Business Traveller

Could this detachable plane cabin really save lives?

Daisy Carrington, for CNNPublished 22nd January 2016
(CNN) — Hydrogen-powered planes, self-healing planes, planes that fly at Mach 10 or are powered by body heat ... The world of planes that don't exist but could (and have fancy renderings to prove it) is rich indeed.
Now, Ukrainian inventor Vladimir Tatarenko has added a new concept plane to the pile: This one has a cabin that detaches from the cockpit when the flight goes belly-up.
The idea is that in the event of an emergency, the pilots could push a button that would allow the cabin -- complete with passengers and cargo -- to separate from the rest of the plane and float down to safety with the help of attached parachutes.
The pilots themselves, it seems, are out of luck.
What if the cabin lands on water, you ask? Inflatable tubes would be at the ready to keep it afloat.
According to a YouTube video Tatarenko released last month, he is looking for investors for this new project.
Before you break out your wallet, there are some in the aviation community that find the concept more than a little farfetched.
YouTube/Vladimir Tatarenko
For starters, the cost of building and testing this new aircraft would be, undoubtedly, extravagant.
Airlines already spend between $100 million and $350 million per aircraft as is -- and that's without the yearly maintenance costs.
They would have little motivation to replace a trustworthy fleet with an untested concept, especially as plane crash fatalities are exceedingly rare.
According to airline association IATA, in 2014 (a tragic year for air flight), out of the 3.3 billion passengers that traveled, there were a total 641 fatalities.
This is actually an astoundingly high safety rate. Perhaps the money would be better spent addressing heart disease, which is responsible for over 610,000 deaths yearly in the U.S. alone?

Where will it land?

Economics aside, the mechanics seem, well, a bit dubious. As one commenter on Tatarenko's YouTube page points out:
"This whole concept dramatically weakens the airframe because now you have joints and fittings to connect a fuselage and a body together where once you had a whole fuselage to reinforce the airframe."
Also, what if the ejected cabin doesn't land -- as depicted in the video -- on a conveniently flat piece of land? What if it hits mountains, or buildings?
Without pilots (or, indeed, wings) to direct it, who's to say where it would land?