Why there are no Parachutes on Commercial Aircraft?

How many times, when boarding a plane, have negative scenarios of the future captured your consciousness? Having gone through all the possible rescue methods from a flying device, one cannot but recall the parachute. In this article, we will explore why parachutes are not available on commercial aircraft.

The modern parachute has been around since 1783 when Louis-Sebastian Lenormand invented it by jumping from the tower of the Montpellier Observatory. Nowadays, this means of transportation has spread all over the world – everyone has the opportunity to jump with a parachute. Why isn’t it being used as a life-saving tool in a commercial aircraft crash?

Technical problems with using parachutes on commercial aircraft.

military paratroopers
What an airplane designed for parachuting looks like. © US Army

First and foremost, there are several technical reasons which do not allow the use of parachutes on commercial aircraft.

The average flight altitude for commercial aircraft is between 33,000 and 42,000 feet. The height range for skydiving for civilians is from 3,000 feet to 18,000 feet. Only professional skydivers can jump from over 30,000 feet. Therefore, a parachute jump from a commercial aircraft for an unprepared person is extremely difficult, even in “ideal” conditions.

The average speed of commercial aircraft is 575 mph. The usual speed of the aircraft from which the parachute jump is about 100 mph. In an emergency situation, it is unlikely that the pilot of a commercial aircraft will be able to reduce speed. Therefore, attempting to jump from a crashing commercial aircraft is extremely dangerous.

In order to jump out of a flying aircraft, you must either jump out of its tail or be able to cling to its wings. Otherwise, the jump may lead to the parachutist colliding with the aircraft’s body. Accordingly, to ensure the safe jumping of a large number of people, commercial aircraft would have to be redesigned – modern design does not provide for the ability to move far enough from the hull during the flight.

Having said that, it is worth studying the use of skydiving equipment in more detail. After all, it has its own limitations, which are embedded in its design and purpose.

Problems with using parachutes on commercial aircraft as emergency equipment.

parachute equipment
An example of a skydiver’s outfit. © MattiasJ Josefsson

Like any equipment, a parachute can only be used under certain conditions. This leads to several issues which make the use of skydiving equipment on commercial aircraft problematic.

The first parachute jump is always a very stressful situation for a person. The instructors do everything so that the first parachute jump is made in the most ordinary situation – everything is according to plan; the student just needs to follow the instructions. To jump out of even a small private jet, students must learn how to properly place their feet and hands along the wing of an aircraft. In the face of a commercial airliner crashing, people without knowledge of skydiving would hardly be able to bail out of an airplane safely. In a sense, those who stay inside the plane have a better chance of survival.

Using parachutes on commercial aircraft is very expensive. Firstly, the parachute itself is expensive, even without considering the parachute’s additional equipment. Secondly, the parachute takes up a lot of space and weighs about 11 kg. Considering the number of passengers on board, the number of parachutes needed will greatly increase the weight of the cargo on the plane, which can greatly affect the price of the flight.

With the reasons presented above, the list of issues with skydiving equipment on commercial aircraft is not running out. The main message is that a skydiving parachute was never intended as an emergency kit – it’s equipment that requires careful preparation before it is used.

Conclusion about using parachutes on commercial aircraft.

In the eyes of the average person, skydiving is an extreme sport that only a few people are capable of. But all civilian jumps occur in the most average conditions to reduce stress’s impact on decisions. Skydiving equipment always has two parachutes – a second spare opens if the first parachutist cannot open. And yet, there are deaths among civilian paratroopers.

Would you still want to have a parachute as a passenger on a commercial aircraft as a last resort? Share your thoughts with us!

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