A380 Safety


Though we hear a lot about the advanced materials used to build aircraft today, the structure of a newly built Airbus A380 (the new designation for the A3XX) or Boeing 777 is not really that much "stronger" than that of a commercial airliner built 20 years ago, certainly not so much stronger that the aircraft could better survive a major accident! What has greatly improved is the weight of the materials used to build newer aircraft. Today's composite materials are stronger than more traditional materials (like steel and aluminum), but their greatest asset is that composites can be made to do the same job as metals yet weigh far less. In aerospace lingo, we call this a high strength-to-weight ratio.

Even so, surviving a plane crash has far more to do with the conditions of the accident and the skill of the crew than the "greatness" of the aircraft structure. If a plane falls out of the sky from 30,000 ft (9,150 m) or slams into the side of a mountain at 700 mph (1,125 km/h), it doesn't matter if the structure is made out of aluminum, composites, titanium, or cardboard boxes, no one is going to survive. Obviously, the more people aboard the doomed airliner, the more will perish.

In addition, many have concerns about larger aircraft when they are involved in accidents on the ground, an increasingly common occurence. Some of the most horific air disasters have occurred while aircraft were simply taxiing around the airport, with the disaster usually caused by a collision or a fire. The more people who are aboard the stricken airplane, the harder it is to get them all off in a short period of time. In fact, the worst air disaster in history occurred when two fully loaded Boeing 747s collided at an airport in 1977 killing 538 passengers and crew. The issue is so worrisome that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently developing a number of safety systems to help prevent aircraft collisions during taxiing.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 24 June 2001


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