September 2016

From Our Collections: Human Tolerance of Crash Deceleration

crash test sled Safety advocates started calling for the use of shoulder harnesses for improved pilot protection in the 1930s. By 1950, the U.S. Air Force was conducting tests with rocket sleds to study crash deceleration forces and human tolerance. These tests showed the importance of restraints for increased crash survival. This 1950 report summarizes the rocket sled program and its findings and applauds the Air Force for "an exceptionally daring and valuable research achievement.

Collections in the archives documenting sled tests to study impact forces and develop restraint systems include the John P. Stapp papers and Richard G. Snyder papers.

Resources on the Web: Learning from Accidents

Pacific Southwest Airlines accident photo
Pacific Southwest Airlines accident photo
Whether a disastrous accident or a near-miss, unwanted occurrences in aviation offer an opportunity to analyze what went wrong, to identify system deficiencies and common human errors, and to consider ways to avoid similar mishaps in the future. Here are a few sources which look at the lessons that can be learned.

Lessons Learned from Transport Airplane Accidents (FAA) uses a library of major airline accidents (from the 1950s to the 2000s) to discuss common accident themes and threats and illustrate the complex relationship of accident causes.

Callback, the monthly newsletter of the Aviation Safety Reporting System, uses excerpts from ASRS reports to illustrate hazards, provide commentary about thematic issues, and invite the reader to consider "what would you do?"

Flightfax Online uses recent U.S. Army mishap experience to share lessons learned and provide insight into issues that affect the safety of aviation operations.

Flying Lessons looks at recent aircraft mishap reports to consider possible accident factors and encourage pilots to be prepared to make good decisions in similar circumstances. The two most recent newsletters are available for download from the Mastery Flight Training site, or subscribe to receive the free weekly e-newsletter.

Vectors for Safety: Gene Benson's Safety Initiative provides aviation safety information and practical ways to mitigate risk. Blog posts on operational issues and common errors include links to relevant aviation accident analyses. Accident analyses can also be browsed by category (use the "Accident Analysis" tab in the drop-down menu at the top of the page to select a category).

This Month in Aviation History

newspaper clipping about Wright-Selfridge accident

Newspaper clipping about the 17 Sept. 1908 Wright-Selfridge accident (Source: Library of Congress)

  • 1 September 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down after straying into Soviet airspace
  • 9 September 1966: First meeting of the U.S. Interagency Bird Hazard Committee
  • 10 September 1976: British Airways and Inex Adria jetliners collided in midair over Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
  • 11 September 1970: President Nixon announced a comprehensive antihijacking program
  • 12 September 1970: Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine blew up three hijacked airliners at an airstrip in Jordan. The aircraft had been hijacked September 6-9; a fourth airliner, also hijacked on September 6, had been flown to Cairo and destroyed there.
  • 17 September 1908: During a demonstration flight for the U.S. Army, a plane piloted by Orville Wright crashed, killing passenger Lt. Thomas Selfridge in the first fatal aircraft accident
  • 19 September 1783: First balloon flight with passengers: a sheep, a duck, and a rooster.
  • 24 September 1852: First flight of a steerable airship
  • 25 September 1978: Midair collision between Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) Flight 182 and a Cessna 172 over San Diego
  • 28 September 1924: First circumnavigation of the globe by air was completed. Four U.S. Army Douglas World Cruisers had begun the around-the-world flight on April 6; two of those aircraft, the Chicago and the New Orleans completed the journey 175 days later.
  • 30 September 1963: National Aircraft Accident Investigation School, jointly established by the Civil Aeronautics Board and FAA, opened at Oklahoma City.

Recent Citations of Interest

Article Access:
Access: C
ERAU Users: Full text available if connecting from a campus computer or with ERAU login; contact the Hazy Library (Prescott) or Hunt Library (DB & WW) for assistance accessing articles through the library databases. Non-ERAU users: Check with your institution/local library for access options.
Access: F
Open access; no login or subscription required.
Access: L
ERAU Users: Full text available with ERAU login; contact the Hazy Library (Prescott) or Hunt Library (DB & WW) for assistance accessing articles through the library databases. (One trick is to try searching for the article title in EagleSearch. Or look up the electronic journal using the Library's journal title search box/page.) Non-ERAU users: Check with your institution/local library for access options.