Monday, March 08, 2010


Off Drudge over the weekend..
A bomb on board a U.S. Christmas Day flight would have failed to bring the plane down even if it had been detonated successfully, a new test explosion suggests.
So says the London Daily Mail based on the testimony of Dr John Wyatt, an international terrorism and explosives adviser to the UN, who:
replicated the conditions on board the Detroit flight on a decommissioned Boeing 747 at an aircraft graveyard
The premise of the story being that the PETN charge carried in the underpants wasn't strong enough to take down the plane despite what other experts were telling everyone after it happened:
A government test with 50 grams of PETN blew a hole in the side of an airliner.
Abdulmichelob's panties had 80 grams. So what's going on here?

First, the experiment was performed on a 747 on the ground. Northwest flight 253 was an Airbus 330, in-flight. Different stresses, as pointed out by the commenters. Oddly enough, at least two 747s have been attacked in-flight using small bombs, Pan Am flight 830 en-route from the far east to Honolulu back in 1985 (by May 15 Organization, a Palestinian terrorist operating group out of Baghdad), and Philippine Airlines flight 434 between Cebu City and Tokyo by Ramzi Yousef's group. In both cases individual passengers sitting near the epicenter were killed but the planes landed safely, although with much help from skilled flight crews. So it's already a known fact that 747s can withstand bombs.

Second, the story said:
For security reasons, they could not go into specific details of blast damage inside the cabin of the test Boeing 747.
This may have more to do with Abdulmuttalob's seat assignment than anything else; the fact he didn't remain in the safety and privacy of the lavatory to ignite his shorts instead of taking the risk to return to his seat has puzzled some folks but this test might confirm that he indeed didn't have enough to cripple the flight unless he had help from the airplane itself. Still, it's puzzling as to why they used a 747 in this experiment, unless they didn't have any old A330s around to blow up.

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