We know that most of the plane accidents and deaths result from the explosion of fuel tanks in the planes, like when two planes collide, or when the plane falls on the ground.

With the advent of technology, i wonder whether it is possible to prevent the fuel explosion.

Can this be done by evaporating the fuel in the planes just before the collision? Or use a solid architecture encapsulating the fuel tanks in the planes, such that the fuel is not set to fire?

What research has been done in this field and if so what were the findings?

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    $\begingroup$ IMHO, the assumption is wrong, we can't say that most deaths are caused by explosion. Hitting the ground is enough reason to die (with or without explosion). It is the sudden stop on impact, where the plane stops and the person doesn't, at least not right away, that causes severe trauma. $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2014 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @QuoraFeans technically it's the organs not stopping when the body is stopped that causes the deaths but that's splitting hairs $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2014 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, there was some technology like this in use, using the fuel evaporation thing before collisions, I think during WW II, worked pretty well... Oh, wait, it wasn't for saving lives... $\endgroup$ Apr 27, 2015 at 22:39

2 Answers 2


"We know that most of the plane accidents and deaths result from the explosion of fuel tanks in the planes"
This is a fallacy. Most deaths don't happen because of explosions, but because of impact damage, fire, and inhalation of toxic fumes (in no particular order).
Next to that, many people tend to get killed because they are crushed by fellow passengers during evacuations. And some die on the ground being run over by emergency vehicles or from environmental conditions (heat, cold, wildlife).
Ratchet Freak correctly points out why your "solutions" won't work (in fact one of them will make the problems worse). And yes, research is being done and has been done. Modern jet fuel has a much higher flame point and vapour pressure than does regular gasoline as a result. Fuel tanks are fitted with baffles and sometimes coolers to keep the fuel liquid so it doesn't explode easily. This is in part a result of what happened to TWA800, one of the very few accidents to be caused by a fuel tank explosion (and there the explosion was itself only possible due to a combination of rare circumstances and chance events, made worse by maintenance problems with the aircraft).
The image of aircraft (and cars, trains, ships, buildings, anything really) blowing up in a wall of flame at the least trouble is one created and perpetuated by Hollywood and has no reflection in reality whatsoever.

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    $\begingroup$ I think that his question was poorly worded but was asking more about preventing the fuel from catching fire during an accident than an actual literal explosion... $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Feb 19, 2014 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger Yes, you are correct. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2014 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting +1 for mentioning Hollywood. Remembers me of the climax scene in Final Destination 5. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2014 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ @ptgflyer a fuel tank with a lot of fuel vapour in it is more dangerous than one that has mostly liquid fuel in it. Jet-A doesn't burn that easily, but get the right vapour pressure and the mixture becomes rather explosive. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Aug 22, 2014 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ @ptgflyer if you dump fuel, you get a fine fuel mist trailing you. But that's not what I meant. If you dump fuel, you create a larger volume of air in the fuel tank, that air can then become saturated with fuel vapour as fuel evaporates inside the tank. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Aug 25, 2014 at 6:18

Evaporating/misting is the primary cause of the fireball and adding to that just makes the fireball larger and takes a lot of energy that just isn't available.

NASA tried to study anti misting measures with their controlled impact demonstration once using an additive that made the fuel more syrup-like so it wouldn't spray as much; they essentially made napalm.

A solid structure to contain fuel may sound promising but that would add a lot of weight and is not bulletproof (designing a oblong shape that will survive an 800 km/h impact into concrete is far from trivial).

One option would be to cut the engine+all power and force cool it down using the extinguishing system so there isn't an ignition source to catch the fuel on fire but again isn't fool proof and if there is no collision the plane will be dead in the air.

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, deliberately evaporating a fuel before something ignites it is exacly how a fuel-air bomb works. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2014 at 23:11

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