter was instrumented with a total of 40 high-speed cameras, recording at rates of more than 500 images per second. These images will allow researchers to investigate dynamic performance issues related to litter patients in the cabin of a rotary-wing airframe.
USAARL's support, funded by the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, provided NASA with a legacy patient litter support system, similar to that currently used in the Army's CH-47 helicopter, three modern patient litters, two crash-test dummies, two high-speed video cameras, and data acquisition systems.
"USAARL's overall goal is to protect Soldiers from injuries," said Joe McEntire, a USAARL research mechanical engineer leading the Army's collaboration effort. "Testing in a dynamic environment provides USAARL with baseline data of the performance of the legacy patient litter support systems."
McEntire said that the data will be used to influence the design of future aeromedical transport equipment, such as patient litters.
Although preliminary observations indicate useful data were collected during the crash, the information will take months to analyze.
"Next year, during the second CH-46 crash test, we will install a modern litter support system for a comparative analysis with the legacy system," said McEntire. "Our overall intent is to protect the litter occupants, the attending flight medics, and aircrew during aircraft crash events."