NASA drops a chopper from the sky

NASA crash tests a helicopter to see whether a Kevlar cushion on the bottom of the craft will absorb impact. The crash test dummies appear to emerge unscathed.

A certain American Airlines 757 pilot gave me and a couple of hundred others a very hard landing this week.

So my jaw finally began to cease chattering when I discovered NASA is beginning to work on dropping flying things from the sky to see if perhaps the impact can be absorbed.

NASA's Web site told me that it dropped a helicopter from 35 feet in order to see whether an expandable honeycomb cushion that NASA calls a "deployable energy absorber" could minimize damage to life, limb, and even nervous systems.

The MD-500's landing gear did bend a little, NASA said, but the agency seemed most pleased that "four crash test dummies along for the ride appeared only a little worse for the wear."

Perhaps you will be most heartened by the words of Karen Jackson, an aerospace engineer who was one of the brains behind the test, which was conducted at NASA's Langley Research Center: "I'd like to think the research we're doing is going to end up in airframes and will potentially save lives."

I know we're only talking about helicopters right now. But given that commercial pilots do enjoy the occasional drink and have even drifted past Minneapolis and headed out to Wisconsin, surely one can dream that one day someone will create an extraordinary cushion for your average 757.

 

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