Unique Hands-On Crash Lab Is One Of A Kind
Students from Col. Denny Peeples'
class in the Aerospace Science Leadership Academy at Arizona's
Prescott High School were given a hands-on opportunity to learn
about on-site accident investigation last week at Embry-Riddle
Aeronautical University's nearby Prescott campus.
Visiting ERAU's crash lab, Prescott High students were invited
to conduct investigations of full-scale accurate mock-ups of real
crashes with the guidance of Embry-Riddle students, who gave them a
"short course in accident investigation, basic ground school," ERAU
master's student Erich Skoor told the Arizona Republic.
"The first thing we want them to do is look at the four corners
of the accident; we want them to take the time to really look at
the accident," Skoor said. "At this point we want them to determine
how the plane crashed, not necessarily why it crashed."
"This is a unique experience for these students. ERAU is the
only university in the country with a crash lab like this," Peeples
said. "No other students in the state, or the country have this
only 10 minutes from their campus."
Peeples said the investigations were presented realistically,
starting out with very little information, forcing the students to
take a hard look at the clues before them. Then little by little,
more information was revealed, such as details about the pilot, the
route of the flight, and weather conditions.
With a group investigating the crash
of a Varga Kachina, Prescott High junior David Petrovich said,
"This is a neat opportunity to come here. It is an opportunity to
learn about various crashes." The goal of each exercise was to
figure out what happened, why it happened, and if weather
conditions played a part in the crashes, Petrovich said.
ERAU undergraduate Chris Horton led another group of students
around the wreckage of a Cessna Caravan. Explaining how to look for
ground scars, cabin position at impact, the cockpit at impact and
the plane's instrumentation, Horton said, "We let them figure out
ERAU Safety Science professor William Waldock said the crash lab
got its start in 1987 on another part of the campus with only three
crash sites. The crash lab moved to its present location in 1995,
and now boasts eight fully mocked up real crashes on eight and a
"We use the crash sites to teach people who to investigate
accidents. We try to recreate the actual crashes as close as
possible," Waldock said.