By now, everyone has seen the reports of the Southwest Airlines jet that magically opened up like a can of tuna fish way up in the air and was only saved from an unthinkable disaster by the work of very quick thinking pilots who got the plane down on terra firma without incident. This accident though prompted quick investigation to determine the problem with the plane. It turned out that the aluminum covering simply gave out. Reasons like this are why companies are trying to invent better, safer planes and in fact one has come up with the idea of a "Magic Skin" that could make airplanes lightning proof.
That's right, the airplane manufacturer Cessna has been toying around with the idea of this magic skin concept, according to a piece on MSNBC.com. The theory behind it is relatively simple. This skin, which Cessna said is more like a type of film, would go all around the frame of the plane, encasing it if you will like a cocoon. This film shell would be made such that it would be able to combat the elements and also help planes better deal with being struck by lightning.
Those that have been airborne during a thunderstorm can tell you there is no greater fear than the plane being instantly put down by a bolt of lightning that could blow a plane in half. If one remembers the movie, "We are Marshall", the plane is that case was struck by lightning and crashed to the ground with no survivors. So anything that the airplane industry can do to better protect its passengers is worth it.
So where is all of this coming from? Well the good folks at NASA have asked various companies to try and develop a different kind of airplane that will be more fuel efficient, while still being able to handle the elements. With that said, you could have figured that a group like Cessna would want to get involved and so they did. The problem for these manufacturers is in trying to make a plane more fuel efficient, they have to change the makeup of the plane from the standard Aluminum setup that they use now.
So Cessna's version of this new plane would be made from a composite makeup, which will cut through the air much better and also be lighter, thus improving the fuel efficiency. Ah, but the catch is that the planes still have to be able to endure weather issues that current planes are already required to do. That is where the magic skin would come in. The theory, according to the MSNBC report on it, would be that the frame of the plane would be composed of several different layers. Foam could be one, with other materials being talked about.
The magic skin though would be able to go over the top of this new framework and be able to handle whatever weather conditions were thrown at or on it. It would also have one other feature to it that typical planes do not have these days. The hope is that manufacturers like Cessna would be able to employ sensors in this skin which could give clues as to whether there maybe a structural problem or whether something might have contacted the plane in flight.
Think about how great that type of thing would have been in this latest episode. Perhaps that plane would not have even gotten off the ground with this possible new technology. If this plane can be built, it could save countless lives and also helped to ease concerns many passengers face today when flying. Cessna believes it can have something ready for NASA within a year or so. That is certainly exciting news for all who like to take flight!