An aviation engineer has proposed a new design approach to aviation safety that could save the lives of thousands of airline passengers in plane crashes. The concept involves redesigning airplanes with a detachable cabin that ejects during flight emergency situations to touch down on land or water safely.
According to aviation engineer Tatarenko Vladimir Nikolaevich, who unveiled the new design concept after three years of development, his work was inspired by the conviction that it is possible to make flying safer by evolving airplane designs that offer optimal solutions in emergency situations.
Nikolaevich proposes redesigning planes with detachable cabins that can eject during emergency and drop passengers safely by parachutes.
“Surviving in a plane crash is possible. [But] while aircraft engineers all over the world are trying to make planes safer, they can do nothing about the human factor.”
The video below shows Nikolaevich’s prototype for the design and demonstrates how it is expected to work in emergency situations.
The detachable cabin is equipped with parachutes that open automatically once the cabin detaches from the aircraft. The video demonstrates how the cabin could eject at different stages of flight — take off, mid-flight, and landing — and drop passengers safely on land or on water.
The detachable cabin for the prototype also includes storage space for passengers’ luggage beneath the cabin. This is to ensure that airline passengers do not lose valuable personal belongings.
In addition to parachutes attached to the roof, the detachable cabin also has huge rubber tubes at the bottom which inflate to cushion the impact at landing. The tubes also help to keep the cabin afloat on water.
“The existing technology of using of Kevlar and carbon composites for fuselage, wings, flaps, spoilers, ailerons, tail will be used during the design. It allows to partly compensate the weight of parachute system,” Tatarenko explained.
Reactions to the innovative design have been mixed, the Independent reports. While some viewers of the online video were impressed, some were skeptical.
Some critics pointed out that the design compromises the strength of the airframe by introducing joints between the cabin and the rest of the body of the plane. Thus, instead of having a whole fuselage that reinforces the strength of the entire airframe, we have a structure that tends to be weaker and more vulnerable to physical stress.
“This concept weakens the airframe because now you have joints… where once you had a whole fuselage to reinforce the airframe.”
Others argued that the design is based on oversimplifying assumptions about the hazards of landing a detachable cabin safely with parachutes during a plane crash. The cabin could crash into a mountain-side or into buildings, critics noted.
One critic argued that the extreme rarity of crashes raises questions about the cost-effectiveness of such extensive redesigning of aircrafts for safety.
“Of the millions of flights a year, less than 500 people die worldwide a year from plane crashes… seems not terribly cost effective,” the critic commented.
But it is unlikely that anyone whose life is eventually saved by the design would consider it less than “terribly cost effective.”
Official statistics show that more than 2,000 people have died in plane crashes since 2012. This means that redesigning airplanes for safety could save the lives of thousands of people.
Responding to questions about the cost-effectiveness of the design, Tatarenko said that a survey found that 95 percent of passengers would gladly buy a more expensive ticket so they can fly in a plane with a reliable safety system.
An earlier version of the design concept by Tatarentko was based on an escape capsule that is released through a rear hatch during an emergency. The capsule is slowed down after ejection using two retrorocket engines. The parachutes are then deployed to land the cabin safety on land or water.
This is not the first time that a detachable cabin concept has been proposed. Airbus filed a patent for a detachable cabin design in February, 2013 (see video below). But the design was not developed to address the problem of aviation safety. It was meant to help streamline the passenger boarding process.
The design allows passengers to board a detached cabin, which is then later attached to the plane before takeoff.
[Image via YouTube/Screengrab]