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Educational Uses Of Airplane Accident Reports

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Preparing a Modern Aerospace Workforce

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.464.1 - 13.464.10



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Paper Authors


George Bibel University of North Dakota

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Dr.Bibel is a professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1975 from Case Western Reserve University and his M. S. in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Bibel, a former NASA Summer Faculty member and NASA researcher, joined the UND faculty in 1993 where he developed new courses on engineering disasters.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Educational Uses of Airplane Accident Reports


Airplane crash reports from the National Transportation Safety Board and the general media were reviewed to enhance student learning and interests. The science behind the following topics was developed for classroom use: pressure, hoop stress, fatigue testing, inertial loading, motion, crash testing.

Additionally a series of “desktop” experiments were developed to enhance the learning experience. For example much ground can be covered by popping balloons and bending paper clips.


In my opinion traditional science and engineering textbooks are very weak at explaining the significance of the material. Most authors are motivated by a belief they have found a better way to explain the science. Few bother to ferret out and develop interesting real life adventures and applications. One source of information is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) crash reports. It can be challenging to reduce these complex aerospace systems to fundamental concepts for educational use.

This material presented here was developed for a new disaster course for engineering students and a disaster based science course for non-technical students. The material is also suitable to supplement more traditional engineering courses such as: strength of materials, material science, finite element analysis, and machine design. Many ABET so called "soft skills" can also be illustrated with related issues such as ethics, cost/benefit analysis of safety improvements, role of government regulation, lawsuits, etc.

Student response and interest were excellent. See limited assessment results at the end of the paper.

In general the stories are fascinating and serve as a great starting point for numerous engineering discussions. The following are example crash stories and associated concepts of engineering science.


The de Havilland explosive decompressions of the 1950’s are well known. Also well known is Aloha Airlines Flight 243 on April 28, 1988 in which an 18’ by 14’ section of a Boeing 737 fuselage blew out (see Figure 1). Amazingly all the passengers had their seatbelts on and survived. Only one attendant standing nearby was lost.

Bibel, G. (2008, June), Educational Uses Of Airplane Accident Reports Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3130

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