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Why planes do not have parachutes

Flyers who either may worry about crashing or who are just curious people may wonder why planes don’t supply parachutes for passengers. Clearly if the plane were to run into trouble, this would be the perfect solution that could save hundreds, if not thousands of lives. Well, unfortunately this is not the case. There are in fact numerous reasons why this would be a very ineffective solution.

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It is important to look at the logistics of skydiving alone. When a skydiver jumps, the plane is usually going around 80-110 mph. Whether you are jumping tandem or doing an accelerated free fall, the plane should be anywhere between 10,000 and 13,000 feet.Anything higher than 15,000 feet increases the risk of hypoxia and the jumper will be more affected by the altitude.

The majority of commercial airline flights fly Boeing 737-800 and maintain the speed around 600 mph when the altitude is roughly 35,000 feet. The normal cruising altitude is usually around 39,000 feet or higher if they are longer flights. At this altitude passengers would need high altitude equipment (HALO) which would include oxygen tank mask and regulator, flight suits, and much more. Which leads to the next problem, space and weight.

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One parachute can weigh 40 lbs, so multiplying that by the number of passengers quickly adds up. This would also leave less space for cargo, fuel and passengers which neither airlines nor passengers would like. Besides the space and weight, the price of all the equipment including helmet, goggles, jumpsuit, rig and other pieces can be around £4,000 -£6,000 each.

But say there is an airline that has extra money lying around and have decided they can afford to have the extra weight, there is still a massive problem. The vast majority of the passengers will have little or no previous skydiving knowledge as to what the correct protocol is when jumping. Even for those that do tandem jumps, they still are required to have a basic understanding of the instructions. Those doing solo flights are required to have at least 4-5 hours of ground instructions where they learn hand basics such as signals and body flight maneuvers. This is an impossible ask for passengers and is simply not realistic.

There are some ideas of creating one large parachute for the entire plane. While this is far away from happening to large commercial flights, small planes have been experimenting with different parachutes that are attached to the body of the aircraft. Hopefully over time there will be great advancements in this area and can lead to saving thousands of lives.

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