Imagine being midway through a trans-Atlantic flight and the plane enters into a steep dive that the pilots cannot recover from. In this nightmarish scenario, every single person on the plane would give anything to somehow get back down safely to the ground.
Surviving such a grim scenario may seem like a fantasy-how would it be possible to get a couple of hundred people off that plane and onto the ground?
Ukrainian aviation engineer Vladimir Tatarenko believes he has an answer…
Tatarenko spent years developing an idea for an airliner built with a detached passenger cabin system, complete with parachutes that can be deployed in the event of an in-flight emergency. The engineer recently received a patent on his invention, which is basically a detached capsule within the passenger cabin of a plane that can break away within seconds in an emergency situation.
How Does the Detached Passenger Cabin System Work?
Let’s say an airliner experiences engine failure, a fire onboard, technical problems, severe weather conditions or other troubles that could lead to a crash; the capsule system would detach from the rear of the fuselage and parachutes would be deployed, allowing the detached passenger cabin to float toward the ground. Just before reaching the ground, inflatable bumpers would cushion the impact.
The detachment could happen at any time; over land or water, during take-off, mid-flight or landing. Tatarenko’s prototype also includes a storage space to hold luggage under the capsule so passengers wouldn’t lose their personal belongings.
Cost of Detached Passenger Cabin Could be a Problem
As with any new innovation, there are some detractors out there who view Tatarenko’s invention as impractical. Some have said that the financial cost of implementing the detached passenger cabin makes the invention kind of a non-starter.
According to the Ukrainian aviation engineer, the estimated cost for an emergency escape capsule suitable for commercial airliners would be around $1 million.
From an engineering perspective, some have said the concept would actually weaken the airframe with the joints and fittings connecting the fuselage and the capsule together.
Aircraft Parachutes Already in Use
The Cirrus Aircraft company manufactures several single-engine planes that are equipped with a parachute system, which allows the planes to slowly float to the ground in the event that it loses power or encounters a serious problem at some point during the flight.
The inclusion of this safety measure has saved a number of lives. Only a few months ago, a Cirrus SR-22T plane piloted by former Walmart CEO Bill Simon made an emergency landing in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Simon told air traffic controllers that the plane was having oil pressure issues after he and two other passengers departed from Bentonville Municipal Airport. The plan initially was to land at a nearby airport, but the oil pressure issue became so dire that Simon was forced to deploy the plane’s emergency parachute system and make a slow landing on a Fayetteville road.
Will Parachutes and Detached Passenger Cabins Ever be Used by Airliners?
We have all seen the statistics: Only one plane out of every 1.2 million flights crashes. You are far more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash.
While it is true that air travel is getting safer as engineers work to improve aviation technology, there is little that can be done to completely mitigate against the human factor that leads to many aviation accidents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statistics show that between 70 and 80 percent of civil and military aviation accidents are the result of human error. With this data, it would appear that efforts aimed at reducing the occurrence and/or consequences of human error have not been as effective as those aimed at reducing mechanical failures.
Such is the backdrop for Tatarenko’s invention. Sure, you can argue that the financials for implementing a detached passenger cabin make it appear not so reasonable. At this time, airlines have been reluctant to show any interest in the invention because it would likely force a reduction in the number of seats airlines could sell and increase fuel consumption.
For his part, Tatarenko doubts that the mass production of the detached passenger cabin will come anytime soon. Operational testing and standardizing the system will likely take years to complete, assuming the project gets the massive funding necessary to get started.
Nonetheless, there is hope that such an innovation could find its way. In a questionnaire sent out to air travelers, Tatarenko found that 95 percent of respondents would be willing to purchase a more expensive airline ticket in order to fly on a plane with the detached passenger cabin.
Strange or impractical as this system might seem, it is a good thing we have people out there like Mr. Tatarenko working to improve aviation safety. Even if this system never gets implemented, it could serve as inspiration for the next great advancement in aviation safety, which is something we should always be striving to improve.