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Author Topic: Could aircraft be made safer by fitting fuel tank ejectors?  (Read 3418 times)

Paul Anderson

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Paul Anderson  asked the Naked Scientists:

Dear Chris and team,

What is the main killer of passengers in commercial aircraft accidents these days? Is it the poisonous plastic interiors burning, or the sudden stop breaking necks, or what?

Large commercial aircraft carry fuel in their wings and when they take off they are obviously laiden with fuel. Some military aircraft are equipped with ejector seats.

So is the following feasible?

A pilot is taking off and cannot safely abort the takeoff. He pushes a button which sets in motion a process which cuts off fuel from both wings and then detaches the wings along the fuselage, thereby getting the fuel source clear of the passengers in the fuselage, and then large parachutes are deployed aft similar to those used by aircraft on aircraft carriers. Once the fuselage has stopped on the ground obviously everyone gets out, with the chance of the fuselage erupting into flames hopefully diminished.

I agree I have painted only one scenario and it involved fuel in wings.  

You will say, what if the aircraft is already in the air, then the fuselage will just arc down into the ground.

I was going to suggest that the wings be jettisoned similar to the way an ejector seat works, but if they were slightly out of time, I presume the fuselage would spin and we don't want that. I admit I haven't thought this all the way through yet, but when I get these ideas in the shower in the morning, I cannot stay in the shower until it is fully thought out.

If an engine is in the tail of the aircraft (DC10 style?), without the wings, I presume it means one could not deploy parachutes at the
rear.

I just heard briefly about the Madrid plane crash. I don't know the details nor the type of aircraft involved, but that was what prompted
the thoughts above.

Regards
Paul
NZ  

What do you think?


 

Offline Bored chemist

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Could aircraft be made safer by fitting fuel tank ejectors?
« Reply #1 on: 07/09/2008 16:09:03 »
I'm pretty sure that lots of aircraft carry fuel in the main fuselage too.

Dumping the fuel (outside of a tank) would lead to it being atomised in the air. That's a nasty thought if the engines ignite it.
 

Offline chris

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Could aircraft be made safer by fitting fuel tank ejectors?
« Reply #2 on: 11/09/2008 10:04:51 »
But what Paul's saying is that the fuel tanks could be ejected intact (and sealed hopefully), before the plane came to rest, therefore reducing the bomb-making potential. This sounds like a nice idea, but how would you modify the airframe to make it feasible without compromising the structure?

Chris
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Could aircraft be made safer by fitting fuel tank ejectors?
« Reply #3 on: 11/09/2008 19:42:34 »
Who pays when the tank falls and kills someone?
 

Offline RD

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Could aircraft be made safer by fitting fuel tank ejectors?
« Reply #4 on: 12/09/2008 00:03:57 »
 

Offline RD

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Could aircraft be made safer by fitting fuel tank ejectors?
« Reply #5 on: 12/09/2008 00:10:16 »
Dumping the fuel (outside of a tank) would lead to it being atomised in the air.
That's a nasty thought if the engines ignite it.

In some aircraft dumped fuel can be deliberately ignited safely...

« Last Edit: 12/09/2008 00:13:40 by RD »
 

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Could aircraft be made safer by fitting fuel tank ejectors?
« Reply #5 on: 12/09/2008 00:10:16 »

 

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