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162 votes
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Even after years of research, why are planes unable to keep passengers alive in case of a fiery crash?

Short answer The kinetic energy involved in a plane crash is inhumanely high. Slightly longer answer We can built bombs which will go through concrete roofs and ceilings of a bunker, counting the ...
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123 votes
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Why is "runway behind you" useless?

The runway ahead of you is useful to accelerate and - if needed - to decelerate. If you enter (or touch down) the runway in the middle, you will not be able to benefit from the part of the runway ...
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111 votes
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Why don't commercial aircraft adopt a slightly more seaplane-like design to allow safer ditching in case of emergency?

Because ditching is extremely, extremely rare, so the costs of redesigning aircraft along with the extra drag and weight (increased fuel burn) it would no doubt add to the airframe far outweighs the ...
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93 votes

Why don't commercial jet aircraft have a break-apart, parachute escape system?

wouldnt that work for keeping a majority of passenger jets from crashing? The majority of passenger jets don't crash. Designing an aircraft like that would incur very substantial weight penalties. ...
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  • 14.6k
86 votes

How safe is the Boeing 737-800 in high winds?

Extremely safe. Firstly, your pilots will have access to much more detailed and real-time weather information than you can get. They want to get home safely as much as you do, and will not fly if it ...
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  • 13.2k
86 votes

The F-16s that were scrambled to intercept United 93 did not have time to arm the jets, so the pilots were going to “ram it” how does that work?

(disclaimer - Former USAF armament specialist) The intention was not necessarily to "ram", but rather get eyeballs on the situation and take whatever action was needed. That may have, ...
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  • 4,212
80 votes

Why are First/Business Class seats at the front of aircraft where it is the least safe?

There are several reasons: First In, First Out They are given precedence to board the airplane before others, and precedence to disembark the airplane before others too. Quieter Environment On ...
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  • 29.1k
80 votes
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Why don’t airplanes use turn signals?

At uncontrolled airports, there is rarely enough traffic for signals to be needed, and pilots should (though are not required to) communicate with each other on CTAF—an option that cars do not have. ...
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  • 26.2k
77 votes
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How hazardous is it if an engine cowl falls off?

I work in aero engine safety but not for the company that manufactured the engine in the event you mention. Parts falling off engines is Not Good. We worry about them hitting people below the ...
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  • 835
76 votes
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Why don't 747s use unreliable, but cheap, jet engines instead?

The cost of a jet engine is mainly dictated by the operating conditions: high temperatures (sometimes above the melting point of the metals used) and high rotation speeds. This means you need high-...
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74 votes
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Can a human get sucked into a jet engine?

Yes. Human beings can get sucked into jet engines if they are close enough- this has happened multiple times in a number of aircraft ranging from A319 to A6E intruder. However, it happens only in ...
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  • 98.6k
73 votes
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Who has the higher authority, the pilot in command or ATC?

It isn't a black and white issue of who has higher authority. A pilot in command (PIC) is the ultimate authority for the safe operation of his airplane. An air traffic controller is the authority ...
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  • 34.8k
73 votes
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How serious is an impact like the 10/2017 Delta Airlines suspected bird strike?

Bird strike happens all the time - almost on a daily basis. See avherald : there are 9 instances of bird strike in the past 7 days at the time this answer is written. Usually it is ingested into the ...
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  • 39.2k
72 votes
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How dangerous was the turbulence on this commercial flight?

Very little to go on (non-pilots are lousy at classifying turbulence) but my best guess is that you experienced moderate turbulence. If it was severe, your description would have been something more ...
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  • 30.8k
70 votes
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How dissimilar are redundant flight control computers?

As far as Airbus is concerned: Each unit is composed of two dissimilar boards, one driving the output and the other checking it. Dissimilar means both different CPUs and chipsets (A320 uses i386 (...
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  • 54.1k
67 votes
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Can experts identify the model using this part (FOD prevention purposes)?

This is a Military Standard fuel cap, part number MS29525-1. Here is the DOD page for the products: MS29525-1. It is most likely from a military aircraft or some kind of private ex-military warbird. ...
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  • 35.1k
67 votes
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What prevents a commercial jet from electronically "resetting" the way a computer sometimes does?

I'm a programmer and private pilot, so maybe I can help dispel some of those fears. The computers that run a commercial airplane are conceptually much simpler than the one that runs your phone. This ...
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65 votes
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Would a slower speed and lower altitude reduce fatal incidents?

I'd like to answer this question by debunking the premise of the question: that most plane crashes happen when planes fall out of the sky, and that it's like rock climbing where the higher you are, ...
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  • 6,325
63 votes
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What does it mean for a door to be armed?

If a door is put into armed mode, it will trigger the evacuation slide when the door is opened. Prior to departure (usually before engine startup), all the aircraft doors are placed into the armed (...
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  • 15.5k
63 votes
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Are there any drawbacks to requesting progressive taxi every time?

Apart from appearing really unprofessional, the obvious drawback is a significantly higher workload, both for the pilot but especially for ATC. You're not the only aircraft moving around at the ...
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62 votes

Has anyone considered filling aircraft voids with helium to reduce the risk of fire?

Yes, it has been considered, but with some differences. First, the inerting gas used is not helium - it's nitrogen. Nitrogen also doesn't support combustion, and is for practical purposes inert. It ...
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  • 17.7k
61 votes

If a typical passenger plane had total failure of all engines mid-flight, is it possible for passengers to survive?

Air Transat Flight 236 experienced a complete power loss over the Atlantic Ocean in 2001. Yes, all passengers and crew survived after the aircraft glided 75 miles to a runway on the Azores islands. ...
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  • 802
61 votes
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Why are test crashes not made harder on the airframe?

If the plane crashes with high vertical speed, the decelerations involved are so insanely huge that there is absolutely no way to make it survivable. That is well explained in Even after years of ...
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  • 54.1k
61 votes

Would a slower speed and lower altitude reduce fatal incidents?

It would likely create a more deadly situation. In aviation altitude is your friend. Generally speaking altitude in the case of an emergency buys you time to work the problem. Generally you want to ...
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  • 96k
61 votes
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Why didn’t the Captain of Cathay Pacific flight 780 shut down engine 1 and land with a more reasonable speed?

You can find the full incident report here and this topic is touched upon briefly, but in short they had little to no time to entertain any other options but a full speed landing. It was not until ...
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  • 96k
60 votes

Why didn’t the Captain of Cathay Pacific flight 780 shut down engine 1 and land with a more reasonable speed?

Engine #2 wasn't doing its job either Had the situation just been engine #1 stuck at high thrust, with engine 2 normally controllable, than what you describe would be a reasonable response to the ...
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59 votes
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What risks come from passengers taking baggage during emergency evacuation?

As soon as there's a fire on board, the absolute top priority is getting everybody out as soon as possible. Aircraft are designed in such a way that, even after a crash landing (or other serious ...
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  • 1,933
59 votes

Why don't commercial passenger safety videos ever explain policy instead of merely dictating it?

There is no time. You need to convey the information in as little time as possible or people (those few that watch at all) lose interest and start doing other things. Reasoning tends to invite ...
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  • 14.9k
59 votes
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Is it safe to carry bear spray on a GA plane?

The main danger in a light aircraft is that the spray accidentally discharges in the cabin. That could temporarily blind and incapacitate the pilot, which would obviously be extremely dangerous. ...
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  • 70.2k
58 votes
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What is the technique or procedure to disable/disengage the MCAS on Boeing 737 Max 8 & 9 Aircraft?

MCAS doesn't have its own on/off switch It is a fly-by-wire feature designed to account for a particular flight regime that would not (or was not expected to be) encountered very often in normal ...
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