A Cessna 172 plane hangs from a gantry before a crash test at NASA Langley Research Center on July 29, 2015, in Hampton, Va.
Kaitlin McKeown—AP
By Eric Dodds
July 30, 2015

On Wednesday, researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia raised a Cessna 172 aircraft 100 feet in the air, suspended by cables, and then dropped it right down into an enormous pile of dirt. It smashed into the ground nose-first, flipping onto its back and delivering tremendous force to the pair of crash-test dummies within. The scientists, by all accounts, were happy.

“This will provide very good data collection for us,” said Lisa Mazzuca, NASA’s Search and Rescue mission manager. “This is exactly what we wanted. The nose hit the ground first.”

The goal, according to NASA’s team, is to improve aviation emergency response times:

Wednesday’s test, the second of three being conducted at Langley, is part of a push to bolster the reliability of emergency locator transmitters. The systems automatically alert rescue personnel in the event of an airplane crash.

But the systems, called ELTs for short, are often so damaged in crashes they fail to transmit as designed. That means it’s harder for rescue teams to reach a crash site quickly.

The first test was conducted on July 1, with the plane crashing into concrete rather than soil. Researchers hope the series of experiments will improve systems designed to help emergency responders locate downed planes by keeping those systems functional after a crash.

[NASA]

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