Tuesday, 11 December 2007 21:00
Hello Capt Lim,
I have a total fear of flying but still do when I have to. I always look at the wings and ask myself what keeps one of the wings from just tearing off. What is the construction design to make sure that this could never happen, and could it happen? I am pretty sure a wing tearing off is pretty much an uncontrollable situation but I think about that every time I get on a plane. It seems like a huge amount of stress on the wings, or is there less than I think?
Also, wind turbulence. I see these weather planes fly into hurricanes for readings. Is that trip an incredibly bumpy ride and could turbulence actually tip a plane over......and if a big jet ever gets inverted, can it handle the stress and be brought back under control?
You would be surprised to see how strong the wings of a commercial airliner are. If you had watched the documentary in the Discovery Channel about the Boeing 777 being the airliner of the 21st Century, you would have noticed how much stress the wings could take. In fact, on a test rig of a Boeing 777 wing, the tip was stressed as much as 24 feet from the level position before it gave way! Yes, it is possible for the wings to be torn off on ground due to collision or a crash, but the thought of a wing being torn off in flight in a modern jetliner is extremely unlikely. The airplane design engineers have to comply with very stringent FAA Regulations on wing construction. So there is no fear as to the wings tearing off in flight at any time in severe turbulence!
Weather planes that deliberately fly into turbulence for scientific purposes would certainly encounter very rough and bumpy flight but the airplanes are specially designed to do so. Properly handled, it is not possible for the airplane to tip over. In fact, on a Boeing 777, it is not possible in normal flight control mode for the airplane to bank more that 35 degrees. It would warn the pilot and prevent him from banking further automatically.
There was once a heavy commercial jet that inadvertently went into a spiral dive, where at some stage, it was almost inverted. However the Captain was able to recover the airplane from the unstable condition and landed safely. On ground inspection, it was found that many of the flight controls surfaces were overstressed and badly buckled.