Why no parachutes on airlines?

I mean, instead of those little cushions that double as life preservers. It’s my oppinion that if we were hurtling towards terra firma or even the middle of the ocean, I’d rather be sitting on a well packed chute than a piece of foam.

How many crashes can you name in which an airliner was disabled so badly that it could not land, but not so badly that its free-fall would allow people (most untrained) to put on parachutes, line up at the exits, and bail out in an orderly fashion?

Planes tend to crash on landing or take-off when there is no time (or altitude) to use a chute, or when sudden irreparable damage (stuck control surfaces, fuel explosions) causes them to make the 3-6 mile journey to the earth in a matter of a very few minutes.

On those rare occasions when a plane is only “partially” disabled, it is generally considered a safer practice to bring the passengers down inside the protective fuselage onto a foamed runway than to scatter 250-500 people out the doors over lakes, roads, power lines, sharp trees, etc. (especially when they have never been trained to jump).

Tom, very good points…and VERY funny might I add. However, when is a block of foam going to aid you anymore in those dire situations? And secondly, would an airline be opposed to me wearing a parachute while on their aircraft? You know, and sitting me near the exit?

Dan Tana: Please explain how to design a parachute that could be used by an infant. Or anyone below the age of 12 or 13 or 14? Or the disabled or very elderly? And their pets.

I remember reading somewhere that you cannot open the door on an airplane while it is in the air (due to air pressure) so you wouldn’t be able to jump out anyway without depressurizing the plane, or being close to the ground, in which case you’d probably not have enough time anyway.

A valid point Jab, I believe that a company that could manufacture a chute for an individual weighing over 200lbs, could esily make something suitable for a child weighing 50lbs. And as for the elderly, strap that chute to their wheelchair and roll 'em out.

The airline industry won’t admit it, but those cute little life preservers under your seat are pretty much placebos themselves. How often do you hear of a jet hitting the water with anyone alive and sufficiently conscious to use them? Not that it never happens, but don’t count on it.

I’m quite sure he meant Chemical Foam, used to retard flame.

The foam is basically used to reduce the hazard of fire from sparks as all that metal scrapes down the runway. It does not soften the impact of putting a hundred ton piece of metal onto a concrete runway without wheels or shock absorbers. It will be a very uncomfortable ride after a very hard touch-down. However, it is still considered safer than bailing out. (Remember all those WWII movies and books where the crew desperately tries to bring back the shot-up bomber? They weren’t just interested in saving the government the cost of replacing the hardware on the plane. You are generally safer inside an airframe than you are swinging around at the end of a set of thin threads.)

I suspect that if you tried to board with your own chute and demanded a seat near an exit, the airline would ask a marshall or security guard to escort you off the plane to answer a few questions–even if you were waving your “10,000 Jumps” certificate to show you knew what you were doing.

They really do not want people attempting to depressurize the fuselage in flight simply because you, as a passenger, feel that you might have a better shot on your own.

Roll them out of WHAT? Airliners go very fast. They fly very high. You can’t bail out at cruising altitude or you’ll die. If the plane is out of control, you won’t be able to do anything. If it’s in control, you won’t want to jump.

The standard exits are not designed with jumpers in mind. If you jump out of one at 250mph, chances are you’ll wind up as a red stain on the wing, tail, or one of the engines. If you don’t have your legs broken by the door frame itself on your way out.

And for a very interesting side link: Check NASA - GlennResearch Center’s Interactive Atmosphere Simulator.

It does not provide oxygen content, but shows just how COLD the person jumping from an airplane at cruising altitude would suddenly become. I have found a single reference, however, that alludes to Time of Useful Consciousness at 30k feet of altitude to be 1-2 minutes, but at 40k feet only 9-15 seconds. YMMV.

Plus, as Sam Stone mentioned, the blast of exiting the cabin to a sudden 450 MPH+ blast of sub zero air would be rather difficult to deal with.

When I asked about parachutes for children and infants and the elderly, I wasn’t talking about weight at all. I was talking about skill. I guess you think those chutes would work like they do for paratroopers, deploying automatically with a long line attached to the aircraft. Or maybe each would come with an altimeter that would make the chute open when you reached a certain altitude. I guess it’s possible to design the chute, but the plane would have to be re-designed. Those paratrooper planes are designed specifically for their task. Airliners are not.

Besides, as Tom pointed out, the characteristics of nearly all airline crashes are that they happen way too quickly or violently for anyone to bail out. An accident that could be escaped in flight happens so rarely, it would not be cost-effective to carry heavy parachutes on every flight. They’d have to carry fewer passengers or more fuel or both.

The best way to deal with airline crashes is to prevent them.

D.B. Cooper tried the parachute routine from a jetliner (a rear exit, so the door could be opened) and where did it get him? Truth is: we don’t know!

There’s even one aircraft, the newly-designed Cirrus, which uses a parachute as its fail-safe device (www.cirrusdesign.com). Most pilots aren’t any too pleased about coming down at 1600 feet/minute, which is what the design of the Cirrus is supposed to provide. We’d much rather guide a small plane to a forced landing. Normal landing descents are closer to 500 feet/minute at speeds of 70 mph (Mooney) or 135 mph (Boeing 737) – though we slow them right at the point of touchdown.

You all have very good points. However if I may clear up a few comments. First off, the foam that I am refering to is your very cushion that you are sitting on. Yes it is hard to beleive, but they actually want you to think that it will actually help in saving your ass. As far as freezing to death and breaking your legs, look at your other options…preety bleek. But then again you can always pray like hell and put your head between your legs!

Another point to touch on; paratroopers are highly trained people. They also wear special suits and equipment to deal with: 1) the free fall enviroment 2) the COLD 3) how to land on the ground and 4) what to once they get to the ground.

Most civilians are NOT trained to handle any of this.

By the time you could get all the passengers suited up, lined up at the door and starting to jump, the plane would be on the ground.

I agree. Has anyone EVER heard of this happening?

I’m suprised nobody has mentioned the fact that, for insurance reasons, the airline may not provide parachutes as a passenger might be tempted to bail out after being subjected to the “family friendly” edit of “You’ve Got Mail.” Or crying babies. Or the ban on in-flight smoking.

“Hand me the chute and get the fuck outta my way. I’m stepping out for a smoke.”

Actually, I’ve seen many accounts on the Usenet group rec.skydiving by people who have boarded commercial flights with their parachutes. (No, not in order to jump out: many skydivers are simply very protective of their gear and normally wouldn’t dream of allowing the airline to handle the gear as checked luggage.)

Let me quote a recent post:

From: dances with clouds <dances_with_clouds@my-deja.com>
Subject: Re: Rig Carry-on–Airport Security & Airline Policy
Date: 09 Aug 2000 00:00:00 GMT
Message-ID: <8msn6j$ekr$1@nnrp1.deja.com>

On board a commercial flight, I was sitting in an emergency row, by the window, with my un-cloaked rig. Most people (except for pilots) don’t know it’s a rig, and think it’s a back pack. Anyway, the male flight attendant was coming up from the rear of the plane, doing the exit row safety schpeel. I overheard him say to the others…“Sir, in the event of an emergency… Ma’am, in the event of an emergency…” and then he gets to me.

He takes one look at my rig and me, sitting by the door, and simply says, “I know YOU’RE okay!!!”

Well, if they actually thought that you were likely to try something like that, then they obviously would not let you on the plane. (Not that you’d have any chance of opening a door on a commercial airplane at cruising altitude lest you had some type of explosive device, as already have been pointed out.)

Well, although it’s been said said many times many ways, Merry Christm…oh wait, wrong thread.

Really, though, Dan Tana keeps trying to de-bunk our claims on the fact that it can be done. IT CAN’T! First off,
let’s just assume, for some reason, the plane is able to be jumped out of (i.e. not in tailspin, or whatnot, it’s
flying fairly level, but still downward and without control.)

Now, the flight attendants must somehow get hundreds of PANICING individuals to get the parachute from wherever the hell it is and put in in.
Mind you, there is very little room to do this on a plane, and with hundreds of PANICING individuals doing this at the same time, it becomes
near impossible. Now, get the hundreds of PANICING individuals to the rear of the plance, so that they don’t become a red stain on the plane,
or get sucked into the engine.

Now, assuming the plane hasn’t crashed yet, the flight attendants shove the hundreds of PANICING individuals
out of the plance, because Lord knows half ain’t going to jump under their own will power. Good, people are now out
of the plane. OK, now what? Well, assuming (we assume a lot in this scenario) that people don’t die from the cold
(and yes, you will die at that temperature, not just feel a bit chilly as Dan Tana seems to think,) or die from the lack
of oxygen at that altitude, they fall downward towards the earth. I’ll give Dan Tana the fact that the parachutes will
deploy automatically, because they probably would.

So, the pilot regains control and lands the plane, with no passengers, (because if the plance was actually going to
crash, there wouldn’t have been time to do as I said above, as people have pointed out, so therefore it wasn’t a
serious crash, and the plance was able to be saved.) The passengers (half of who died from
malfunctioning parachutes and things such as trees, power lines, other planes, each other (from parachute
tangling, etc…)) are now scattered over a few square miles. And if it’s in the ocean, they
die because they had no flotation device, replaced by the parachute. If it’s on land, they might live if near civilization.
If they are unlucky enough to fall into mountains, or a forest, desert, arctic, etc…, another half will die due to exposure.

So, in the end, three-fourths die because of the parachutes, where only a couple deaths and
injuries if they stayed in the plane (remember it crash LANDED, indicating that people inside would most likely have lived.)

There, the result of parachutes on airliners.

Any questions?

What do you mean there are no chutes on commercial planes?

Oh…you probably fly coach or “business” class, don’t you?

Your right, there are no chutes on the plane. Now remember to stay on your side of the curtain and remember it’s much safer toward the rear of the plane. If you are in an in-flight emergency and hear us folks in first class shouting GERONIMO! pay no attention to it at all.