NASA’s Langley Research Center hoisted a Cessna 172 aircraft 100 feet into the air by cables and released it. The plane plummeted onto a slab of dirt in a violent but controlled experiment that will help NASA improve aviation emergency response times. The test 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.
One factor being measured in the tests is how the ELT systems are installed. The systems are made from two main components. A brick-sized beacon is typically affixed to the interior of the aircraft’s fuselage. An antenna is mounted to the outside of the airplane. Once the beacon and its sensors detect signs of a crash, it automatically transmits location information through the antenna to a satellite. That information is then relayed to emergency personnel on the ground.
Data gathered from the tests will lead to better guidance on how to install the systems so they’re more likely to work after a crash.