Last week, an international team of scientists placed explosive charges on a retired Boeing 747 and Airbus 321a. This might sounds like nuts, but it was all to test a bomb-proof lining, known as the FLY-BAG2, in a more realistic setting.
“We have extensively tested Fly-Bag prototypes at the University of Sheffield’s blast-testing laboratory, " reported Andy Tyas of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, "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.”
Before detonating the explosive, the team had lined the luggage hold of the aircrafts with FLY-BAG2. This bomb-proof lining is made of multiple strong fabrics that were designed to withstand blasts, impact and heat—including aramid fibers in body armor. According to Dr. Tyas, the fabric is flexible, allowing it to trap fragments produced in the explosion.
“This helps to ensure that the Fly-Bag acts as a membrane rather than as a rigid-walled container which might shatter on impact.”
As could happen in the real world, explosive devices were concealed in luggage and placed into the planes's luggage hold. The team was delighted to find that the bomb-proof lining was able to contain increasing explosive charges. And after the tests, controlled explosions were also performed without the bomb-proof lining to demonstrate the powerful effects bombs have on unprotected planes. (See videos demonstrations below)
WATCH: With the Fly-Bag, the Blast Is Contained
WATCH: Without the Fly-Bag, the Plane Is Damaged by the Explosives
According to the FLY-BAG2 website, this technology will provide another means of protecting passengers and crew, since current security protocols can be circumvented. Indeed, terrorists have not only succeeded in stowing explosives in luggage, as with the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, but they have also brought explosives into the cabin, as with the 2009 Christmas Day bombing attempt.
Directly reinforcing aircraft structure is not an option, since it would add too much weight to the plane. However, the cargo holds of existing planes can be fitted with a Fly-Bag. Furthermore, cabin holds can be lined with the material, so that the crew could stow a suspicious bag in the cabin.
In the past, hardened luggage containers (or HULD) have been developed to contain luggage explosives; however they are heavy (over 300 kg or 660 lb) and costly (more than 10,ooo €). In contrast, FLY-BAG2 weighs less than 90 kg (<198 lb) and is projected to cost 1000-1500 € (or $1100 to $1650 USD, based on current conversion rates).