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Home > Air Crash > Could mega airplane parachute be a savior to plane crashes?
Could mega airplane parachute be a savior to plane crashes?
Aviation - Air Crash
Friday, 05 October 2007 07:16


Dear Captain Lim,

Hello and congratulations to your website. Your work is great and so are your disclosures about the little secrets of flying and life in the air, to help us ordinary people cope with our fears.

I am quite a frequent flyer both on long-haul and short flights. I must admit that I have never been totally relaxed throughout a flight, regardless of how smooth it was, nor have I been ever unconcerned about the issues that may occur during flying.

Anyway, my greatest concern when flying is the possibility of collision (it mostly happens to me when I am aboard during the night). I mean crashing onto another airplane, either by accident, human error or poor visibility conditions or whatever. The probability of literally having an impact with another plane (I hear that lately the air is congested by air traffic), petrifies me with fear; let alone that in such a case there is absolutely (?) no chance to survive. Though I have browsed through your web-site I have not been able to find much about this topic.

What are the probabilities of engaging into a collision course with another airplane in the air? What can happen while many air force planes are flying around (like it happens all the time over the borders of my home country, Greece)?

What safety measures are being taken against this scenario? It scares me to know that the air is full and the aircraft I am flying on has to follow a very strict and narrow path in the air in order to reach its destination. Can you please expand more on ?air-collision fear? so to speak?

Also, I have a question which may sound silly; still I ought to ask you given this chance: Is any research being made currently, in order to attach mega-parachutes on the plane, like huge balloons (sorry I seem to miss the correct word), allowing them to land in case of total engine failures, as a last resort? Could such a security feature be materialized in the future?

Thank you so much.

With my best regards and respect for your work,

Thomas P.
Athens, Greece.

Hi Thomas,


Mid-air collision is a factor that the aviation industry continues to be aware of as more and more planes takes off to the sky. Hence, Jumbo planes, such as the Airbus A380 is welcomed as one of the solution to reduce the number of planes in the highly congested sky. The use of radar and TCAS
have been the main contributors of reducing mid-air collision.

TCAS enables the pilot to avoid colliding onto each other because all planes (installed with this equipment) are seen on the pilots* navigation display. On top of that, the ground radar monitors every aircraft in the air and would warn pilots of any planes that have encroached into the collision path.

You need not have to worry about colliding with military planes or flying over narrow airspaces as all "moving objects" are carefully monitored on the ground by air traffic controllers. Pilots have also been trained to avoid colliding onto each other every 6 months as part of their checks in the simulators.

As regards to fitting mega parachutes on commercial airliners ? this idea has so far proved quite successful in smaller planes.

The device used is known as the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). When a plane has lost all its power, all the pilot do is to pull a red T-shaped CAPS handle in the cockpit. This then fires a solid-fuel rocket that deploys the parachute within a few seconds. The force of landing when using this parachute is comparable to a 10-foot drop. The parachute is deployed at speeds over 100 miles per hour and can safely deploy at altitudes as low as 300 feet.

So, in 2002, the CAPS was used and the pilot was gently dropped onto the ground in Texas. It was the first time in aviation history that such a parachute had been successfully used in an actual emergency. To date, they have been successfully used in four such emergencies, saving up to 8 lives.

The emergency parachutes aren*t flawless. Two families in the USA are suing the manufacturer of CAPS for $67.5 million over a fatal crash in April 2002. The families said the pilot who bought the plane six days earlier, tried to open the parachute but it failed.

Could a bigger parachute system be used on commercial airliners? Perhaps one day commercial aircraft, probably only up to regional jets weighing around 80,000 pounds may have similar safety systems. Yes, the biggest problem is the challenge of creating a parachute strong enough to rescue bigger and faster planes.

The most advanced parachute right now can only withstand up to around 4,000 pounds. The CAPS are now used in small planes weighing up to 2,000 pounds and cruise at 175 miles per hour. Regional jets weighing 80,000 ? 100,000 pounds and flying at more than 600 miles per hour have to overcome many practical problems before they can think of installing the CAPS.

A Boeing 777 or Airbus A380 weighing from 775,000 to 1,235,000 pounds would be a different story. Yes, aviation experts question whether parachutes will ever be attached to these planes as their speeds and humongous weight would seem to preclude a system such as the CAPS!

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Comments (6)

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Mr
Hi, rather than having one big chute, how about bringing the plane down in smaller sections (to reduce the overall weight on say one chute) with one/few parachute/s for the fuselage section. You could first reduce the speed of the plane with drag chutes.
Charran , 13 May, 2010
Parachutes
Good idea! It has been patended for a long time... See for example http://v3.espacenet.com/public...07887&KC=A

or more recently:
http://v3.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?DB=EPODOC&adjacent=true&locale=en_EP&FT=D&date=20040713&CC=US&NR=6761334B1&KC=B1

Here is the abstract:
US 6761334 (B1)

An aircraft has a fuselage with a cockpit and a tail, and jet or propeller propulsion. The improved aircraft has a fuselage with one or more modules located between the cockpit and the tail. The modules include passenger seating, means to seal the modules, and means to detach the modules from the fuselage. One or more parachutes connect to the modules for use during an in-flight emergency, and the modules have a means to store the parachutes. Also, modules allow an airline to load passengers by groups onto an aircraft and to change the configuration of aircraft readily.

An other example:

http://v3.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?DB=EPODOC&adjacent=true&locale=en_EP&FT=D&date=19990713&CC=US&NR=5921504A&KC=A

US 5921504 (A)

An aircraft passenger extraction system having a fuselage and a tail section removably attached to the fuselage. A plurality of interconnected passenger modules are removably disposed within the fuselage. Four I-beam rails are longitudinally mounted about the inside circumference of the fuselage, and the passenger modules have four sets of wheels that slide on the rails. The tail section has four pairs of separation flaps and four extraction flaps to assist in the separation of the tail section in the event of an airborne emergency. Upon separation of the tail section of the fuselage, the interconnected passenger modules are slidingly withdrawn from the fuselage. Once the passenger modules clear the fuselage, the interconnections of each passenger module are severed in sequence, and a series of parachutes are deployed to safely float each passenger compartment to earth.

Solutions are existing!
They are not implemented at the moment. Is that a matter of money? Who says that human life has no price?

Gerard , 13 Jun, 2010
Thanks for the answer
Great answer and comments... Still think that there could be a practical solution for this issue...
Lazami , 10 Nov, 2011
Both Methods
A combination of both methods is probably the best solution. First the drag parachutes are deployed to slow the Airbus or heavy aircraft down to a speed ideal for primary chute deployment. After the aircraft has been slowed adequately, the fuselage, having been constructed in sections, fissures into it's multiple sections, then deploys the primary chutes for each section respectively. Another design would be the construction of a passenger capsule or capsules which can disconnect from the main fuselage. The capsule or capsules could then be floated down safely via either one extremely large and durable primary parachute or using multiple smaller yet just as durable primary canopies.
RJ Gibb , 31 Oct, 2013
Both Methods
A combination of both methods is probably the best solution. First the drag parachutes are deployed to slow the Airbus or heavy aircraft down to a speed ideal for primary chute deployment. After the aircraft has been slowed adequately, the fuselage, having been constructed in sections, fissures into it's multiple sections, then deploys the primary chutes for each section respectively. Another design would be the construction of a passenger capsule or capsules which can disconnect from the main fuselage. The capsule or capsules could then be floated down safely via either one extremely large and durable primary parachute or using multiple smaller yet just as durable primary canopies.
RJ Gibb , 31 Oct, 2013
Wow
I was sitting at my desk and just thinking about this.... amazing. I too thought to have a "DEATH SWITCH" which would break the plane apart, wings, tail, fuselage into pieces/modules and have parachutes bring each section hopefully at a rate that can be withstood.
Rob , 29 Apr, 2014

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