A Bomb-Proof Jet to Beat the Terrorists

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID NORRIS

BRITISH scientists yesterday unveiled a new aircraft lining which can withstand a bomb blast on board.

They believe the material will protect passengers against terrorist attacks similar to that which destroyed a Pan-Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie.

A team of 50 scientists spent four years developing the system, which involves lining an aircraft's hold with material based on the Kevlar carbon fibre body armour worn by police and the armed forces.

Extensive tests were conducted at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in Farnborough, Hampshire, where different types and amounts of explosives were planted in a simulated Boeing 747 hold.

`This effectively destroyed the aircraft, but where we used the hardened lining there was effectively no damage,' said Chris Peel, technical director of the research programme.

When the bombs went off in the unprotected hold the aircraft's outer skin was ripped away, causing rapid depressurisation as the explosion travelled upwards into the passenger compartment.

But when lined with the carbon fibre material, the explosion was contained, causing the fuselage to buckle slightly but enabling the aircraft to be piloted safely home. …