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The recent downing of Russian Metrojet plane in Egypt has once again brought to the forelight a major issue facing modern airliners: planes are fragile and incredibly easy to bring down. A simple, small bomb – hidden inside a soft drink can in the case of Metrojet – can destroy a whole plane, ending the lives of all passengers and crew.
An international team of scientists has now made a significant headway into making flights far, far safer. They have figured out how to bombproof the luggage hold of a commercial plane, keeping it safe in the event of an explosion.
Fly-Bag, as their solution is called, is a flexible, bombproof material designed to line the inside of commercial airliner’s luggage hold. It’s constructed from multiple layers of high-strength, heat-resistant materials. For example, Aramid, one of the composite materials, is used in ballistic body armour.
It’s the flexibility of the Fly-Bag that allows it to contain the power of the explosion – by stretching to accommodate the shock wave – while protecting the plane’s machinery and the people inside from shrapnel and blast fragments.
Watch how it works:
The Fly-Bag was developed in a cooperative effort by a coalition of European partners from the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands.
The protective “bag” was first tested at the blast laboratory at the University of Sheffield. Once the prototypes were proven effective, testing moved on to real-world conditions, with controlled explosions in the holds of a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 321. To everyone’s relief, the Fly-Bag proved successful in the tests and contained the explosions.
“Key to the concept is that the lining is flexible and this adds to its resilience when containing the explosive force and any fragments produced,” says Dr Andy Tyas, of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield. “This helps to ensure that the Fly-Bag acts as a membrane rather than as a rigid-walled container which might shatter on impact.”