Modern fault-tolerance design for aircraft does little to help when big parts start falling off. This study proposes a design approach / philosophy for keeping things aloft during broader system failure.

From PsysOrg: /
"For example, the group studied the plane’s operation during a maneuver called the “Dutch roll,” in which the plane rocks from side to side, its wingtips rolling in a figure-eight motion. The potentially dangerous motion is much more pronounced when a plane’s rudder is faulty, or one of its engines isn’t responding. Using their design approach, the group found that in such partially failed conditions, if the plane’s tail was larger, it could damp the motion, and steady the aircraft.

Of course, a plane’s shape can’t morph in midflight to accommodate an engine sputter or a rudder malfunction. To arrive at a plane’s final shape — a geometry that can withstand potential failures — de Weck and his researchers weighed the likelihood of each partial failure, using that data to inform their decisions on how to change the plane’s shape in a way that would address the likeliest failures.

De Weck says that while the group’s focus on failure represents a completely new approach to design, there is also a psychological element with which engineers may have to grapple.“Many engineers are perfectionists, so deliberately designing something that’s not going to be fully functional is hard,” de Weck says. “But we’re showing that by acknowledging imperfection, you can actually make the system better.”

Views: 1184

Comment by john seaman on June 16, 2012 at 12:08am

Honey, did you see my winglet...?

Sorry couldn't resist.  Great article.  Cascading failure is a very interesting subject.

Comment by Carl La France on June 16, 2012 at 5:38pm

Good Post!  A few years back I was on  a Commercial airline as a passenger since I am a pilot I Like a widow seat so I can see what the plane is doing every time it banked fuel ran out of the seams in the wing I brought it to the stewardesses attention who supposedly told the captain he never came back and looked diverted or nothing which means he was already aware of the problem and didn't want to alarm the passengers when we flared to land fuel really poured out I scheduled the return flight with another carrier

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