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Umm, well now

“It’s a watershed event in aviation safety,” says Andreas Spaeth, an aviation journalist and co-host of a podcast that examines historic plane crashes.

“This was an aircraft that was absolutely full. So to see that everyone escaped safely is a miracle.

“Even then, it was a fairly long time before a big fire emerged. We have never seen a fuselage made of carbon fibre burn. And the structure held up pretty well.”

Well, yes, but. If that same fuselage were made of the more usual aluminium alloys then it wouldn’t have burnt at all…..

23 thoughts on “Umm, well now”

  1. Given enough presence of an oxygenator, and enough heat, and anything will burn. Concrete, glass, research chemists…..

  2. ISTR a problem with our ships in the Falklands was that the aluminium superstructures caught fire and burned…

  3. Given that one can cast aluminium without an inert gas shield, whether it’ll burn or not is pointless speculation. It’ll melt before it burns.

  4. I can’t help wondering if the evacuation of the aircraft would have been as successful if the majority of the passengers weren’t Japanese. (Trying not to sound r*cist, but could cultural factors have an effect?)

  5. ltw: Bingo. The “things I won’t work with” thread is always fascinating, often in a laugh-out-loud manner. See also a 14-Nitrogen compound that *quite* *literally* explodes if you attempt to look at it. *Photons* shock it enough to explode it.

  6. @ Mr Womby

    Yep, thin people who can follow the instructions of the cabin crew are likely to survive.

    On the other hand, ignorant land whales who argue with instructions and stop to get their duty free out of the overhead compartments will kill everyone instead.

  7. jgh – Things I Won’t Work With is always a fun read which I go through once a year. Derek Lowe has a goo’s writing style for that sort of thing.

  8. Doors weren’t opened and slides deployed until minute 8. Evacuation wasn’t completed until minute 18.

    The fuselage remained complete and protected the passengers until after the evacuation despite the lower part, holds and fuel tanks being ripped apart by that of the DH-8 and an ensuing high temperature fire.

    Not sure if any other material would have survived the collision and remained intact until the aircraft stopped – let alone survived so long in the subsequent fire.

  9. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    How quick was the evacuation of duty-free collecting land whales from the Air France plane that crashed at Toronto some years back?

    Or of duty-free collecting land whales from the BA plane that came down short of the runway at Heathrow?

    Notable in this one they could only get the front doors open. What’s the contribution of the fact that at the front is business and first, also the only doors that are routinely opened to let passengers board. No seats are placed next to these doors, at least in modern layouts, so they have to be opened by (trained) crew, not passengers.

    In economy of course you have seats next to the emergency exits, with passengers being given a 15 second instruction on how to open them. Usually while still on the ground, and at the latest during the safety instruction, so several hours before it would be needed. Seems none of the thin, obedient Japanese passengers were able to get these doors opened when needed.

  10. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    Also to be a real pendant snark, you can’t buy duty-free on domestic flights in Japan anyway.

  11. Flight attendants didn’t open doors until they received word from the Captain (intercom was broken). That was against the rules that state in the case of fire/structural failure they should do so immediately once the aircraft stops and will doubtless feature in the report.

    Note evacuation should be completed in 90 seconds and took 18 minutes.

    Rear doors shouldn’t have been used for 3 reasons, right engine was stuck running and throwing out debris, the fire was under the aircraft centre, the nose gear failure meant the tail was elevated so the rear slides wouldn’t reach the ground.

    In the event an attendant opened one rear door which was used with some injuries.

  12. The fact that japanese are literally drilled in emergency evacuations from kindergarten up will no doubt have had a positive effect here.

    The fact that the passenger compartment wasn’t breached played a big , if not bigger, role as well.
    And the stuff they use for those fuselages is strong and a proper biatch to burn. You need an acetylene torch or equivalent to burn a hole in a piece in any appreciable time.
    A kerosene fire will get through eventually but it takes time. Time you need to Sort Things Out.

    Aluminium, even the tough stuff they use for airplanes, would have likely sheared in places from the impact, exposing the passengers inside to the superheated air from the fire.
    This, as one can imagine, is Not a Good Thing, and to be avoided at all costs..
    And while the particular alloys used for aircraft have a higher melting point that your average coke can.. That fire looked pretty hot… Not sure if an aluminium hull would have been able to take it very long…

    But you have to wonder… As disciplined as the japanese usually are… Who claimed Seniority over whom and pushed his will through against common reason, and who will have to do the bowy-apologisy thing?..
    This smacks of the same idiocy as the Fukushima gaffe.

  13. @Jonathan

    ISTR a problem with our ships in the Falklands was that the aluminium superstructures caught fire and burned…

    That’s a myth Jonathan. You’ll even read that Sheffield’s aluminum superstructure burned when she was an all-steel ship.

  14. Many in the far east are not good at taking initiative untill they’re told to take initiative.

    They had all this obedience and waiting for instructions shit in eastern cockpits for a very long time until they realised that First Officers saying nothing as the Captain was flying straight at a mountain was a bad thing, and introduced Cockpit/Crew Resource Management.

    This is often given as one reason for Qantas’ extraordinary safety record – ‘I don’t care if you’re the farkin captain, mate, you ain’t flying this farkin plane into that farkin mountain!’ sort of thing.

    (Thgough to return to my recent hobbyhorse, they bent over and took the shaft big time during the covid lockdown scam.)

  15. @ BiFR

    Yeah, the Air France and BA crash evacuations were perfect examples of how to do it that the Japanese should learn from.

    Apart from stopping to take some photos whilst evacuating (Air France) and passengers stopping for luggage before exiting and one climbing back into the aircraft after evacuation to get their stuff (BA).

  16. Bloke in North Dorset

    I’m assuming you’ve read “Sand Won’t Save You This Time”. The wording of your post reminded me of it.

    Bloody hell, that’s seriously scary stuff.

    When I first started working in Asia the mentality was explained as: If you’re stood on the edge of a roof and the boss says jump you’d better hope its the first floor.

  17. It’s funny, when I started reading the thread, “Sand won’t save you this time”, was the first thing that popped into my head.
    Kind of similar to when a Tesla or similar EV catches fire. You’d better hope you’ve got a good pair of running shoes on.
    For those who find this sort of thing interesting may I also suggest “Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants”.
    No doubt it’s already familiar to many here.

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