h a l f b a k e r y
There goes my teleportation concept.
add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random
news, help, about, links, report a problem
or get an account
Reading the description of various aviation out-of-fuel incidents on Wikipedia, a trend seems to emerge: An
improper amount of fuel was loaded, and due to mechanical and/or human failure the error went
unchecked; pilots ignored or silenced warnings on the assumption that the equipment was faulty;
isn't until a fuel pump fails or an engine cuts out completely that the pilots take the situation seriously.
But at that point it's too latethere's no fuel left and pretty soon the jet turns into a glider.
One way to add an additional layer of safety to this process would be to deliberately build the airplane so
that it is significantly out of balance with no fuel loaded. One tank would be larger than the other, and in
order to balance the aircraft it would be necessary to load enough extra fuel into the larger tank to land
the aircraft safely on one engine in any likely low-fuel scenario. This additional fuel would act as a reserve
tank, and be only available to the engine on the same side via gravity feed (as opposed to the rest of the
fuel in the tank, which would be reachable by the fuel pump and thus available to both engines).
This way, no matter how many warnings the pilot ignored, one engine would be starved of fuel long before
the other, causing a warning sign that's pretty hard to ignoreone engine shutting down completely. At
that point, the pilot would be forced to make an un-fun but eminently achievable single-engine landing. Of
course, in a low-fuel situation, having the aircraft out of balance would be a significant liability, so the
unbalancing weight could be in the form of a water ballast tank on one side, which could be vented by the
pilot as necessary. However, doing so would trigger an alarm that can ONLY be silenced by refilling the
ballast, so as to prevent people from simply leaving the ballast empty.
||The major problem is that this would add a substantial amount of "dead" weight to the airframe, something that the design engineers strive sedulously to remove.
||Not dead weight, but beer - to be consumed by the passengers during the flight.
||True, but that still beats "dead" passengers.
||Assuming the airplane were still flyable when severely
unbalanced, the ballast tank could be done away with by
simply moving critical systems off center. And on a large
airplane, some measure of rebalancing could instead be
achieved by relocating passengers to one side of the
aircraft in an emergency situation. Or, for that matter,
by loading part of the luggage into a drop bay. This
could even be turned into a plus for the airlineone of
the perks of a premium fare could be a "best effort"
guarantee that your luggage won't be jettisoned in an
||whats wrong with a camera? or a transparent oil tank so
passengers and crew could see it?
||Cameras can be ignored. The fact that one engine has shut
down cannot be.
||Any mechanism that requires the pilot to actively check
something has the potential to fail if the check is not
performed or the results ignored for whatever reason. The
idea here is for an early warning system that is guaranteed to
alert the pilot to a low fuel situation, and is literally
impossible to ignore or misinterpret.