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Thread: Innovation: Commercial flights, crashes, salt water, and satellites

  1. #1 Innovation: Commercial flights, crashes, salt water, and satellites 
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    The recent air mystery Malaysia 370 has me wondering what kind of innovation people can think of to ADD to a plane's structure (to it's insulation perhaps or embedded into other metals) that would ONLY activate if a plane crashes especially into water.

    What I'm thinking of is a "something X" that would:

    1. be small enough to be embedded, say on the outer edges of the high density insulation between the outer/inner hull / shell of the plane, around the whole circumference and length of the plane, and in the nose cone and tail, e.g. be embedded throughout the air craft, not just in one section

    2. NOT adversely react to electro-magnetic forces during flight, or high pressure or low temperature changes, and resistant to fire

    3. However, reacts in some useful way when directly exposed to NA (salt water) -- such as only being set off when directly exposed to ocean water after an aircraft has broken apart and is floating or has sunk under water.

    4. That it cannot be accidentally touched, removed, or set off by human touch, such as during the loading/unloading of cargo.

    5. That this something "X" would somehow emit "something"-- a ping or signature or signal --- that satellites could "read" after an airliner crashes.

    6. Environmentally 'safe' - e.g. won't harm ocean life. Of course...I can't help thinking how plane wreckage already affects ocean life, so it seems creating a "something X" would also allow us to clean up debris faster, because we'd find the wreckage faster.


    I'm thinking about those tiny "buttons" (discs) that are attached to kids' shoes that emit a pulse of light when a child takes a step. Would there be ANY way to create something like those tiny discs that would fulfill the 5 criteria listed above? Is there some chemical that would react specifically to salt water to produce even a short burst of pings or signals that satellites could pick up?

    I'm thinking that if every trans-ocean plane's insulation was embedded with such discs and a plane went down, a satellite image might show a clusters and patterns from these embedded discs.

    OR, would a dye embedded into the insulation work??

    However, I only understand rudimentary science; I know x things react to other x things. But certainly there must be some way to create a "something" that will make it easier to locate crash sites? Many countries are searching for this plane, at a total cost of billions of US dollars. Seems we should spend money instead to incorporate some new technology to commercial crafts so crash sites can be more easily found.


    Oh and, they really need to update the "black boxes" battery life, too!


    Thanks for reading. Any ideas?


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  3. #2  
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    Maybe just a floating beacon system similar to an EPIRB.

    Distress radiobeacon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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  4. #3  
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    for a crash in water some sort of automatic beacon system that is ejected. one that triggers by inertia like a air bag or by water contact or by water pressure. maybe all 3

    why not make the transponder on all the time and not able to be turned off by pilots and crew.

    spend more on black box to make it last longer and thru more violence.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    for a crash in water some sort of automatic beacon system that is ejected. one that triggers by inertia like a air bag or by water contact or by water pressure. maybe all 3

    why not make the transponder on all the time and not able to be turned off by pilots and crew.

    spend more on black box to make it last longer and thru more violence.
    I see no real reason not to do something like that. If it was possible to dedicate a signal to updating engine data there seems no reason not to use GPS data to track the flight of commercial aircraft.


    Distress radiobeacon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Active aircraft tracking
    There are several active aircraft tracking systems available on the market that use the "bread-crumb approach" to SAR. Rather than relying on an emergency locator transmitter to transmit upon impact, the next generation of emergency locating devices are active tracking devices that send position reports at regular time intervals. If the unit stops transmitting upon impact, the historical transmissions will give the last known location of the aircraft, its speed, direction and altitude. Tracking as an alternative or complement to current technology has recently been encouraged by the Coroner in New Zealand.[38]


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  6. #5  
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    yes dan hunter, the solutions seem easy from where we stand. but i think it is that age-old problem of greed. it costs. costs have to be paid and no one is willing to give. so the cost isn't paid and the safety features do not get installed. if we had known exactly where and when this plane crashed we may have been able to rescue some. without there is no chance.
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  7. #6  
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    Greed is one explanation.
    Lack of foresight is another.
    Let us not forget that these aircraft already have communication systems on them along with blackbox beacons so it would be easy for engineers to have simply assumed the problem was covered.
    Sometimes it takes real disasters to show us we are not as prepared as we should be, and just which parts of our preparations were inadequate.
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    i have not seen a good reason why the transponder is allowed to be turned off by pilots ? is there a good reason for this ?
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    o wait. i have thought of a reason. if there is a short in that circuit turning it off could prevent fire.

    but there could be a backup transponder so when the first is turnd off by pilots the second will auto turn on.
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  10. #9  
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    If there was a fire they might have tripped the breakers as part of the firefighting procedure.
    There are a lot of questions we will not have real answers to until the plane is found.
    If it is found.
    (It took 2 years to find Air France Flight 447 on the floor of the Atlantic ocean even though the surface debris field was found quickly.)
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    for a crash in water some sort of automatic beacon system that is ejected. one that triggers by inertia like a air bag or by water contact or by water pressure. maybe all 3
    A few problems with that.

    1) Anything that can be 'ejected' by the aircraft can be a safety hazard to the people on the ground and even to the aircraft itself. (Engine intakes will likely not respond well to ingestion of beacons, for example.)
    2) If it is stored within the pressure vessel, then its ejection will depressurize the aircraft. (Or you'll need a launch tube that is effectively an airlock, which will tend to be heavy and expensive.)
    3) If it is stored outside the pressure vessel, then it will likely add drag to the aircraft, increasing operating costs. And if the float deploys prematurely, you'd have the potential for control problems.
    4) It will not really accomplish anything other than satisfying people's curiosity - and that's not really a sufficient reason to spend the money (IMO.)

    why not make the transponder on all the time and not able to be turned off by pilots and crew.
    Because it would surely be bad if it caught on fire due to an electrical short - and the pilots were helpless to cut the power to it. It would also be bad if it had a problem and the pilots could not power cycle it to reset it.

    spend more on black box to make it last longer and thru more violence.
    There have been very few cases of modern black boxes being unrecoverable due to impact - I've heard of maybe 2 in the last 10 years. But sure, you could spend more on it to make it more impregnable.

    The important question - how much more are you willing to spend on airline tickets to make all the above happen?
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    The important question - how much more are you willing to spend on airline tickets to make all the above happen?
    yes billvon, i have already stated in a post that cost of features will be important. i am also sure that none of this requires new inventions it can all be done with current inventions and technologys
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Maybe just a floating beacon system similar to an EPIRB.

    Distress radiobeacon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Yep that's the most frustration...we've had EPIRBs and GPS for decades, but people cut corners and now we're spending hundreds of millions to find a plane we could tracked for much much less.
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  14. #13  
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    and now we're spending hundreds of millions to find a plane we could tracked for much much less.
    Can't find it just now, but a news report here on the weekend pointed out that Malaysia hasn't installed the upgraded appication of the standard tracking technology on their planes which was why it was hard to work out some of the details of the plane initially changing course.

    The cost of doing this? $10. Not $10 per ticket, $10 per flight.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    yes billvon, i have already stated in a post that cost of features will be important. i am also sure that none of this requires new inventions it can all be done with current inventions and technologys
    Sure it can. It will be expensive and cause problems; perhaps even deaths. How many deaths will it prevent?
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    yes billvon, i have already stated in a post that cost of features will be important. i am also sure that none of this requires new inventions it can all be done with current inventions and technologys
    Sure it can. It will be expensive and cause problems; perhaps even deaths. How many deaths will it prevent?
    how can a autoejected rescue buoy cause deaths ? if the device is ejected from the plane at the rear how can this cause deaths ? even if it were to eject accidentally during flight, how can deaths happen ? i said before that if rescue planes or rescue ships could arrive faster that might be a way to save people. if i had family on this lost malaysian flight it sure would be better to know instead the way is now not knowing anything
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    How can a autoejected rescue buoy cause deaths ?
    By being ejected during a heavy rainstorm and being ingested into an engine. By being ejected during takeoff and landing on someone. By inflating inside the tailcone before it is ejected, and taking out a hydraulic system. By exploding during a fire in the tailcone.
    The odds of the above are low. The odds of it actually helping anyone survive are low, too.
    i said before that if rescue planes or rescue ships could arrive faster that might be a way to save people.
    Again, is there anyone in the past 20 years that this device would have saved?
    if i had family on this lost malaysian flight it sure would be better to know instead the way is now not knowing anything
    Yes, it might make the families of dead relatives feel better, and perhaps there is value in that. But that's not the same as saving lives - especially if this device increases the risk, even slightly, of those people HAVING dead relatives on the plane.

    There's an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This device sounds like it's well intentioned - you just have to make sure it will do what you think it will.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    There's an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This device sounds like it's well intentioned - you just have to make sure it will do what you think it will.
    that is a very interesting old saying. maybe even some thing simple like expanding functions of the black box to transmit the data continuously via satellite to central airline database. i understand that expenses are involved. sometimes we must just do the right thing.
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    Rather than opining about airline costs, I expected a discussion of science, like what metals, compounds, solutions react with sodium (NA) that would be environmentally friendly but create a viable suggestion for a new innovation. Rather than relying on 2 small boxes, what else could be designed? I meant this thread to get innovative thinkers involved in discussing ideas that would take into consideration all the variables within 'chemistry' and 'science'.

    Could some kind of dye be used?

    Could some chemical be embedded into discs, as I described, that would 'react' to salt water after a crash?

    I'm thinking of something new that would only come into use after the aircraft broke apart.

    Any chemists, scientific-minded, or innovators here? :-)
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  20. #19  
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    Why not have an APP that everyone can download for free that can be used to show where they are at all times. That way everyone with a cellphone could just turn on the phone and the GPS system could track them.
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  21. #20  
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    The ability of a plane to "touchdown" on water without catastrophic consequences.

    Due to the high drag of water, it would probably not involve the wings, but only the fuselage, because if both wings don't touch down simultaneously, the plane would tumble, break apart and kill people.

    Perhaps the lower half of the fuselage has a double shell that can extend downward to work similar to a hydroplane. It would make first contact with the water, and as the plane slows and settles, it would sink below the water, still acting as a submerged hydroplane. Finally, the plane stops and rests on the water as did the plane that ditched on the Hudson.

    The emergency evacuation slides would inflate/deploy and then turned 90° and secured to the aircraft to act as pontoons. The doors could be closed to prevent swamping the airplane, and the people would remain in the aircraft. If the plane starts sinking, the people would get into the slides, detach them, and use them as life rafts.

    The double shell could also be deployed for a crash landing on the ground if the landing gear fails to deploy. Also, if accidentally deployed while flying, it would not seriously change the aerodynamics of the plane.
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    The ability of a plane to "touchdown" on water without catastrophic consequences.
    You could certainly do that; the Pan Am "clippers" of the 1940's were basically flying boats. However you are talking about a complete redesign of the aircraft to accomplish this (moving engines above the wings, adding fuel pumps to support them, adding a water hull, changing the fuselage to strengthen it, adding a ditching valve system etc.) Some changes (like moving the engines above the wings) will result in more problems, so you have to be willing to pay those costs, both human and monetary, in addition to the redesign costs.

    All that being said, it is often possible to land modern aircraft survivably in the water, as the recent US Air flight demonstrated.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    you are talking about a complete redesign of the aircraft to accomplish this (moving engines above the wings, adding fuel pumps to support them, adding a water hull, changing the fuselage to strengthen it, adding a ditching valve system etc.)
    I wasn't thinking of a seaplane. I think just the double bottom shell would suffice. Think of a section of pipe cut in half lengthwise, and the lower half connected to the fuselage by linkages. In the normal "up" position, you'd need to look hard to spot it because it fits against the bottom of the fuselage. However, it swings down, making it the lowest part of the airplane. I wouldn't expect any part of the plane to be salvageable after it ends up in the water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    I wasn't thinking of a seaplane. I think just the double bottom shell would suffice. Think of a section of pipe cut in half lengthwise, and the lower half connected to the fuselage by linkages. In the normal "up" position, you'd need to look hard to spot it because it fits against the bottom of the fuselage. However, it swings down, making it the lowest part of the airplane. I wouldn't expect any part of the plane to be salvageable after it ends up in the water.
    It sounds heavy. Weight is not something aircraft designers like adding.

    I was thinking if a landing gear fire is a risk somebody might want to fix that problem.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    I wasn't thinking of a seaplane. I think just the double bottom shell would suffice.
    It would have to keep the wings/engines out of the water when landing in heavy seas, and thus would need to be VERY strong (i.e. something that could take hitting a 12 foot high wave at 180 mph) and contain significant shock absorption. That also means changes to wing and engine designs so that they remain clear of the water until you slow down enough to make contact survivable. Google "eraknoplan" to see a modern "seaplane" design that seems to have worked out OK.

    To do this you really do have to design a seaplane, even if the aircraft is never usable again. The challenge of safely landing a half million pound aircraft going almost 200mph on an often-invisible sea of waves ranging from 3 to 12 feet ("average" seas worldwide) is a formidable one. And indeed a half-assed design might just make matters worse - if the "extendable belly" you mention above tends to cause more rolling after first impact due to the point of impact being farther from the center of gravity, you might turn a survivable crash into a fatal one.
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    A dye marker of some sort might be useful. Navy pilots carry dye markers as part of their emergency bailout kit, I know because my Dad had to use his once. These are basically just a pouch of colored chemicals that float on the water so it is far easier to find the pilot by visual air search. Granted the ones pilots carry are only good for a few hours before the dye dissipates, but a large commercial aircraft ought to be able to carry something rather larger than what you can cram in a pilot's emergency kit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    i have not seen a good reason why the transponder is allowed to be turned off by pilots ? is there a good reason for this ?
    Several: As you say to fault find or isolate a faulty transponder. To reduce clutter on radar displays from aircraft on the ground, so we need to turn transponders off. A system called ACAS or TCAS on all aircraft uses the transponders to check each other's altitude and issue avoidance commands if a collision is predicted. If all aircraft on the ground left their transponders on, the aircraft coming in to land might get a nasty surprise if their TCAS thought they were about to hit the aircaft on the ground. Pilots need to be able to isolate every system on board in case of fire or malfunction. OB
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    It is rather interesting as to why the ground controllers wouldn't be able to turn those transponders back on again if they needed to. That would override the pilots turning it off IF there was a problem where the pilot would not communicate with them.
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  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Why not have an APP that everyone can download for free that can be used to show where they are at all times. That way everyone with a cellphone could just turn on the phone and the GPS system could track them.
    This is a useful idea. I like that it is not something the aircraft owners or the pilots, have any control over. Presumptivly at least some of the passengers will want to be found.
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