Whenever an airliner crashes, inevitably questions arise as to how can the planes be made safe and ultimately, how can we avoid loss of lives.

Though statistically, modern airliners are safest ever, but due to the nature and outcome of even a single crash, it affects people psychologically worldwide.

Questions like parachutes for planes or even passengers are numerous on this site. For example, I posted this questions after reading this question.

The way I understand, if an aircraft can be slowed down, by means of a parachute, the resultant damgage to human lives would be a lot less. This led me to wonder, what can be other means of slowing down an aircraft, which would crash otherwise.

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    $\begingroup$ what can be other means of slowing down an aircraft, which would crash otherwise. If it's going to crash, what makes you think that a parachute will stop the crash? Are you able to reference any crash that might have been prevented by a parachute? Remember, the big problem is that if you slow it down more than about 140kts, which is going to be fatal, it will fall out of the sky because you slowed it down. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    May 24 '15 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ Voting to close as Too Broad because this kind of question doesn't fit in the Stack Exchange paradigm. SE is designed so that every question should have one answer that is more 'right' or 'acceptable' and therefore chosen as accepted. This question could very easily have two (or more) equally valid and acceptable answers, therefore must be considered as Too Broad. OP, please rewrite to be less so. Perhaps come up with an alternate solution idea yourself and present it as a question. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    May 25 '15 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean a runway overshoot? Tail hooks and steel cables are used on aircraft carriers. $\endgroup$
    – user7241
    May 25 '15 at 19:27

For an aircraft to fly, it needs forward speed. If you slow down an aircraft too much, it will stall and fall out of the sky. Airplanes are designed to not slow down. It's not "if a Boeing 737 is slowed down to 80 knots, more people will survive". A Boeing 737 has to fly at 130 knots minimum. If you want a machine that can, it's a helicopter.

Most crashes happen suddenly, e.g. approaching a runway while not paying attention to airspeed. It's not like "Hmmm, I think it's going to crash in 3 minutes, let's arm this system to minimize injury". It's like, "we're stable, runway ahead, everything's good......(terrain! terrain! PULL UP!)......oh sh!t ! Max power!!!". If the pilot can foresee the accident, most of the time he can avoid it altogether.

If you know well in advance you ARE going to crash, chances are the aircraft is completely out of control, spinning around and falling. In this case I think a large enough parachute will be effective.

  • $\begingroup$ I would think a plane completely out of control has most likely suffered loss of some pretty important control systems, who is to say that the parachute will deploy? And of course, a tumbling aircraft is probably more likely to cut and destroy the parachute. $\endgroup$
    – JustSid
    May 25 '15 at 13:51

There are a few things you could do but a full frame chute would be the most effective.

Speed brakes and flaps (really anything that creates drag) can act to slow a plane down even in a glide (engine out) situation.

In the realm of more unlikely things some sort of rocket style short burn booster can be deployed and discharged apposing the direction of movement thats how we landed on the moon. But these would add weight to the aircraft and could (if deployed incorrectly) put the aircraft in a worse situation. This does NOT include deploying thrust reversers that can be dangerous.

Slipping an aircraft (rudder opposite aileron deflection) can aid in slowing an airplane down. All student pilots in the US are required to know how to do this. Its strange the first time but quite interesting to execute.

  • $\begingroup$ Please explain how a chute could prevent an airliner crash, $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    May 24 '15 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon There's other questions about that. $\endgroup$
    – Zizouz212
    May 25 '15 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ In the realm of "totally impossible" we also get the Kulbit, which is quite effective for slowing the aircraft down but rather tricky for an airliner to pull off. $\endgroup$ May 25 '15 at 3:24
  • $\begingroup$ @raptortech97 - Isn't that a post-stall maneuver, like Pugachev's Cobra, that requires vectored thrust to accomplish? $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    May 27 '15 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS yes. As I said, rather tricky for an airliner to pull off. $\endgroup$ May 27 '15 at 0:50

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