NIAR lab conducts first full-scale fuselage drop test in new facility at Wichita State


Last week, the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University conducted a unique full-scale fuselage drop test, its first in the new Jerry Moran Center for Advanced Virtual Engineering and Testing (AVET).

The test, part of an ongoing 15-year FAA-sponsored research program titled Crashworthiness Certification of Composite and Metallic Aircraft Structures, involved dropping an aircraft fuselage equipped with three post-mortem human passengers (PMHS) to validate AVET’s virtual engineering models of the same test set-up.

The test was led by Gerardo Olivares, NIAR senior research scientist and director of Crash Dynamics and Virtual Engineering and Flight. It also involved collaboration with the Injury Biomechanics Research Center at Ohio State University, led by director John Bolte. The Ohio State team provided support and expertise in testing the PMHS.

The data collected during the test will be used to:

  • Verify and validate finite element modeling techniques that may be used to support the virtual development and streamline the crashworthiness certification process of future aircraft programs
  • Collect injury data from the three PMHS passengers to provide more insight into the injury mechanisms during emergency landing conditions
  • Verify and validate finite element human body models that may be used in the future to predict injury potential
  • Compare the seated PMHS behavior with the FAA Hybrid III 50th Percentile anthropomorphic test dummies (ATD)
  • Provide insights into the potential for injury to occupants being transported during medical evacuation scenarios

“Our team did a great job preparing and executing this unique test,” said Olivares. “We would like to thank Dr. Joseph Pellettiere from the FAA and Dr. Timothy Bentley from ONR for attending the test and supporting this research.”

The test also supported ongoing human body modeling activities of the Office of Naval Research I-Predict program. In addition, this test involved novel use of Brown University’s TIGER sensor system in the ATD and PMHS subjects coordinated by Haneesh Kesari, assistant professor of engineering for Brown; and a new ARAMIS 1340 3D system to track passenger kinematics implemented by John Tyson, president of Trillion Quality Systems. 

Wichita State University serves as the Kansas urban-based research university, enrolling more than 16,000 students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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