Sheffield academics help develop bomb-proof lining for aeroplanes

The Fly-Bag has been developed with the help of University of Sheffield academics
The Fly-Bag has been developed with the help of University of Sheffield academics
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A BOMB proof lining which has been developed with help from Yorkshire academics could make a plane’s luggage hold able to contain the force of an explosion.

The Fly-Bag has successfully contained blasts in a series of controlled explosions in the luggage hold of a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 321.

Dr Andy Tyas

Dr Andy Tyas

The bag lines an aircraft’s luggage hold with multiple layers of fabrics and composites, and was tested under increasing explosive charges on disused planes at Cotswolds Airport, near Cirencester.

The tests showed 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.

Disasters such as the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 as well as an incident in which a printer cartridge bomb was found on-board a cargo plane at East Midlands Airport in 2010, drove the need for the Fly-Bag, which has been developed by an international team of scientists, including academics from the University of Sheffield.

The fabrics include Aramid, which is used in ballistic body armour, and have high strength and impact and heat resistance.

Dr Andy Tyas, of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, who is leading the research at the University of Sheffield, said: “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.

“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.”

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.