The Regional Airline Association last month lambasted the FAA for the agency’s highly publicized drop test of an ATR 42-300 turboprop in Atlantic City, N.J. The FAA said the July 30 test would help it assess the need for dynamically tested seats
in commuter aircraft. However, the ATR 42 occupies the transport category (Part 25, more than 19 seats and 12,500 pounds), meaning it must meet the same stringent seat requirements as mainline jetliners. How the FAA will assess the need for dynamically tested seats in Part 23, commuter-category airplanes by dropping a high-wing transport vertically from 14 feet escapes the understanding of the RAA, said association director of technical affairs Dave Lotterer.
“They described it as a commuter aircraft, and of course it’s not,” said Lotterer. “Most regional airplanes have 16-g seats. In fact, the Jetstream 41 has air bags up front. This whole thing was totally useless.”
Upon impact, the wings of the test airplane (configured with 32 passenger seats instead of the typical 46) collapsed the fuselage, providing news cameramen with sensational footage. Lotterer remained unimpressed, however: “When you drop [an airplane], you can test only for vertical g-load. You’ll never duplicate that sort of impact in a survivable accident because the momentum would be [mostly] forward, and you would have lift on that wing. I just don’t see them having those kind of loads on a wing in a typical crash.”