Watch a Helicopter Crash at 30 MPH – For Science! (Video)

Following a drop test, personnel peer inside the helicopter to check the status of its "passengers." (NASA Langley / David C. Bowman)

Want to see what happens when a military helicopter hits the ground at 30 MPH? Someone at NASA did, and luckily for our readers, they brought a camera.

As part of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program Rotary Wing Project, the space organization is putting together a series of tests to improve helicopter performance and survivability. This particular test, held Aug. 28, was a collaboration between NASA, the FAA, the Army and the Navy.

The test bed in question was the fuselage from a Navy CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter, covered  sensors and loaded up with 15 dummies for post-crash evaluation, and testing took place at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Click to see the video and get more information. 

Sadly for the “passengers,” the big crash took its toll. From the NASA release:

“We designed this test to simulate a severe but survivable crash under both civilian and military requirements,” said NASA lead test engineer Martin Annett. “It was amazingly complicated with all the planning, dummies, cameras, instrumentation and collaborators, but it went off without any major hitches.”

Cables hauled the helicopter fuselage to a height of about 30 feet and then swung it to the ground, much like a pendulum. Just before impact, pyro-technic devices released the suspension cables from the helicopter to allow free flight. In “engineer speak,” the chopper traveled at “35 feet per second horizontal and 26 feet per second vertical.” In everyday language, it hit the ground at about 30 miles an hour.


The fuselage appeared to survive better than some of the occupants. The data will take months to analyze but initial observations indicate many of the dummies suffered what would have been severe injuries if they were humans.

YouTube Preview Image
Aaron Mehta

Aaron Mehta

Air Warfare Correspondent at Defense News
Aaron covers the Air Force for Defense News. In his spare time, he tweets about the Air Force for Defense News. Follow him @AaronMehta
Aaron Mehta