Eagle Grad's Aviation Focus Is No Accident
When Piper Forcier (’21) came to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, she had her sights set on becoming a pilot. But her real passion for aviation put her on a path that led away from the flight deck and toward making transportation safer by investigating accidents and working to ensure they don’t happen again.
Forcier said she could not have picked a better place to pursue that passion.
“I knew [the Prescott Campus] had an aircraft crash laboratory, so I decided to focus on aviation safety,” said Forcier, who holds a B.S. in Aeronautics with a safety minor and is now pursuing her M.S. in Safety Science. “I chose safety science because aircraft crash investigations always interested me. I knew there would be much to learn, and the instructors at Embry-Riddle are extremely knowledgeable.”
At the Prescott Campus, students in safety science programs learn with faculty experts in the Robertson Aircraft Accident Investigation Lab, a.k.a. “the Crash Lab,” a comprehensive facility that offers re-creations of real aircraft accidents using customizable scenarios.
In addition, the Aviation Safety and Security Archives give students the opportunity to explore historical documents that have shaped the aviation industry, while the Ergonomics and Motion Measurement Laboratory highlights how physiology and movement influence workplace safety.
Beyond leading-edge labs and resources, Embry-Riddle’s program also provided Forcier with the opportunity to gain vital practical experience. During an internship with the National Transportation Safety Board, she and fellow student Eli Murphy were asked to create an interactive 3D model of the wreckage of TWA Flight 800, which crashed in 1996 off Long Island, New York, after vapors in a fuel tank exploded.
“The NTSB tasked [us] with creating a deliverable for accident investigation students using FARO LiDAR software and data of the TWA 800 crash,” said Forcier. “However, they were unable to obtain that data for us, so they gave us FARO data for a Prime Air wreckage they had. We created a fly-through video of the wreckage in the hangar and wrote a brief report about how technologies such as FARO could be used in accident investigation and education for future investigators.”
High-end experiences such as this are among the reasons that Forcier is spending summer 2022 as a Safety Intern at JSX Air, a part 135 operator in Dallas, Texas, where she is working “closely with different people in the safety department to obtain an overview of safety within an air carrier.”
As she edges closer to completing her master’s, Forcier reflects that her Embry-Riddle experience has “gone by too fast.”
“It has been amazing, and I couldn't ask for better professors,” she said. “Every day, I learn something new and find out more about the aviation and transportation industry. I have enjoyed having close experiences with my professors and people in industry.”
Forcier is now preparing to launch her career in safety, saying she wants to “investigate accidents in all modes of transportation and design vessels around humans.”
She is grateful that the solid foundation from Embry-Riddle is helping pave the way.
“Embry-Riddle has provided me with many opportunities to explore my career path and talk to people that are doing what I want to do,” she said. “The crash lab has been the biggest help — I can't think of a better way to learn accident investigation.”