Bomb-proof lining contains explosion in luggage hold of aircraft
- Fly-Bag lining successfully contained blasts in series of controlled explosions
- Using this technology, tests show plane’s luggage hold may be able to contain force of an explosion if a device hidden in a passenger’s luggage detonates
A bomb-proof lining developed by an international team of scientists, including academics from the University of Sheffield, has successfully contained blasts in a series of controlled explosions in the luggage hold of a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 321.
The Fly-Bag, which lines an aircraft’s luggage hold with multiple layers of novel fabrics and composites, was tested under increasing explosive charges on disused planes at Cotswolds Airport, near Cirencester, this week.
Using this technology, the tests have demonstrated that a plane’s luggage hold may be able to contain the force of an explosion should a device concealed within a passenger’s luggage be detonated during a flight. This would mitigate damage to the plane and help keep passengers safe.
After the tests, explosives were placed in the aircraft without the lining to show the damage that could be caused.
Disasters such as the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 drove the need for this kind of invention, as well as an incident in which a printer cartridge bomb was found on-board a cargo plane at East Midlands Airport in 2010.
Fundamental to the design of the bag is a combination of fabrics which have high strength and impact and heat resistance. The fabrics include Aramid, which is used in ballistic body armour.
“Key to the concept is that the lining is flexible and this adds to its resilience when containing the explosive force and any fragments produced,” said Andy Tyas, of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, who is leading the research at the University of Sheffield.
“This helps to ensure that the Fly-Bag acts as a membrane rather than as a rigid-walled container which might shatter on impact.”
“We have extensively tested Fly-Bag prototypes at the University of Sheffield’s blast-testing laboratory, but the purpose of these tests was to investigate how the concept works in the confines of a real aircraft and the results are extremely promising.”
Hardened luggage containers (HULD) have been developed to deal with bombs hidden in passenger luggage, but these containers are heavier and more costly than conventional equivalents.
A European consortium working on the Fly Bag project includes Blastech, a spin out company from the University of Sheffield, as well as partners from Greece, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The technology could either be something that becomes compulsory for all airlines to use if the law was changed or could be used by airlines responding to particular threats.
It has also been adapted for use in cabin holds within the plane if the airline crew spot something they think might be a threat and could be a risk to passengers.
The University of Sheffield
With almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.
A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.
In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.
Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
For further information please contact:
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046
For media inquiries out of hours, please call 07725 213702.