This Is How NASA Tests Planes for Safety

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NASA has been working on ways to improve search-and-rescue after a plane crash. But how do they test it? Simple, they hoist planes 100 feet into the air and drop them... over and over again.

This footage of a Cessna 172 being dropped into the dirt 100 feet below is just the latest test at NASA Langley into how to create emergency transmitters that are more likely to survive a crash—and it’s already yielded some surprises.


What kinds of surprises? Well, for instance, it’s not usually better to hit softer ground. A previous test of the same model plane had the Cessna running directly into concrete instead of soil. Curiously, this brush with the concrete was actually less destructive, as the plane skipped like a stone upon first hitting the ground, making the final crash slightly less damaging.

But without that initial skid to throw off some of the force, all the impact was absorbed by the plane itself, which crumpled up like a tin can:


...before completely flipping over:

Advertisement general dismay on the ground:


After this latest test, researchers say they plan to use the crash data to come up with better ways to install emergency transmitters, so that they’re more likely to make it through.

GIFs made via footage from NASA Langley