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NASA’s Search and Rescue Mission Office, at the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will test emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) Wednesday, Aug. 26 by simulating a severe but survivable plane accident using this 1974 Cessna 172. Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman

NASA to Crash Airplane to Test Emergency Locator Transmitters

NASA will simulate a severe but survivable plane accident on Wednesday by its Rescue Mission office to test emergency locator transmitter (ELTs). NASA will air live the coverage of the test, which is scheduled to happen between 1 and 2 p.m. EDT.

Using a Cessna 172 will be dropped from a height of 100 feet, the test will take place at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where a research team has equipped the vintage 1974 airplane with five ELTs, two crash test dummies, cameras and data-collecting sensors.

This test is improve ELT system performance and robustness, giving rescue workers the best chance of saving lives. Emergency locator transmitters are installed on general aviation and commercial planes to transmit a location signal in the event of a crash.

Current ELT models send that signal to orbiting satellites, which sends it to the nearest search and rescue ground station. ELTs have to work in extreme condition which are possibilities of excessive vibration, fire and impact damage.

This will be the last test of three crash tests of three different Cessna 172 aircraft. The first plane was dropped from about 80 feet and came in at nose level on concrete. The second was hauled up to 100 feet and crashed nose down into soil, and the third is planned to come in from 100 feet, tail down, into soil.

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