back to article Why a detachable cabin probably won’t save your life in a plane crash

Falling out of the sky may well be most passengers' worst fear when they board a plane. With this mind, a Ukrainian inventor has proposed building airliners with detachable passenger cabins that could separate from the rest of the plane and parachute safely to the ground in the event of an emergency. This may sound like a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really?

    I can't believe you've given this crock of shite column inches... And there are many more flaws than just the ones you could be bothered to mention.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      " And there are many more flaws than just the ones you could be bothered to mention."

      Separate pressure vessels and the weight penalties associated with them being the first thing that springs to mind, not to mention that in an engine-out situation a plane is still landable and pyros tend to be unreliable. On top of that, in order to make the tube capable of taking the loads in the video without bending you'd have to make it substantially stronger and therefore much heavier still. Would it get off the ground?

      Even light aircraft whole-body parachute recovery systems come with penalties and haven't always saved lives

      1. Dinsdale247

        Re: Really?

        The extra weight to keep the cabin from disintegrating under force alone would make this totally impractical. What happens to the rest of the plane when the cabin is released?. The entire frame and wings would buckle and very likely end up tangled in with the parachutes. Likewise, the weight to keep the separate air-frame/cabin and wings strong would wind up being totally impractical. Plane structures work because the ENTIRE air frame supports the massive amounts of force that are applied to a plane during flight. The balancing act between weight and strength has been very carefully crafted over the years and this proposal pretends like that doesn't exist.

        This is clearly manager thinking. It waves it's hand at very complex technical details that are inconvenient.

    2. Smooth Newt

      Re: Really?

      I can't believe you've given this crock of shite column inches...

      I think you are being a little bit harsh. The article was written for people's entertainment, and I enjoyed reading it. It might be a bad idea, but it is a good article.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Really?

          The (very few) aircraft that have had cabin ejection systems, rather than ejection seats, were designed for operation at sustained supersonic speeds and had them for that supersonic ejection case. Nobody would (or does) bother with such a heavy, expensive and relatively low performance system otherwise.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: Really?

            There is a 1950ies film where the plot revolves around testing such a system, starring Humphrey Bogard(!) as the test pilot. I think it's called "Test Pilot".

            1. rongorongo

              Re: Really?

              The film is Chain Lightning.

            2. x 7

              Re: Really?

              "Humphrey Bogard(!)"

              is that a gay love child between Humphrey Bogart and Dirk Bogarde?

          2. Platelet

            Re: Really?

            "The (very few) aircraft that have had cabin ejection systems, rather than ejection seats, were designed for operation at sustained supersonic speeds and had them for that supersonic ejection case. Nobody would (or does) bother with such a heavy, expensive and relatively low performance system otherwise."

            Didn't Jean-Luc Picard perform emergency saucer separation at a warp speed of 9.5?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Really?

        > The article was written for people's entertainment, and I enjoyed reading it. It might be a bad idea, but it is a good article.

        Agreed. More to the point, this is something that passengers, and even non-travellers, often ask about. It is a thorough, accurate, and informative article for that sort of public.

        FWIW, I used to test Prof. Morvan and his colleagues' ideas of how to make things fly (they work!) in my capacity as FTAATSOAA¹, and he has done a magnificent job of explaining the important points of why things are the way they are in this regard, and why.

        ¹ First To Arrive At The Scene Of An Accident. Otherwise known as a pilot.

      3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      When I saw the picture I thought that it was a system that allowed the pilots to jettison the cabin to reduce the weight of the aircraft in case of emergency.

      Sorry.

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: Really?

        Landing a cabin of 400+ people from x0,000 feet by unsteered parachute sounds at least as terrifying as having it connected to a set of wings and a control system and a bunch of people controlling who want to stay alive every bit as much as the cabin, and are in a position to help do so.

        Landing over a city could be devastating to the cabin, buildings in the way, roads, power lines, etc. Landing in the countryside in no way guarantees a gentle happy landing near rescue services, and being stuck in a waterfall or snowy forest or in the Sinai desert just kicks the 'oh shit' football down the road a little. And, of course, planting into the sea is every bit as unsurvivable as it ever was - how many survivors have been rescued from crashes at sea, thousands of miles from assistance, without clean water, without liferafts, etc. A lifejacket will help you marginally in a swimming pool, but it's not going to do a bunch in the face of the Pacific.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Really?

          "without liferafts, etc."

          You do know those escape slides double as life rafts in the event of a water landing. The main reason you don't hear of sea rescues after aircraft crashes are because, AFAWK, none were survivable. When an aircraft loses control at high altitude, it either regains control before long and then diverts or just continues on down at such speed you might as well be crashing into a wall at that point in terms of physical ability to survive.

          1. Roq D. Kasba

            'Without life rafts'

            Yes, I know about the slides, however they provide no shelter, protection from the elements, not even very good for holding onto on a choppy sea. Maybe OK for a couple of daylight hours assuming you distribute the survivors optimally, but it'll quickly become apparent that you have a highly contested lilo, not a quality, protected, thermally isolated life raft. I was a little pessimistic in my use of the term :)

            The characteristics of a good slide (compact, slippery, without pyrotechnics and food storage, without excess weight or layers or ropes to get caught up in are pretty unlike the characteristics of a good life raft ;-)

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: 'Without life rafts'

              Perhaps, but usually when such a situation occurs, search craft start tracing the plane's flight path to look for something nice, bright, and large like the escape chute life raft. Once it's located, they can coordinate with other craft to drop supplies as needed and/or contact nearby shipping. The only reason crash searches have taken so long lately is because, like I said, the crashes were not of a survivable nature and the end result was a traceless crash: no life rafts or the like to find.

              I may be wrong, but don't most life rafts also carry EPIRB that start broadcasting when they're deployed, allowing for a quicker search (and again, weren't deployed with all the sea crashes to date)?

            2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

              Re: 'Without life rafts'

              Depending on the weather, if your lifebelt doesn't have a spray hood, you'll die floating, from the water you'll inhale. That is, if you don't freeze to death first. The rate of heat loss of a human body swimming in 25°C water is more or less the same as that of a body in 5°C air. Good luck finding water that warm anywhere elsethan the tropics. I'll take the raft, thank you very much.

              1. Queasy Rider

                Re: 'Without life rafts'

                Add to that shark attacks. There are numerous stories from the world wars about navy men in life rafts helplessly watching in despair as their fellow sailors in the water were eliminated by encircling swarms of sharks. I remember one particularly harrowing account relating how lifeboat survivors observed hundreds of men floating in their life jackets at dusk, only to be all gone by dawn, and the only evidence of their departure was the sound of their screams in the darkness as they were picked off one by one.

                1. Vic

                  Re: 'Without life rafts'

                  the only evidence of their departure was the sound of their screams in the darkness as they were picked off one by one.

                  You're unlikely to hear much screaming from a shark attack; if they're actively hunting you, the attack will be from depth. The (2-ton) shark will hit you at about 30mph, taking a dirty great bite out of you, then leave you to bleed out. It's unlikely that you'll be able to scream...

                  Vic.

                  1. Queasy Rider

                    Re: 'Without life rafts'

                    Maybe they were small sharks, or the screams were from those in the water seeing their fellows being attacked one by one all around them. I wasn't there.

                    1. Queasy Rider

                      Re: 'Without life rafts'

                      PS. In a major sea battle multiple ships are usually sunk, leaving sometimes thousands of sailors in the water. I'm sure enough of them were screaming to keep it up most of the night.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Really?

            "...or just continues on down at such speed you might as well be crashing into a wall at that point in terms of physical ability to survive."

            You mean Airport'77 wasn't a documentary?

            1. Roq D. Kasba

              Re: Really?

              A slide may be a useful buoyancy aid near the shore, but with the sea being twice the size of the land, it has some pretty remote areas. A liner will reach maybe 25kt, so you'd best be within 100 miles of one to be much use at all. Food parcel drops are possibly out of range of helicopters and anyway, hope you have a load of paddles to hand or you'll stay floating at a distance.

              Just when you thought things on a slide raft were pretty miserable, though, with under 3 miles visibility of you can even stand up in perfect weather, and no means of signaling apart from a Christmas cracker whistle and a small, transient reading torch, you actually have to load balance accurately immediately. An overloaded raft is useless, a 44 person raft will fail at around 55 people, so where you have 400 people you have to avoid failover cascades. A challenge by still, sunny day with calm people, probably not going to get much easier if the weather is in any way cheeky.

              Personally, with the inner engineer actually looking at the resources and facts, I'd say the slide rafts might double the survival rate over the 1-4 hours term, but your overall survival chances probably go from approaching nil to approaching approaching nil. The safety equipment can help in certain limited circumstances, but I reckon a lot is for show and reassurance, in many practical cases.

              1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                Re: Really?

                If you do survive the crash and lets assume that all the life rafts deploy and everyone stays calm and rational.. there's the critters in the ocean that consider humans a tasty treat. Yes, add weather, water temperature, injuries from the landing, injuries from the exit (and they will never be as orderly as at an airport...

                Water landings with an intact aircraft are survivable. It's a rare crash though that has survivors. Even rarer that everyone survives. An airliner coming down on land has about the same or less chances of survival.

                This is a flight of fancy and is for the "peace of mind" of the passengers. It's the flight attendants telling you about your live vest in the seat cushion on a flight over land... "well.. might crash in a river or pond..." and how many people would actually grab the cushion instead of their cellphone/laptop/purse, etc.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Really?

                  I recall there WAS a recent flight that DID land in a river...intact with all surviving?

          3. Hans 1 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Really?

            >The main reason you don't hear of sea rescues after aircraft crashes are because, AFAWK, none were survivable.

            Please don't count me in with the dummies (use AFAIK iso AFAWK), there have been numerous successful water landings:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_landing

            Worst thing is, there's one mentioned in the bloody article!

            1. x 7

              Re: Really?

              It would be fair to say there have been no distant-water survivals. As far as I'm aware the only survivors from water landings have been in coastal waters. I'd be glad to be proved wrong however.

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                Re: Really?

                As far as I'm aware the only survivors from water landings have been in coastal waters.

                Pan Am flight PA6

                1. x 7

                  Re: Really?

                  "Pan Am flight PA6"

                  thanks for that link, just proves the point there's always an exception to something.

                  Combination of an aircraft built like a tank, what must have been remarkable flying, decent weather and a ship within range. The aces don't normally all come up like that

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Really?

                  "Pan Am flight PA6"

                  That's a rather exceptional example, the plane took nearly 5 hours to plan its ditch and found a coastguard vessel to follow for a while. Hence the many pictures of the actual ditching.

                  The reason you don't hear about water landings far from a coast line these days is that modern commercial airliners generally fly within gliding range of land. For the ones that can't glide after an incident, there's generally been a catastrophic failure that means they probably won't be doing a controlled ditching.

                  1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                    FAIL

                    Re: Really?

                    The reason you don't hear about water landings far from a coast line these days is that modern commercial airliners generally fly within gliding range of land.

                    If you count all flights worldwide, including ones that don't fly over open water at all or just small distances, your 'generally' may start to turn out 'not totally bollocks'. But even, e.g. Stavanger-Aberdeen is already beyond that: 500km, with the gliding distance from FL300 being maybe 150km, in perfect conditions.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Really?

            > The main reason you don't hear of sea rescues after aircraft crashes are because, AFAWK, none were survivable

            There is nothing intrinsically fatal about a ditching on the high seas. The aircraft does not know or care how far it is from land.

            If you do not hear much about sea rescues it is probably because accidents are very rare in the first place.

            > When an aircraft loses control at high altitude, it either regains control before long and then diverts or just continues on down at such speed you might as well be crashing into a wall at that point in terms of physical ability to survive.

            That is utter nonsense.

            1. Vic

              Re: Really?

              There is nothing intrinsically fatal about a ditching on the high seas

              Well, wave action means you're trying to land on an uneven surface - and the peaks keep moving about. Although sea landings are part of the PPL theory course, it's unlikely to go well...

              Vic.

        2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Really?

          > ... just kicks the 'oh shit' football down the road a little.

          I fling an upvote in your general direction.

        3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Really?

          "Landing a cabin of 400+ people from x0,000 feet by unsteered parachute sounds at least as terrifying as having it connected to a set of wings and a control system and a bunch of people controlling who want to stay alive every bit as much as the cabin, and are in a position to help do so."

          Exactly. Fortunately, really twisted stuff like Germanwings Flight 9525 (4U9525/GWI18G) is extremely rare.

        4. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Really?

          Landing a cabin of 400+ people from x0,000 feet by unsteered parachute sounds at least as terrifying as having it connected to a set of wings and a control system and a bunch of people controlling who want to stay alive every bit as much as the cabin, and are in a position to help do so.

          Plus the rather annoying fact that a plane at cruising altitude will have a forward speed of several hundred miles an hour, maybe a bit less if the engines are on fire. Given the utter lack of aerodynamic control surfaces once the cabin has detached from the bits that made it into an aeroplane, and with that blunt end forward, I doubt it will keep the 'this side up' attitude that passengers might prefer.

          And then it'll need to scrub speed to prevent the parachutes and/or their attachment points from failing. How much altitude has it lost at that point, how much vertical speed has it gained, and can you still deploy the parachutes and the retro-rockets before the cabin and its contents goes crunch against the countryside?

          1. Vic

            Re: Really?

            And then it'll need to scrub speed to prevent the parachutes and/or their attachment points from failing

            That one is a solved problem - you initially deploy a small drogue patachute which slows the payload and puts tension on the line ready to pull out the main chute.

            You then have a "barostat" - combination timer and pressure sensor - preventing the main chute from deploying. If the payload is too high or moving too fast, the pressure on the barostat is too low, and so the main chute stays packed away. Once the pressure reaches the appropriate value, the cable is released, and the drogue now pulls out the main chute.

            This is how the Martin Baker ejection seat works.

            Vic.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Really?

              That one is a solved problem - you initially deploy a small drogue patachute which slows the payload and puts tension on the line ready to pull out the main chute.

              I know that part is, the question was rather regarding how much height will the cabin have lost until the point where the speed has reduced to about where you can deploy the main chutes with the passengers being subjected to Gs that may be acceptable to the average non-jet-pilot person.

        5. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: Really?

          >Landing over a city could be devastating to the cabin, buildings in the way, roads, power lines, etc.

          Sheesh. I think everyone can see clearly from the vids that it's a magic flying cabin that steers itself under Parachute Power[tm] to the nearest baby-soft whispering green field, where it touches down with barely a ripple in anyone's coffee, and some mildly distracted clapping and cheering from the passengers.

          It's a perfectly brilliant idea. Not stupid and pointless at all.

    4. BenR

      Re: Really?

      Also, in that second picture, the 'cabin' appears to have parachuted to a rest in the Windows XP default backdrop...

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Really?

        Also, in that second picture, the 'cabin' appears to have parachuted to a rest in the Windows XP default backdrop...

        Nah, it's Teletubby-land

      2. Rob Daglish

        Re: Really?

        Brings a whole new horror to surviving a plane crash, waking up to find you've landed in Teletubby land...

  2. Dick Head

    Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

    How many large jets do you see like that these days?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

      How many large jets do you see like that these days?

      The inventor's Ukrainian, and you have to remember it's still 1961 over there......

      1. M7S

        Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

        "The inventor's Ukrainian, and you have to remember it's still 1961 over there......"

        so he's clearly not seen the 1968/9 film Doppelganger (aka Journey to the far side of the Sun) where exactly this feature is used for quicker unloading of an airliner, perhaps its only practical use (although IIRC EasyJet can now turn one around in about 25 minutes, including their version of cleaning)

        1. x 7

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          " the 1968/9 film Doppelganger (aka Journey to the far side of the Sun) "

          yet again Gerry Anderson got there first.......he really should have patented the ideas he came up with

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Gerry Anderson

            Also used a similar idea for his heavy load lifter aircraft.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          although IIRC EasyJet can now turn one around in about 25 minutes, including their version of cleaning

          They should be ordering planes that have a cargo door; front or rear doesn't really matter. Put that end against what's essentially a large suction hose, connect some high pressure air to inlets the other end, and presto! Plane emptied and cleaned in the blink of an eye. Loading the new batch of cattle being done using some kind of plunger.

          I've actually wondered whether it would be feasible to have a plane where you can basically slide the entire passenger deck out of the actual plane into a gate area so you can have passengers leaving and boarding over the entire length of the plane instead of through a limited number of doors, then having to get past other people who have seats closer to the door you came in through.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

            "I've actually wondered whether it would be feasible to have a plane where you can basically slide the entire passenger deck out of the actual plane into a gate area so you can have passengers leaving and boarding over the entire length of the plane instead of through a limited number of doors, then having to get past other people who have seats closer to the door you came in through."

            Airlines are looking into the concept. However, the logistics behind such a change would be so radical compared to today that any consideration into the detachable passenger cabin is considered long-term at best. Plus there's the matter of maintaining the craft's structural integrity with such an idea.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          > although IIRC EasyJet can now turn one around in about 25 minutes, including their version of cleaning

          So they finally caught up with Ryanair?

          RYR has been doing 25 minute turn arounds at least since 2007, possibly earlier. Apparently you get used to it eventually, but must be murder at the beginning (it is a very short time).

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. /dev/null

        Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

        Plus, Ukraine is the home of the very large high-winged aircraft.

        Antonov An-124 Ruslan

    2. x 7

      Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

      "Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

      How many large jets do you see like that these days?"

      none that cross large distances of water, for the very reason that in the event of a ditching the doors are under water

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

        "Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

        How many large jets do you see like that these days?"

        none that cross large distances of water, for the very reason that in the event of a ditching the doors are under water

        Hmm. I wonder which route all the Lockheed Galaxies I used to see at FFM airport took? Muste have been shipped over the big pond by the Navy.

        1. Graham Dawson

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          Perhaps if they had said "large passenger jets". Military cargo planes favour high wings for structural reasons - a high-wing craft can have a larger internal bay - and to mitigate the possibility of their engines ingesting a large portion of the landing strip at makeshift airfields.

        2. x 7

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          "Hmm. I wonder which route all the Lockheed Galaxies I used to see at FFM airport took?"

          Not many people to get out of a cargo plane, so the risk is less. And military families tend not to sue when their loved ones get killed, unlike civilian passengers......

          As has been said elsewhere, there are valid technical reasons for using high wing designs on military aircraft: the reduced risk of FOD outweighs the increased risk of sea loss

      2. LesC
        Thumb Up

        Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

        Antonov 225? That managed to lug the Shuttleski about and now carries hundreds of tons of cargo in one go. Ukranian too but a 747 can't land on landing strips or gravel runways.. Some footage on Younyancat:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYF6fYteIq8

        1. x 7

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          " a 747 can't land on (rough) landing strips or gravel runways"

          actually it shouldn't be too difficult to convert the 747 design to do that.....

          the original plans were based on a competing concept for the C-5 Galaxy and would have had rough field capability

          whether existing aircraft could be converted is unlikely, but new builds probably could be without too much hassle. It just needs the demand - which at present isn't there

        2. Vic

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          a 747 can't land on landing strips or gravel runways.

          It can. But only the once...

          Vic.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

        none that cross large distances of water, for the very reason that in the event of a ditching the doors are under water

        One word: Ekranoplan

        1. x 7

          Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

          "One word: Ekranoplan"

          bad example. The Ekranoplans all had boat hulls with wingtip stabilisers and were stable in the water

          Also the engines (on most) were not wing mounted, but instead set high on the hull above the wing level to avoid spray

    3. chris 17 Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Looks as though it requires a high-wing aircraft configuration.

      Mainly military heavy lift aircraft like the c-17 Globemasrer, c5 Galaxy, B52 BUFF, c130 Hercules, v22 osprey, ant snob 124 & 225. There all pretty large.

  3. notowenwilson

    I, for one, would like to see ejection seats in passenger cars.

    Also, can we make it a thing that anyone self-described as an 'inventor' who comes up with a wholesale systemic change to a comoditised very-high-technology system should be ignored as a matter of course?

    1. Mike 125

      Please no....

      >>Also, can we make it a thing that anyone self-described as an 'inventor' who comes up with a >>wholesale systemic change to a comoditised very-high-technology system should be ignored as a >>matter of course?

      Definitely not. That would remove a very rich target for humorous ridicule at a stroke.

      I too fancy car ejector seats, ideally steerable with collision avoidance, in case of low flying / crashing aircraft.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I, for one, would like to see ejection seats in passenger cars.

      So do I. No need to make an exit hole in the roof, as a matter of fact, some reinforcement might be a good idea. And non-stick coating.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Terrible idea!

        think of all that weight you'd be carrying round.

        better to plug it into the GPS and only have it operate when you are under a bridge.

        added advantage... less splashes on the driver

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: Terrible idea!

          "I, for one, would like to see ejection seats in passenger cars."

          ---

          So do I. No need to make an exit hole in the roof, as a matter of fact, some reinforcement might be a good idea. And non-stick coating.

          ---

          think of all that weight you'd be carrying round.

          better to plug it into the GPS and only have it operate when you are under a bridge.

          added advantage... less splashes on the driver

          You see, that's why I come here: solid engineering discussions, solving real life problems in a practical fashion :)

    3. MJI Silver badge

      "I, for one, would like to see ejection seats in passenger cars."

      Just do not go off when in a tunnel

  4. Smooth Newt
    Trollface

    detachable cabin system

    An old idea, tried on the XB-70 Valkyrie, and implemented on the 1960s production F-111 bomber. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gyIhOGyGA8h

    But then military aircraft are often hit by missiles at altitude, unlike airliners - although I guess that is sadly rather less true in the Ukraine than elsewhere.

    BTW I'm an inventor too - I've got this great idea for vertical circular disk rotating around a horizontal load bearing shaft which allows heavy objects to be moved easily.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: detachable cabin system

      It's also worth remembering that in the one XB-70 crash, the co-pilot was killed despite the capsule, and the pilot had his arm crushed by the closing capsule. So the one time it was used, it didn't do so well.

    2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: detachable cabin system

      Its also worth remembering that a cabin ejection is probably only survivable if it happens at altitude, and that that the majority of airliner disasters that weren't take-off or landing accidents have involved collisions, anti-aircraft missiles, cabin decompression or on-board bombs. In all these cases most of the pax would be dead before they hit the ground regardless of whether the cabin was ejected or not.

    3. Def Silver badge

      Re: detachable cabin system

      I've got this great idea for vertical circular disk rotating around a horizontal load bearing shaft which allows heavy objects to be moved easily.

      Unless you're planning on moving those heavy objects round in circles, you might want to try having a disc at each end of that shaft.

      You're welcome. ;)

      1. notowenwilson

        Re: detachable cabin system

        You're welcome. ;)

        Best check back and make sure you get your name on the Patent.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: detachable cabin system

        Not needed if you use a yoke-like design on the back end. Then you can balance the load when you lift the back end. Takes a little skill, but it's been quite possible to haul heavy loads with just one wheel.

    4. notowenwilson

      Re: detachable cabin system

      Interestingly enough the F111 ejection system is super sensitive to weight distribution. The CoG of the capsule has to be within fairly narrow bounds or it will flip out and everyone will die. As they upgraded the F111's avionics from heavy analogue systems to lighter digital ones they had to add a corresponding amount of ballast to keep the CoG right. So the capsules on later model F111's are full of ballast which is a little odd for a high performance jet. Also, there is no way of measuring the CoG of the capsule (since removing it is done with explosive cutters) so ensuring the CoG is right is purely a matter of guestimation and trying to keep track of everything that has been added and removed since it was manufactured. Needless to say crews were fairly hesitant to use it unless it was a really really dire emergency, even moreso than with Mr Martin or Mr Baker.

  5. DJV Silver badge

    Reminds me of something Spike Milligan once said:

    Flying never killed anyone, it's the crashing that kills you.

    (if I remember correctly, he said it when being interviewed on that early evening Wogan chat show)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of something Spike Milligan once said:

      I guess this was before that one time when an aircraft suddenly depressurized in mid-flight, knocking everyone out and probably causing all aboard to die of hypoxia before the plane finally ran out of fuel and crashed into a mountain hours later.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Reminds me of something Spike Milligan once said:

        Which reminds me of something Benny Hill said:

        Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Spooky

      Damn, I mention "Wogan" one day and by the next, he's dead :(

      I hope I am not some sort of jinx.

      (Cameron, Cameron, IDS, Hunt, Cameron - just testing - Cameron)

  6. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Alien

    Hmmmm...

    No point in dashing to the saucer section then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmmm...

      Doesn't matter, they'll use it 2-3 times the first year, maybe one time the next year, and then everyone will kind of forget about the gimmick from that point on.

  7. Rol Silver badge

    Ok here's the plan.

    We get the folk who are mad on airships and lock them in a room with the current world champions in Origami.

    They don't get to leave until they have devised a kevlar airship that can be folded into the outer shell structure of a large passenger plane.

    Then we get the materials folk to design a spray-on skin that will set like carbon-fibre, yet instantly shatter into dust when an electrical current at exactly 726.23Mhz is passed through it.

    Add some airbag type, super fast inflation system and a big red button in the cockpit.

    You'll still head earthwards at an alarming rate, and you're not exactly going to bounce when you get there, but the huge reduction in terminal velocity coupled with the cushioning effect of the airship on impact might be just enough to save the drinks trolley.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ok here's the plan.

      the huge reduction in terminal velocity coupled with the cushioning effect of the airship on impact might be just enough to save the drinks trolley

      I like the way the complexity of your solution offsets nicely against the right priorities :)

  8. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Pointless Idea

    Besides the weight issue, there is problem with the size of the parachutes required. Also, since most accidents occur near ground, often below the minimum altitude for parachute to deploy, this would just add pointless weight to the plane. This seems to be a solution in search of a real problem.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Pointless Idea

      There's also the matter of the infamous CFIT (controlled flight into terrain), where the pilots think they're flying through the air but then suddenly go CRUNCH. CFITs typically have zero warning and are already at ground level while going above takeoff speed, meaning physics dictates everyone's pretty much screwed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pointless Idea

        "CFIT"

        Or a certain brand of aircraft that have sometimes insisted on landing in rather odd places.

        A-CFIT = "Autopilot-Controlled Flight Into Terrain"

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    You see, Yuri...

    Why is the cabin landing in a Windows XP screen background?

    1. Captain DaFt

      OK, I'll be brave and go there.

      "Why is the cabin landing in a Windows XP screen background?"

      If you're gonna crash, what better place to do it than somewhere with plenty of experience with crashes?

      >ducks and runs<

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: You see, Yuri...

      Because it's "Wishful thinking?"

      I saw the landing pic and wondered what year it is? I'm just on my first cuppa...

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: You see, Yuri...

      Because the Windows 10 version would require 837Mb of updates from the MS Mothership before it could function on Day 1, 945Mb on Day 2 etc etc

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personal parachute

    If I worried about such things, I think a personal emergency parachute, such as those worn by light aircraft pilots, would be the way to go.

    Supposing you somehow managed to get free of the doomed aircraft on the way down, of course.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Personal parachute

      Actually, parachutes are NOT typically used in GA[*] aircraft, mainly because egress is too difficult. Most small GA aircraft only have one small door with the tailplane directly behind the middle of it. So, even if there was space to wear parachutes in comfort, its quite likely the crash would be found with one passenger hung on the tailplane and everybody else still in a scrum by the door.

      I've never been offered a parachute in any GA aircraft, not even in a Tiger Moth, from which egress is easy (undo your straps and roll inverted). However, I have a feeling that aerobatic pilots may wear 'chutes, not that this affects passengers, since most aerobatic planes are single seat.

      Oddly, gliders are the only class of civil aircraft in which all occupants routinely wear parachutes; in the UK and Europe anyway. In the UK this was uncommon before the mid/late '90s, but that changed after a training glider was destroyed by a lightning strike which both occupants survived because they were wearing 'chutes. This caused a sudden rethink... Besides, gliders are relatively easy to get out of (jettison the canopy, climb out and over the side).

      [*] GA stands for General Aviation. This term covers all engine-powered, non-commercially operated aeroplanes and helicopters.

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: Personal parachute

        Most LA/ULAs that I've seen with parachutes, its on the plane itself, not the pilot.

      2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Personal parachute

        Para- and hang-glider pilots tend to wear emergency parachutes; sometimes two. A kilo of cloth sits under my arse and will drop my speed to 4m/s.

        Though to be fair, although I test it regularly in a controlled environment, the one accident I did have I didn't have time to use it, being only a hundred or so feet above the ground.

      3. /dev/null

        Re: Personal parachute

        "I've never been offered a parachute in any GA aircraft, not even in a Tiger Moth"

        In an RAF Chipmunk, parachutes were mandatory, not least because the parachute strapped to your backside formed the upholstery of the cockpit seat.

        1. Jediben
          Joke

          Re: Personal parachute

          Wait, let me get this straight: The large 'bag' of silk which inverted and opened directly above your head in deployment is the SAME 'bag' of silk which is mere fibres away from the rapidly opening and closing valve in your botty as BROWN TROUSERS TIME commences?

          Talk about an incentive not to crash!

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Personal parachute

            Well, it is self-cleaning when it finally opens... talk about a real life shit storm...

      4. Vic

        Re: Personal parachute

        I've never been offered a parachute in any GA aircraft

        We have them available at the airfield. I've yet to see anyone take one[1]...

        Vic.

        [1] I might for my next aero flight. I'm planning on doing some inverted spinning :-)

      5. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Personal parachute

        > Oddly, gliders are the only class of civil aircraft in which all occupants routinely wear parachutes

        I think there's a significant factor that the seats are designed for occupants wearing them - so don't fit people not wearing them. Mind you, being a lanky corpulent git, most "normal" glider cockpits don't fit me anyway - unfortunately, the IS28 we have in the club, while having a roomy cockpit that I actually fit in, is (like all of them worldwide) grounded until someone comes up with a way around the paperwork issues.

  11. Doctor_Wibble
    Devil

    Acme Personal Phone Boxes

    Instead of passengers having seats, have them in their own telephone box, that way the pilot can eject them all and they can step out safely just before they hit the ground.

    We have all seen the documentaries proving this works.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Acme Personal Phone Boxes

      The one flaw with this approach is the plummeting anvil that invariably strike them as they start to walk away from the impact site.

      1. Doctor_Wibble

        Re: Acme Personal Phone Boxes

        Damn it, there's always one that wants to make it more expensive!

        So the passengers are all given rubber helmets, we add it to the specification under 'mitigating desthpiccable acts'.

        1. Darryl

          Re: Acme Personal Phone Boxes

          No, it's easier to save a bunch of weight by 'accidentally' not loading the plane with the requisite 300+ anvils.

  12. SteveK

    I distinctly remember reading a story in the newspaper (possibly even the Telegraph) in early 1989 proposing exactly the same concept where the passenger compartment was ejected and parachuted to safety.

    I remember it because I was one essay short for my English coursework so was banished to the school library with some newspapers and told to find an article to write an analysis of, and that's the article I chose. Probably still got the essay somewhere.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Telegraph

      So not a newspaper then

  13. x 7

    lets think about this clearly.....

    you have an aircraft at risk of crashing, and you want to improve the surviveability of the crash by removing the aircrafts wings?

    Thats real brain-fart logic.

    Only way thats going to work is if you have a second set of booster engines which can carry the cabin to altitude clear of the rest of the aircraft, and then have a secondary collapsing wing which can handle the stresses of the emergency acceleration - and deploy in fractions of a second. No chance given modern technology

    Only thing which might be of value could be the ability to jettison a burning engine, leaving the rest of the aircraft intact - but I expect in reality even that would be of minimal use

    1. SimonL

      "Only thing which might be of value could be the ability to jettison a burning engine, leaving the rest of the aircraft intact - but I expect in reality even that would be of minimal use"

      Especially when said burning engine lands on a school or shopping mall killing more people than if the plane had just carried on in to the field the pilot was aiming for - even though he knew he would certainly die.

      By the same logic, ejecting the cabin anywhere near population and it hitting a populated building (and probably being destroyed by the impact) would result in say 1000 deaths instead of the 300 who were on the plane heading for the field mentioned above...... Hmm...

      1. lawndart

        What we really need is a method of ejecting the entire aircraft.

        In the case of fire, we should go completely Pratchett and devise a method of ejecting the fire.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Only Cave Johnson is able to perform this feat of superengineeering!

        2. Darryl

          "What we really need is a method of ejecting the entire aircraft."

          I've said it before and I'll say it again. Invent a hyperspace button. Problem solved. Where do I pick up my royalty cheque?

          1. Vic

            Invent a hyperspace button. Problem solved

            *Immediate* problem solved - but you just know you're going to rematerialise right in front of a big rock...

            Vic.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Or worse...INSIDE one of those skyscrapers. Man, no matter how I try to picture it, it's just ugly.

    2. Vic

      Only thing which might be of value could be the ability to jettison a burning engine, leaving the rest of the aircraft intact

      You sort of have that - the engines are fixed to the airframe with low melting-point pins. In the event of a (serious) fire, the pins melt and the engine falls off.

      I expect in reality even that would be of minimal use

      ISTR an aircraft dropping an engine over Schiphol about 20 years ago. It didn't end well...

      Vic.

  14. Blipvert

    "I never joke about my work 007!"

    After watching Spectre, what about a personalized ejector seat system?

    1. Jediben

      Re: "I never joke about my work 007!"

      After watching Spectre, cyanide would be preferable.

  15. jason 7 Silver badge

    If weight is such an issue...

    ...then why don't the airlines start charging extra per pound/kilo in weight for the obese?

    Anyone weighing over say 200lbs has to pay extra per every 5lbs they are over that limit. Some of these people carry more round their waist than my checked luggage for free!

    Also a safety issue.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: If weight is such an issue...

      Thanks for discriminating against me (205lb) because I'm tall and strong, not fat.

      1. jason 7 Silver badge

        Re: If weight is such an issue...

        Or is it just 'big boned'?

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: If weight is such an issue...

          "Or is it just 'big boned'?"

          Well, of course I am. I'm tall and broad shouldered, and therefore my skeleton is significantly above average in terms of volume. I'm surprised you didn't realize that tall people have bigger bones than short people.

        2. Brenda McViking

          Re: If weight is such an issue...

          Samoa air services does indeed charge by weight, and have done for years now, and they say it's been a success.

          It makes perfect sense, as fuel burn (the majority of the cost to the airline) directly correlates with weight (via lift, produced by thrust, produced by fuel burn) The lengths some of us in the aerospace industry go to to shave a kilo off a part for a plane... followed by passengers undoing all that hard work by loading up on cheap vodka in duty free in heavy glass bottles is just ridiculous.

          However they indirectly pay our wages so we aren't too vocal about it.

          The airline pays more to transport a heavier person, and the general demand to go towards razor thin margins and cheap flights means that at some point, the price you pay will be close to the cost of the airline to provide it to you, and it's fundamentally cheaper to transport less weight. It might feel like discrimination but it's actually physics. Currently though, the skinnies are subsidising the fatties, so BRING MOAR PIES!

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: If weight is such an issue...

            "Samoa air services does indeed charge by weight, and have done for years now, and they say it's been a success."

            Indeed they do. Any move to do so in the UK, and presumably the rest of the EU, would get a sex discrimination suit dropped on your desk the same morning.

            1. x 7

              Re: If weight is such an issue...

              "Indeed they do. Any move to do so in the UK, and presumably the rest of the EU, would get a sex discrimination suit dropped on your desk the same morning."

              All those fat girls called Sharon & Tracey..........

              do they still appear in Viz?

            2. jason 7 Silver badge

              Re: If weight is such an issue...

              Well then just apply a total weight allowance for passenger AND luggage. When you check in you stand on the plate with your bags. Over the weight allowance you stump up. If you come well under then you can get a discount.

              It's going to happen one day.

              Airlines will also then get fairly accurate info on how much weight they are carrying per flight. I would have thought that would be useful info to have.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: If weight is such an issue...

                "It's going to happen one day."

                But as said, how do they do that without running into age- or sex-discrimination lawsuits since some people naturally tend to be lighter than others due to their physical characteristics (thus the sex discrimination suit--women on average tend to be lighter than men). The plaintiffs would just counter, "Find another way to reduce the load; remove seats if you gotta..."

                1. Swarthy Silver badge
                  Trollface

                  Re: If weight is such an issue...

                  Simple: Person plus luggage. Women may weigh less, on average; but we all know that men pack less in their luggage. In terms of gender, it evens out.

                  Now, this plan does discriminate against techies. We who have to carry around the penalty weight of avoiding exercise being chained to a desk all day and tech gear which can be quite hefty...

                  1. x 7

                    Re: If weight is such an issue...

                    "Women may weigh less"

                    I don't believe thats a valid assessment of modern western lifestyles

                    Women CAN weigh less. Most of them nowadays don't. We live in tellytubbyland

  16. phil dude
    Coat

    Thunderbird 2?

    However, there is merit in the idea that the *cabin* (which is after all an airline fashioned thing), could be separate from the plane.

    Imagine not having to file in to a small metal tube, and instead be seated in a land-based boarding area (a bit like Heathrow) - still shaped like a tube, but without the massive inconvenience of the wait.

    Of course, this will never fly....(I'll get my coat)

    P.

    1. R Callan
      Boffin

      Re: Thunderbird 2?

      More importantly, how did Airbus get a patent for something they patently did not invent, merely copied from fiction?

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Thunderbird 2?

        > how did X get a patent for something they patently did not invent, merely copied from fiction?

        You must be new to the way that the USPTO operates.

        Step 1 - fiction

        2001 A Space Odyssey

        Step 2 - Copy and patent the idea

        portable display device USD670286

        Step 3 - profit

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Thunderbird 2?

      Imagine not having to file in to a small metal tube, and instead be seated in a land-based boarding area (a bit like Heathrow) - still shaped like a tube, but without the massive inconvenience of the wait.

      Then, to save time, instead of having to wait until the flying bits are attached, the tube can have its own wheels so it can roll to its destination all by itself. You can choose to use "rubber" wheels and stuff called "tarmac", which is abundantly available, allowing you to be quite flexible in choosing a destination, or the wheels can be made of steel requiring them to roll on "tracks", also made of steel. The latter option offers less flexibility but higher speed. The tubes can even be within bigger, underground tubes, again on rubber or steel wheels, so that no-one above ground notices you're moving

  17. Chris G Silver badge

    I'm just a leetle curious

    What has this Ukrainian inventor, invented before this remarkable piece of,,,, stuff?

    The self scraping burnt toaster?

  18. Peter Christy

    Nothing new.....

    Back in the late 60s, the father of a school-mate of mine was a senior manager at Bristow Helicopters. At the time they were investigating buying one of those big, Russian, "Flying Cranes". These were designed so that different pods could be attached to the skeletal fuselage for different purposes - a bit like Thunderbirds!

    Following a demonstration ride in the thing, the management bods were questioning the pilot. One asked about passenger loading. "VIPs travel in the cabin behind the cockpit, and the peasants go in the pod!", came the unexpected answer!

    "And what happens in the event of an engine failure?", asked another.

    "We drop the pod!"

    --

    Pete

    1. x 7

      Re: Nothing new.....

      " big, Russian, "Flying Cranes"."

      They were actually built in the USA by Sikorsky, who was Russian by origin but very much part of the USA industrial complex

      To be precise the S-64 SkyCrane, which in military service became the CH-54 Tarhe

      The design has now been sold off and someone else still has them in limited production

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-64_Skycrane

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Nothing new.....

        The Mil Mi-10 (1960) was a Soviet flying crane. But the idea was explored by others. Eg that massive tippet powered thing by Hughes the Hughes XH- (1952) or a possible variant of Westland Westminster (1956).

  19. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Teleport the occupants to safety ...

    ... Just as practical.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flGCik0MMKo

    ... No, maybe not such a good idea.

  20. arctic_haze Silver badge

    I wonder why the detachable section does not include the pilot cabin. After all the thing would then at least have aerodynamics better than a flying barn.

    Is this to penalize the pilots for their mistake? Or to allow them a safety landing after they drop the peasants over Niagara.

    Speaking of dropping passengers. The crazy German second pilot who killed everybody on-board flying into the Alps, could have even more fun dropping the passenger cabin with the captain still in the loo on top of the Matterhorn and flying into the sunset.

    1. Holleritho Silver badge

      Parachuting into the Arctic

      I regularly fly to Canada, and about 80% of the flight is over Greenland, the Arctic islands of Canada, Nunavut and the especially cold bits of the country. To float down in a passenger pod into -40 degree weather with nothing but my bag of peanuts and the elderly couple beside me to share body heat with, I think I am still dead.

  21. BitDr

    It's been done....

    And with modern materials and propulsion systems it could be SO much better.

    Check out this newsreel footage of the Fairchild XC-120.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjgxiXxu3nY

  22. Diodelogic

    I'll tell you one thing...

    Having been a passenger on an aircraft that came 'way too close to crashing, and having talked with a couple of people who survived an air crash (Eastern Air Lines Flight 401), I can tell you that the last thing passengers consider as the end approaches is "Wow, this doesn't happen very often!"

    The basic objection to any kind of bulk rescue is cost. The article makes this point many times. It would be nice, if, rather than throwing out the entire concept, someone with the know-how came up with some way of doing it that would be acceptable.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: I'll tell you one thing...

      No, the main argument is that it wouldn't bloody work.

      Almost all crashes and deaths on aircraft are at takeoff or landing, controlled flight into terrain, pilots forgetting how to fly the plane or due to cabin failure.

      This wouldn't help in any of those, and would even make cabin failure more likely.

      In fact I can't think of an air accident in the last decade where this could have saved the passengers - and a few where it'd make it worse.

      - Perhaps help with MH370 as we still don't know what happened there. But probably not as the pilots appear to have been incapacitated.

      1. Diodelogic

        Re: I'll tell you one thing...

        Richard, perhaps I wasn't clear in my post: I was not saying that there ought to be some way of making the detachable cabin idea work. What I was trying to say is that there might be some other way of saving the passengers that would work. Especially for controlled flight into terrain--whatever happened to things like avoidance radar, and so forth, to force the aircraft to avoid flying into a mountain or the ground? It doesn't/won't work? Too expensive? I don't know. The basic construction of an airliner doesn't seem to be much different now than it was 50 years ago, but I'm not an aeronautical engineer and I may be very mistaken.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: I'll tell you one thing...

          I think the problem is that CFIT sensors can be fooled, throw false alarms, or be overridden. As long as there is meat in the cockpit, there's always the risk of a CFIT. Also, many CFITs occur during the already-dangerous landing phase, where planes are supposed to be close to the ground, rendering a CFIT sensor useless.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'll tell you one thing...

            There is only one way: every passenger in his individual podule, hermetically sealed. In case of problem, they are ejected like bomblets or space marine attack droppods. Expect high g forces and random events on landing.

            1. EyePeaSea

              Re: I'll tell you one thing...

              >> There is only one way: every passenger in his individual podule, hermetically sealed.

              It's been done - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhoH21tVJnQ

              But apparently it only works in space :-(

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: I'll tell you one thing...

            PS: Planes have changed *radically* in the last fifty years.

            Just because they look similar doesn't mean they are. The overall airframe shape is basically set by physics.

            Everything inside and the materials used are very different.

          3. Vic

            Re: I'll tell you one thing...

            I think the problem is that CFIT sensors can be fooled, throw false alarms, or be overridden

            Such alarms are regularly ignored.

            When I was doing my retractable undercarriage training, the aircraft I was flying had an alarm that sounded below a certain height if the wheels were still up and the engine revs dropped below a certain level.

            During the week, we fly a lower circuit than at weekends[1]. So as soon as I reduced power, the alarm would sound. Every single circuit. And so the alarm gets ignored.

            Vic.

            [1] Thruxton is situated within the Boscombe Down / Middle Wallop CMATZ, so on weekdays, when Boscombe is active, we have to keep low to make sure we don't interfere with anything they might be flying.

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: I'll tell you one thing...

          CFIT now basically requires the pilot to deliberately do so. Commercial aircraft have very good navigation, mapping and radar that warn with plenty of time now.

          Commercial air travel is rapidly approaching the point where it'd be safer to remove the pilots completely - and we're already at the point where the dog* would help.

          *The pilot feeds the dog, and the dog bites the pilot if they try to touch the controls.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not worried about aircraft problems, I'll just run into the toilets with everyones pillows should there be one.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      There has been a case of a woman who survived an airliner crash because she was in the loo at the time. Something to do with the loos position in the aircraft, and the deformable structures under the loo.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        I don't think it was the loo. Rather it was one of the flight attendants in the backwards-facing attendant's seat all the way in the back of the plane (which broke up in mid-flight) and landed upside-down, meaning she didn't get the full brunt of the impact. The top crumpled, taking most of the impact while she (strapped in) didn't fall the rest of the way.

  24. TeeCee Gold badge
    Alert

    Such a bloody awful idea.....

    ....that you're actually forced to wonder if the deaths resulting from "ejectable cabin" fuckups would actually be fewer than those prevented by having one.

  25. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    And now.....

    .....the sensible version.

    Eject the wings.

    That's the engines and fuel tanks[1] gone and the rest of it, including the crew parachuting down safely. Simpler to implement too as the wing roots are major assembly joints anyway and merely replacing the existing bolts with explosive ones sorts the "ejecting" bit. This just leaves the parachute system as a new thing to work out.

    Yes, this is a really fucking stupid idea, but I reckon it's not quite as stupid as the original one on offer.

    [1] Before anyone says "belly tank", look at the original idea.......!

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Re: And now.....

      Yeah its not so much the crash that scares me as the high octane fuel exploding around me 2 seconds later.

      1. x 7

        Re: And now.....

        "high octane fuel exploding "

        jet fuels are kerosenes, not high octane fuel

        Like diesel, you can throw a fag end into it and it wont burn. Takes a fair bit of heat to make it ignite

        1. jason 7 Silver badge

          Re: And now.....

          "jet fuels are kerosenes, not high octane fuel"

          I think the point is that they both burn like a bitch if you happen to be inside the fireball.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: And now.....

          Unfortunately, the wings happen to carry the very means to ignite it: the engines.

    2. Known Hero

      Re: And now.....

      Ive been itching to mention this since the start of the article, Im sure some format of solid rocket booster's could be used at low altitude to buy time.

      For worrying about wings landing on peons in the city wouldn't they do that with or without a body attached? wouldn't it be worse with the body attached?

      Could also add drag chutes to the wings with whistles :S

  26. bryces666

    Air Bags?

    Why not give every seat front and side and top air bags like a car instead - those crashes that are then survivable become a lot more survivable. Shit, I should go write that up and patent it.

  27. The Other Carl

    Easier

    It seems this is equivalent to having some big a** parachutes and ejecting the wings. Cheaper to implement but just as dumb.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Easier

      I really don't fancy flying in a plane with ejectable wings.

      1. Darryl

        Re: Easier

        "No, Steve! Not that button!" <POP> "Oh, so that's not the de-icers then? Whoops, my bad."

        1. Steve Aubrey

          Re: Easier

          Darryl,

          I take offense at the insinuation that I blah blah blah.

          Besides which, I wiped my fingerprint off the button.

          Sincerely,

          Steve

  28. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    This system design predates Challenger by some decades, and its deployment and use didn't end well for anyone involved. As I recall, all the passengers did survive the modular cabin deployment after an unspecified catastrophic airframe failure, but then they devolved alarmingly quickly into a bunch of primitives, partaking of bestial tribal rituals and canibalism.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      That was just because the in-flight entertainment system was down and they had run out of ritalin.

  29. Francis Vaughan

    Fair Go

    Who doesn't remember sketching such inventions in their exercise books during a really dull afternoon at school? Sure, once you reach puberty idle thoughts turn to more base topics. But as a seven year old such inventions were part of life. I mean, there was this fabulous documentary on TV all about such ideas, let me think, yes, it was called Thunderbirds.

  30. David Kelly 2

    George Jetson

    This "solution" is silly. We saw the correct solution on "The Jetsons", a true history future documentary which aired 50 years ago. And because the Jetsons documentary was sent back in time from the future we know it must accurately represent our future.

    Is clear we must all have personal jet belts and personal flying saucers like those George uses to deliver his kids to school and wife to shopping during the opening credits of each episode.

    Am anxiously awaiting a car which will go 20,000 MPH and fold up into a briefcase.

  31. druck Silver badge
    Flame

    Arrrh its a Stuka!

    Not only would this not work in anything other than a tiny number of accident scenarios, no marks what-so-ever for using the Stuka diving bomber sound effect at the end - modern jet planes don't make that noise, or other prop aircraft for that matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Arrrh its a Stuka!

      That's because the Stuka had a special siren meant to generate "the shits" in the enemy.

      They could have mounted bull's horns on it, too...

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Arrrh its a Stuka!

        Stukas - the target practice aircraft for the RAF. Good practice for the Spitfire and Hurricane pilots.

  32. Androgynous Cowherd

    This idea will never take off.

  33. nil0

    Far Side

    Reminds me of the Far Side 'wings fall off' panel:

    http://quoderat.megginson.com/2014/12/18/technology-design-in-two-comics/

  34. Stretch

    whatever

    i came up with this years ago. "inventors"

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No

    My worst nightmare is screaming children.

  36. Kilfire
    Flame

    Actually, this makes perfect sense

    -if your plan is to eject coach class in an emergency during take-off or landing. The remaining aircraft will have a vastly improved power-to-weight ratio, enough to save first class every time.

  37. 404 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Two items...

    1. A homicidal pilot who has a Top Gun flashback moment and hits the pass eject button.

    And

    2. I don't suppose running down to Petco and grabbing a bunch of parakeets to huck into a jet engine for bird ingestion tests would fly.... Could use pigeons in NYC if you had a net, but they would run into consistency issues. Is there a medical supply company with scientifically identical pigeons for testing?

  38. Shonko Kid
    Facepalm

    "Airbus patented an 'Aircraft Pod Concept' in late 2015"

    Umm, I think Gerry Anderson may have prior art on this one...

    1. BoldMan

      Re: "Airbus patented an 'Aircraft Pod Concept' in late 2015"

      Did he patent it? No? Then so what?

  39. Oengus

    Another "Thunderbirds" reference

    The Thunderbirds went down a different route. They ejected the Fuel pod and detonated it high in the air where it could cause no damage.

    I even remember watching this episode...

    http://thunderbirds.wikia.com/wiki/Alias_Mr._Hackenbacker

  40. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Airbus have the solution, but not the balls. In most disasters involving airbus, if, instead of having alarms go off saying "proximity terrain" or "stall", the alarms would say:

    "It would be greatly appreciated if the pilots would enable auto-pilot and leave their seats, I'll fix this mess for you."

  41. Seajay#

    Wings

    The cabin should detach in the event of an emergency. Great plan. It will then need some sort of device to slow its fall to the ground.

    Parachutes would be tricky either they are set to open very fast in which case they will rip off and or blend the contents of the cabin at cruising speeds, or they open more slowly in which case they won't have time to save us from a (more likely) accident at low altitudes.

    What if we used wings instead? They work over a variety of speeds, especially with deployable high-lift devices, and have the added advantage that they can steer the descending cabin away from pointy death. So there is an emergency, the cabin detatches new wings pop out, along with a some sort of station where someone could sit to control the descent.

    That's a very complex system though, there's a lot that could go wrong with all those rarely used mechanisms. Lets just tow a spare plane behind each passanger jet with a rope ladder connecting them.

  42. mediabeing

    WHAT is bleedin' ERROR 235???

    WHY can't I watch this video????!!

    Phooey!!!

  43. Wolfclaw

    Drop the use of emergency chutes, and use the idea of a detachable cabin and think more in line with Thunderbird 3, for the loading of passengers. No more expensive time on the ground for aircraft, just drop off, load up and away. Passengers would get cheaper tickets and airlines will save money on fuel, having to wait for cabin to be cleaned, restocked etc etc.

  44. Zork-1
    Coat

    I better idea

    I think it will be more cost effective to jettison the passengers one by one instead of the entire cabin.

    The statistics will look better if only a handful of parachutes didn't open in a total of hundreds.

    Mine is the one with the "Triple" parachute.

    P.S. won't a sudden lost of weigh affect the way the now passenger-less aircraft fly? Like nose heavy and dives straight to the ground, killing the pilots? If so why would the pilots release this suicidal "package"?

  45. alan buxey

    aircraft pod

    the idea of the cabin part being an installable/changeable part is something i had many years ago (at least a decade ago) ...whilst waiting again and again at airport boarding areas and finding it the most inefficient part of the process - even when treating aircraft more like buses (ryanair BMI baby easyjet etc).

    load passengers into pod.... move out to location, slot into fuselage (shortly after the arriving passengers have been de-docked in similar fashion). I'd expect this to only be for the short-haul rapid turnaround commuter style flights.... the long-hauil stuff - you want more comfort/opulence and 15/20 minutes extra boarding time isnt much on a 17 hour flight.

    but as the article says...for emergencies? not really.

    alan

    1. Seajay#

      Re: aircraft pod

      I'm not sure it would actually be quicker.

      You need to refuel the aircraft, the pilots need to do pre-flight checks, much of that can be concurrent with the passengers getting on so a lot of that 15 minutes isn't really wasted. Swapping the passenger pods won't be an instantaneous event anyway and could even be slower if you're waiting for one of the limited number of pod handling trucks to come to your aircraft. Then you need someone to check that the pod is most definitely locked on to the aircraft and that there isn't an iced up bit of the mechanism somewhere, that takes time and potentially could go quite horribly wrong.

      On top of it all, you've added extra weight and complexity to the aircraft which worsens your fuel economy and increases the amount of time your aircraft spends in servicing. It's just not a good idea.

  46. Tom 13

    "Not only would such a design be prohibitively expensive, it would also be unlikely to save any lives in all but a very few airline disasters."

    But if it saved even one Life, it would be worth it!

    Sorry, I couldn't help myself. I hear that line of crock every time some do-gooder wants to spend exorbitant amounts of money on something.

    Nice analysis.

  47. MarkSitkowski

    New angle on old Bad Idea

    There was a time when people thought that giving each passenger a parachute was the answer. Having read this article, it seems that it was marginally less loony.

  48. Dick Pountain

    Wheelie bin

    Why not put wheels on it and call it the Airport Bus? Seriously though, the chances of it detaching by mistake must surely approach the same as chance of an incident where it would help.

  49. Devas

    What if plane does detach and everything goes well but how does it explain if it lands on a building?

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: how does it explain if it lands on a building?

      Well that sounds to me like a tall stor(e)y.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      As the saying goes, you're simply screwed, as the alternative scenario is the plane crashing into a building, as in all likelihood you're over a big city and there's going to be developed areas all around you, much like El Al Flight 1862 which crashed in a heavily-populated part of Amsterdam.

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