Re: Parachutes on passenger jets?

From:         petera@bcars630.bnr.ca
Organization: Bell-Northern Research, Ottawa, Canada 
Date:         08 Feb 95 01:22:45 
References:   1
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In article <airliners.1995.138@ohare.Chicago.COM>, jkonecn@bgsuvax.bgsu.edu (Joe Konecny) writes:
|>       This isn't a joke.  Don't take it the wrong way.  But I have been 
|> wondering... why can't there be some type of massive emergency parachute
|> on todays jets?  It seems that with some of the new high tech fibers that
|> are available that this would be possible.  Maybe something like those that
|> slowed the re-entry modules in space craft.  Even if at least you slow the
|> plane down during a crash the passengers would have a better chance.  I
|> might even risk flying then!  ;)

   Ok, I'll bite.

   One of the problems with trying to make something "safer" is that very
often we wind up making it more dangerous only in a different way. (There
was serious talk about suing Boeing for not making the 747 bomb resistant
after the Pan Am (or was it Air India) incident several years ago). 

   The bottom line is that ANYTHING added to a plane makes it heavier.
This increased weight makes it more dangerous to fly because it stalls
more easily and as a result has to land faster, take-off faster etc. 
Since most accidents are take-off or landing related this means more 
people would die as a result of the increased weight. If the airlines
tried to put less people and cargo on board the cost of flying would
increase dramatically which would result in less people flying. This
would force lower air fares which would be achieved by cutting down
on things such as maintenance ... its a vicious circle. You really have
to carefully weight both sides of the equation before adding "safty
features" to anything, especially planes. 

   For example: you add thrust reversers to a plane to allow it to
stop quickly and hence reduce the danger of running off the end of
a slipery runway. Unfortunately if a thrust reverser pops open in 
flight or fails to close after an overshoot a lot of people will and
have died. You turn an overrun at 70-80kts with some probability 
of fire and fatality into stall and spin with 100% probability of
total loss. 

   Peter