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Pants bomber ‘would not have brought down the plane’ 4, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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A BBC2 documentary has concluded that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who tried to explode a bomb on a US bound transatlantic flight over Christmas, did not have enough explosives to bring the plane down.

After meticulously recreating the crash using the exact amount of pentaerythritol (PETN – the explosive used) and detonating it in the same place in the place as Abdulmutallab, an air accident investigator concluded that the amount of explosives used

was nowhere near enough needed to rupture the skin of a passenger plane.

The key seems to be the relative flexibility of the plane’s skin. A harder more ridged outer shell might well have cracked, but modern design means that the strength of the explosion rippled out across the hull, as clearly shown on the video, dissipating its strength.

This conclusion will reassure passengers and plane operators alike. It is also something of a surprise. Many (including me) expected that even a small amount of PETN, enough to destroy vehicles, would rip through a plane’s thin fuselage with ease. It is nice to be proven wrong, though I’ll be on the lookout for analysis of these findings from more knowledgeable people on plane safety than I.

They did conclude, however, that at least the passenger sitting next to the would-be bomber would have certainly been killed and that the panic and trauma of eviscerated, flying body-parts inside the cabin would have been a horrifying experience. Yet, ceteris paribus, this appears to be a good-news story.


1. Bum bomb evolves: the breast bomb « The Gulf blog - 26, March 2010

[…] the human body is a great cushioning and absorbing device. Add to this the fact that the BBC proved quite well I think that a decent sized amount of PETN (as used in the pants bombing) will still NOT […]

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