A European team of scientists, led by academics from the University of Sheffield (UK), has successfully contained explosions in its tests of a “Fly-Bag,” a luggage bag lined with multiple layers of aramid-reinforced composites. The tests, which were conducted in the luggage hold of a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 321, demonstrated that a plane’s luggage hold may be able to contain the force of an explosion should a bomb concealed within a passenger’s luggage be detonated during mid-flight.
The bag, which has been in the works since 2011 (and featured in our September/October 2011 issue), was inspired by the increased need for better European airplane security, demonstrated by the Lockerbie bombing of 1988, as well as an incident in which a printer cartridge bomb was found on a cargo plane at East Midlands Airport in 2010.
Fly-bag is considered a lighter, more resilient alternative to “hardened” luggage containers, known as Hardened Unit Load Devices (HULDs). The lining expands with the explosion, absorbing the shock and reducing the possibility that the blast will breach the hull or passenger compartment.
Andy Tyas, of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield, the combination of composites offer high strength, as well as impact and heat resistance.
“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,” said Tyas. “This helps to ensure that the Fly-Bag acts as a membrane rather than as a rigid-walled container which might shatter on impact.”
Researchers have also adapted the Fly-Bag for use in cabin holds within a plane. Tyas says the bag has been “extensively tested” in order to ascertain how the technology works in a real aircraft. He says the results are “extremely promising,” and could lead to the liner becoming standard safety equipment.