How (Not) to Make Airplanes Safer

Here’s a video on Facebook that’s gotten more than 10 million views since yesterday. (HT: Rob R.) It mocks up a concept that’s supposed to enhance aircraft safety.

There’s a breakaway cabin that can be detached from the rest of the plane when the aircraft is going down. Presumably the pilot would emergency-eject the passengers (I guess the captain goes down with the ship), who ostensibly float to safety while the rest of the aircraft goes down in a ball of mess.

Except…

  • I’m having a hard time imagining very many accidents over the past decade that would actually have saved lives this way.

  • Air travel is already incredibly safe.

  • There’s always tradeoffs. If you impose expensive redesigns on aircraft, and raise the cost of flying, do you push people to travel by other less safe methods of transport?

In other words, are we solving for a real or theoretical problem? And could we even wind up making people less safe in the process?

But yeah, it’s still kind of cool. For a Facebook video.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary – you should have been a lawyer with always presenting the other side arguments no matter what the issue. You missed your calling.

  2. Nice cartoon. Of course we already have those planes. They’re piloted by Wile E Coyote. Clearly designing, building and certifying aircraft not practical and cost effective, but just to entertain the idea, if they’re going to do that then why not just attach two giant parachutes to the actual fuselage? At least it will be a fraction of the cost than an ejection mechanism.

  3. @ Mike- not lawyerly at all- lawyers try to marshal arguments that support their client’s positions.

    Taking the other side’s argument? Clearly a debater, and it shows…

  4. @ FreeTravelGuys- of course, someone has already calculated that out- “To safely bring down a big commercial airliner such as a Boeing 747 with about 500 people on board, there would have to be 21 parachutes each the size of a football field”, from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131223-should-planes-have-parachutes.

    I don’t know how much space 21 parachutes, each the size of a football field would take up, but doubt there would be much room for passengers or cargo afterwards!

  5. Well, I see one positive impact: you could have the passengers and cargo board the capsule and just attach the capsule to the rest of the plane when ready. It could reduce turnover time for the planes.
    Not the most economical way to do that, though…..

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