1. Account suspended
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    25 Mar '15 21:54
    why does everything get pulverised when an aeroplane crashes? Is it a transference of energy when the aeroplane meets something more dense than itself, like a mountain or a tall building? Can anyone explain it in really clear and simple terms? Also why can aircraft flight not be made more safe as in providing parachutes for passengers or protective airbags that go off on impact?
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    25 Mar '15 22:16
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    why does everything get pulverised when an aeroplane crashes? Is it a transference of energy when the aeroplane meets something more dense than itself, like a mountain or a tall building? Can anyone explain it in really clear and simple terms? Also why can aircraft flight not be made more safe as in providing parachutes for passengers or protective airbags that go off on impact?
    Doesn't the same happen to cars? When a car with a speed of an aeroplane hits a cliff, it just smashes out of any recognition. The only difference is that the velocity is much less.

    Protective airbags in a aeroplane? Well, do you have airbags in the backseat of a car? In an aeroplane every seat is a backseat, with the possible exception of the pilots.
  3. Zugzwang
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    25 Mar '15 22:201 edit
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    why does everything get pulverised when an aeroplane crashes? Is it a transference of energy when the aeroplane meets something more dense than itself, like a mountain or a tall building? Can anyone explain it in really clear and simple terms? Also why can aircraft flight not be made more safe as in providing parachutes for passengers or protective airbags that go off on impact?
    "...providing parachutes for passengers..."
    --Robbie Carrobie

    How would one get out all the passengers (most of whom probably are
    untrained in using parachutes) out--in an orderly fashion--of the airliner,
    which might be spinning out of control, before it came close to crashing?
    Could you imagine panic-stricken passengers fighting with one another
    to reach the few exit doors? In addition, airliners may crash in adverse
    weather conditions that also would make parachuting quite hazardous.
  4. Joined
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    25 Mar '15 22:457 edits
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    "...providing parachutes for passengers..."
    --Robbie Carrobie

    How would one get out all the passengers (most of whom probably are
    untrained in using parachutes) out--in an orderly fashion--of the airliner,
    which might be spinning out of control, before it came close to crashing?
    Could you imagine panic-stricken passengers fighting with one another ...[text shortened]... iners may crash in adverse
    weather conditions that also would make parachuting quite hazardous.
    Arr but you have to compare the danger of giving the passengers parachutes while the plane is spinning out of control towards the ground with the danger of not giving the passengers parachutes while the plane is spinning out of control towards the ground -both options are extremely dangerous, yes, but the question is which of the two options is generally the greater danger for passengers and which is the least? Even if there is only a 10% chance of a passenger making and surviving the parachute jump, that would be better than, say, only a 5% chance of the passenger surviving the crash if he stayed seated.

    But I think the real big problem is how to rationally judge those two probabilities quickly (to compare them ) in an emergency situation when conditions for such rational judgement are very poor with obvious risk of panic leading to bad judgement. I can imagine the captain panicking, ordering all the passengers to jump with most of them getting killed as a result, only to find he then lands the plane perfectly safely. That would be tragic.
  5. Joined
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    25 Mar '15 23:16
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    why does everything get pulverised when an aeroplane crashes? Is it a transference of energy when the aeroplane meets something more dense than itself, like a mountain or a tall building? Can anyone explain it in really clear and simple terms? Also why can aircraft flight not be made more safe as in providing parachutes for passengers or protective airbags that go off on impact?
    It depends on how the crash occurs.

    Planes can crash and remain almost completely intact.

    When you have a plane impacting a mountain at full flight speed and descending
    at over 3000 feet per minute it's a different story.

    Without the details from the flight recorders, which have not yet been released,
    we can't know for certain how fast this plane was travelling.

    However with the info we do have we would expect that the plane was travelling
    between 400 and 550 mph on impact. [180 to 246m/s] [other aircraft can get over 600mph]

    An A320 is ~ 40m in length, and so this plane was going 3.5 to 6.15 times it's own length
    per second when it hit the ground.

    An A320 will have a mass somewhere between 40 and 70 tons with the likely weight
    at impact here being 60~65 tons.

    60,000kg at 180m/s has a kinetic energy of 972 Million Jules.
    And at 270m/s it has a kinetic energy of 1,815 million Jules.

    That's the equivalent of 230 to 435 kg TNT [500 to 960 lbs TNT]

    See this BBC picture of a 1000lb* WWII bomb being detonated for reference

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-32048098

    *That's 1000lb total weight including casing, explosives probably ~60 to 70% of that


    Rocks don't bend much, so pretty much all that energy goes into the airframe.

    Aircraft are made to be incredibly light, this plane has an airframe weight of only 39.5 tons.
    It achieves this by vary cleverly spreading the load across a large expanse of very thin
    sheets of materiel [commonly aluminium alloy/glass fibre composite, or carbon-fibre composite]
    where the very shape of the materiel gives it it strength.

    When you smack into rock at 400~550mph that materiel is bent out of shape.

    The thin sheets of materiel are torn apart at the seams. And again much of the interior is
    made from lightweight plastics and thin sheets of insulation materiel.
    When you sit in a plane and look at the apparently thick hull, what you are seeing is plastic cladding
    over layers of thermal and acoustic insulation materiel and then a few mm of actual structural
    airframe. Much of it is light enough to blow on the wind.

    Also, as the front of the plane smashes into the ground it will come to a near instantaneous stop,
    but the back of the plane will still be going at full speed, so the plane will compress causing a
    pressure build-up inside the plane that will blow it apart...

    And that's before you thrown in the possibility of the fuel exploding.


    Also, if you have any object disintegrating on impact, you will get bit's spread over a large area
    as the energy is not uniformly distributed through the debris.

    You can see this if you throw a composite object like a muffin at the ground.

    You will see most of the debris closely centred on the impact site, but other bits will have been
    scattered far and wide.


    Also why can aircraft flight not be made more safe as in providing parachutes for passengers
    or protective airbags that go off on impact?


    Aircraft are very safe, you are much more likely to die driving to the airport than you are to die on
    your flight. In fact the excess deaths from people driving instead of flying in the months after 9:11
    were considerably larger than the number of people actually killed in the attacks.
    The A320 has a fatal accident rate of ~ 0.14 per million take-offs** which is pretty damn safe.

    However, the air industry achieves numbers like that by constantly driving to make things safer.

    Air bags can help for certain seats, in certain kinds of accidents.

    They would have done nothing in this instance however.

    Having a 1 foot thick bag of air to slow you down from 4~6 hundred miles an hour to zero is not going to work.

    As for parachutes... it takes skill to safely parachute down to the ground, and most of the time on occasions
    where you might want to jump out of the plane, you can't or don't have time.

    One of the leading suspects for this crash is cabin decompression causing people to pass out... you can't
    bail out if you're unconscious.

    The recommendations for making flying safer in the wake of this crash are going to depend on what caused it.

    But if it was decompression then better systems for detecting decompression and possibly having the autopilot
    auto evade obstacles [like mountains] in the event of pilot incapacitation. Also, possible safety recommendations
    to avoid decompressions in the first place depending on what caused the decompression. As well as investigating
    why the pilots didn't put their oxygen masks on, or why they didn't work if they did...

    But it all depends on what actually caused the crash... Which we probably wont know for months.


    ** http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/25/a320-world-safest-planes-germanwings-crash-4u9525

    http://www.boeing.com/news/techissues/pdf/statsum.pdf

  6. Standard memberSoothfast
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    26 Mar '15 00:04
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    "...providing parachutes for passengers..."
    --Robbie Carrobie

    How would one get out all the passengers (most of whom probably are
    untrained in using parachutes) out--in an orderly fashion--of the airliner,
    which might be spinning out of control, before it came close to crashing?
    Could you imagine panic-stricken passengers fighting with one another ...[text shortened]... iners may crash in adverse
    weather conditions that also would make parachuting quite hazardous.
    I'm actually having a hard time imagining passengers readily jumping out of a plane that is in a tailspin, parachute gear or no. Many might prefer to "ride it out" in hopes of a Hollywood landing.
  7. Standard memberSoothfast
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    26 Mar '15 00:062 edits
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    why does everything get pulverised when an aeroplane crashes? Is it a transference of energy when the aeroplane meets something more dense than itself, like a mountain or a tall building? Can anyone explain it in really clear and simple terms? Also why can aircraft flight not be made more safe as in providing parachutes for passengers or protective airbags that go off on impact?
    Hey, how about a big parachute that opens up for the whole aircraft itself? Kind of like drag race parachutes. Almost like this...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drogue_parachute

    ...but the difference would be that the parachute would be deployed in the air when all hope of regaining control of the aircraft is lost, rather than to facilitate a "nice" landing.
  8. Zugzwang
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    26 Mar '15 00:08
    Originally posted by humy
    Arr but you have to compare the danger of giving the passengers parachutes while the plane is spinning out of control towards the ground with the danger of not giving the passengers parachutes while the plane is spinning out of control towards the ground -both options are extremely dangerous, yes, but the question is which of the two options is generally ...[text shortened]... killed as a result, only to find he then lands the plane perfectly safely. That would be tragic.
    It would be too late to start giving parachutes to the passengers when the
    airliner already had begun spinning out of control. Parachutes would have
    to be issued (along with life-jackets) when the passengers got on board.
    Packed parachutes are not small objects, and their size and weight would
    add to the costs of operating the airliner.

    If every passenger had a parachute and if it were made easier to open the
    exit doors during flight (which could help terrorists as well), then I think
    that a few, at most, lives might be saved. (I suspect that the overwhelming
    majority of passengers would have no opportunity to exit the airliner.)
    But would it be worth it?

    Let's suppose there's a cruise ship carrying 1000 people and there were
    only these two options. The ship could have only one lifeboat, capable of
    holding no more than ten people, or no lifeboats at all. Would it be better
    to have hundreds of desperate people fighting one another to be one of the
    very few aboard the lifeboat or to allow (dignified?) death to come to all?
  9. Zugzwang
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    26 Mar '15 00:08
    Originally posted by Soothfast
    Hey, how about a big parachute that opens up for the whole aircraft itself? Kind of like drag race parachutes.
    That already has been proposed, if not already designed, for small aircraft.
  10. Standard memberSoothfast
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    26 Mar '15 00:112 edits
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    That already has been proposed, if not already designed, for small aircraft.
    Yes, I just updated my post a minute ago to provide a link...

    EDIT: This would either be one big parachute, or more likely many small ones deployed in rapid succession so as to minimize stress on the body of the craft and spare occupants from extreme g-forces.
  11. Zugzwang
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    26 Mar '15 00:251 edit
    Originally posted by Soothfast
    I'm actually having a hard time imagining passengers readily jumping out of a plane that is in a tailspin,
    parachute gear or no. Many might prefer to "ride it out" in hopes of a Hollywood landing.
    What happened to D.B. Cooper (an anonymous parachutist)?

    www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._B._Cooper
  12. Joined
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    26 Mar '15 01:00
    Originally posted by Soothfast
    I'm actually having a hard time imagining passengers readily jumping out of a plane that is in a tailspin, parachute gear or no. Many might prefer to "ride it out" in hopes of a Hollywood landing.
    If the plain is in a tail spin, then anyone not actually passed out from g-forces is
    simply going to be clinging on for dear life.

    Nobody is going to be going anywhere... at least under their own steam, they might
    be flung places if not strapped in securely.
  13. Joined
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    26 Mar '15 01:01
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    That already has been proposed, if not already designed, for small aircraft.
    Long deployed, talked to people saved by this system.
  14. Joined
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    26 Mar '15 01:07
    Originally posted by Soothfast
    Hey, how about a big parachute that opens up for the whole aircraft itself? Kind of like drag race parachutes. Almost like this...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drogue_parachute

    ...but the difference would be that the parachute would be deployed in the air when all hope of regaining control of the aircraft is lost, rather than to facilitate a "nice" landing.
    Maybe something made out of graphene might be strong/light enough...

    But I doubt the extra reinforcing of the aircraft would be worthwhile.

    The size of the parachute[s] needed to support a 50~60 ton jet-liner
    for a survivable landing [one where you escape with minor bone fractures]
    is pretty large, and the odds of such a system actually working in real world
    conditions after some event that causes the said airliner to plunge uncontrollably
    out of the sky.... let's just say they are not good.
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    26 Mar '15 01:40
    Ahh, more data. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32035121

    Looks like impact speed was approx ~380 kts or ~440 mph.

    And from the sound of it the aircraft was descending at standard approach to runway speed.

    Suggesting [but by no means confirming] an autopilot set to approach/descent.
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