The Project Idea
Terrorists have proven that they might be able to circumvent security scans both by carrying explosive devices onboard themselves and by sending parcel bombs via mail or hidden in luggage. Currently available security scans are necessary, but cannot guarantee a 100% detection rate: complementary passive countermeasures are needed in order to protect aircrafts, crew and passengers in case an explosive device is smuggled onboard.
The threat of attacks to passenger airplanes with explosives hidden in luggage loaded in the cargo holds or taken onboard is dramatically evident from terrorist events in the past years.
FLY-BAG2 goal is to develop innovative solutions based on novel lightweight materials and structural concepts for the mitigation of the effects of an on-board blast and improve aircraft survivability.
Direct strengthening of the airplane structure is not a viable solution since it would clearly result in thicker skins and a weigh penalty; moreover, the related costs could not be justified in the majority of the commercial routes. Instead, the proposed blast mitigation and retrofitting solutions will be developed to be easily implemented on existing aircrafts.
The project builds upon the former FLY-BAG FP7 project which developed and demonstrated a blast-resistant textile-based luggage container for narrow-body passenger airplanes. The aim is now to exploit the knowledge gathered in the previous project to develop new devices for both cabin (addressing the Least Risk Bomb Location requirements) and cargo environments and to enlarge the experimental validation of the new concepts including full scale tests on retired aircrafts.
Research aspects to be addressed include the correlation between explosive charge and location with baggage filling percent in the ULD (Unit Load Device), the effect of pressurisation, or the effects of the aircraft structures and the passengers
The Project Objectives
The project objectives can be summarised as follows:
|State of the art||FLY-BAG2|
|Least risk bomb location Mandatory on any aircraft since 2010. Current devices are bulky, heavy and not flexible: they can not be stored out of sight of passengers which can be scared by the presence of a "blast box" onboard. Bomb blankets are not effective against overpressure||FLY-BAG2 cabin solution Light (target weight <20 kg) Flexible Relatively cheap (target price <3000 €) When not used it is folded and kept in an overhead locker; this way it is not wasting space onboard and it does not scare passengers|
|HULDs Heavy (>300 kg) Expensive (>10000 €) Bulky Production discontinued: no such systems are available at present||FLY-BAG2 cargo solution Relatively light (target weight <90 kg, same as conventional ULDs) Much cheaper than HULDs (target price 1000-1500 €, same order as conventional ULDs) Payload is unaffected|
In order to accomplish the goals of the project, FLY-BAG2 partners will have to achieve different technological breakthrough solutions. In the following table a list of the main technological barriers is given, along with the FLY-BAG2 proposed approach to overcome them.
|Current limitations||FLY-BAG2 innovations|
|Blast resistant textiles|
|Technical textiles are mostly used in bullet proof applications or as protection from fragments of an outside explosion||FLY-BAG2 will study the use of textiles, coupled with functional coatings and/or impregnation, as a blast containment method for internal detonations. Since none of the FLY-BAG2 partners is tied to the use of a specific brand, the consortium will have the possibility of exploring all commercially available materials and fabrics, in order to evaluate their properties and conceive a heterogeneous multilayer structure with enhanced properties. Development of the textile multilayer will include the assessment of dedicated functional coatings to effectively bring in gas tightness and flame resistance; a structural contribution is also foreseen from impregnation and/or lamination of the fabrics, in order to create a "textile composite" in which all layers behave effectively as one.|
|Fibre manufacturers are not interested in experimenting multilayered solutions combining materials from different companies|
|Functional coatings are widely used as a chemical and bacterial protection or in less demanding application as antiabrasion or high visibility. The use of coatings in a high performance and highly dynamic structural function is still not explored|
|Energy absorbing composites|
|Dense materials as concrete or heavy materials as steel are up to now mostly used in blast protection panels||FLY-BAG2 will develop a class of innovative lightweight composite materials able to absorb energy from a short standoff blast (of the order of 10-20 cm from the explosive charge), giving rise to direct shockholing phenomena. The function of the composite parts is twofold: resisting to shockholing, thus preventing direct localised impulsive damage of the surrounding structures, and spreading the load over a wider area: the combination with high performance textiles is thus crucial. One possibility which will be investigated is related to realising composite skins through local impregnation of the multilayered textile, in order to have a smooth transition and no discontinuities at the textile-composite interface.|
|Energy absorbing composite parts with crushable cores are available on the market for low-medium strain rate applications as road safety barriers, not for extremely high strain rates as a near-surface blast.|
|Blast resistant composites exist, but they are only suitable for protection from far external explosions (US Army panels for grenades at distance >6 m), not from direct shockholing by inner detonations|
Commercial aviation is a leading branch in the European transport sector: nearly 1.5 billion passengers fly to or from European airports every year, with a total turnover exceeding 75 billion€. The Consortium strongly believes that the project will have a wide impact on the whole European Aeronautic sector by contributing in raising the level of safety onboard passenger airplanes. This will positively affect the visibility of the companies using the FLY-BAG2 concepts, as customers will be keener to choose an airline with higher safety standards: the rightness of this statement is demonstrated by the strong commitment of MERIDIANA in the project. Moreover, even low cost companies will be attracted by FLY-BAG2, as it will enable them to prove wrong their "low cost equals low safety" reputation at the price of a small investment.
Increasing safety measures has been a growing cost component in the latest years, with more than 150% increase since 2001. The annual worldwide figure for aviation security costs amounts to an astounding 4 billion € (2008 data): this figure rises dramatically after each attack as new measures are taken thus it is foreseen that the expense for aviation safety will grow in the next few years, after the attempted "Christmas bombing" has boosted the demand for security and pressed legislators to require new scanning facilities, in particular weakening the privacy-related opposition to the so-called "body scanners". It is thus apparent that, in the framework of a growing safety expense, the cost-effectiveness of the FLY-BAG2 device will be well received by the market.