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Watch: NASA to test location transmitters during simulated place crash

A vintage airplane will be destroyed as part of the testing process.

By Brooks Hays
A vintage 1974 Cessna 172 plane will be purposefully crashed by NASA to test search and rescue location transmitters. Photo by NASA
A vintage 1974 Cessna 172 plane will be purposefully crashed by NASA to test search and rescue location transmitters. Photo by NASA

HAMPTON, Va., Aug. 25 (UPI) -- On Wednesday, NASA will crash a small plane into the ground in order to test its latest generation of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs).

The vintage airplane, a 1974 Cessna 172, will be outfitted with crash-test dummies and five ELTs. Cameras and sensors will offer researchers a variety of data points with which to analyze the physics of the crash.

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On Wednesday afternoon, between 1 and 2 p.m. EST, the plane will be raised to 110 feet and dropped tail first into soil. The test crash will be broadcast on NASA TV.

ELTs are installed on most planes to help search and rescue parties locate downed planes. The devices send a signal to orbiting satellites, which relay the transmitter's location to the nearest ground rescue station.

"ELTs have to work in the extreme circumstances involved in an airplane crash. Included in those extreme circumstances are the possibilities of excessive vibration, fire and impact damage," agency officials explained in a press release. "NASA research is designed to find practical ways to improve ELT system performance and robustness, giving rescue workers the best chance of saving lives."

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NASA has already twice tested the ELTs, dropping planes from 80 feet (flat, into concrete) and 100 feet (nose first, into soil).


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