New Technology Makes Aircraft More Crash-Resistant

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The Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands will demonstrate how the application of Fault Tolerant Control can be used to keep damaged aircraft flying and improve their chances of being successfully recovered. Fault Tolerant Control involves the creation and adaptation of on-board control systems to handle unanticipated in-flight emergencies and keep the shiny side up long enough to get the aircraft on the ground. "The key to this is to improve control techniques which enable the aircraft to continue to be controlled," the university said in a news release. "The implemented improvements are based on the analysis of flight data from aviation accidents by the NLR. This has led to improved interpretation of the (defective) condition of the aircraft." For the demonstration, the researchers have deconstructed the crash of an El Al flight near Amsterdam in 1992. The Boeing 747 freighter went down when both right engines fell off the wing while it was on final, killing four crew members and about 50 people on the ground. The data has been plugged into a simulator and the new control techniques applied to the rather remarkable set of circumstances faced by the flight crew. "Simulator experiments have shown that the new techniques make it easier for the pilot to land seriously-damaged aircraft safely," the university claims. The university also says there’s a lot of work to be done on the theories and it should be considered a long-term project.