Re: airline fuel tanks...

Michael S. Lorrey (
Tue, 23 Feb 1999 09:10:40 -0500

Spike Jones wrote:

> Mike, this troubles me. With hydrocarbon fuels, it requires a lot more
> air than fuel to make an ignition. Too rich and it wont even burn,
> never
> mind explode. Having a fuel tank leak would cause some air to be vented
> in, I just dont see how you could get the magic 15 to 1 air to fuel
> ratio
> inside a fuel tank.

The 15 to 1 air to fuel ratio is not magic. It is a ratio which requires a high minimum air pressure level to ignite. At atmospheric pressure, a higher ratio will easily ignite. Now, here's another idea: vacuum pressure. The plane was ascending thru the mid teen levels. The tanks had been sealed at sea level and are partially pressurized. There is obviously going to be enough pressure to encourage outflow from any even minor leaks in the tank. Put that outflow near some sparking kapton wire, and BOOM. Moreover, since the tank was mostly empty, its volume was not entirely a vapor version of the fuel. It was air filled with fuel fumes. It is an ideally explosive setup. Ideal mixing, minimum swirl, etc.

> > ...happened to the plane, but there is so much of the plane (especially in the area of
> > that fuel tank) that is still missing, that I am afraid we will never know.
> Perhaps. This whole thread started with the contention (I think) that
> the CIA report was trying to cover something by claiming a 29
> second plunge of the crippled plane into the sea. I realized that
> the number 29 in itself is an indication they hoped to minimize the
> time, just as Frys electronics puts a new electronic gazazzafratz on
> sale for 29.99 because that sounds less than 30 bucks. 29 seconds,
> well, thats less than half a minute. I imagine it really took about a
> full terrifying minute for the doomed, and likely conscious, passengers
> to end their suffering. I would still like to pretend it was only 29
> seconds
> even if I know better. Either way, I suspect a fuel leak started a fire
> outside the tank which then (somehow) caused the tank to explode.

As I demonstrated, the 29 second time was for the nose section, which itself also had passengers, as well as the cockpit, where some of the black boxes are, which would have recorded the time to impact.

> When I was a teenager, I and my friends were mentally retarded. We
> used to take aerosol cans, hold a match under the spray and make a
> torch. We found that engine starting fluid made the best torch: oh my,
> one could raise hell with one of those things.

Oh, yes. As kids we used to instant barbecue fish and frogs with bug spray flamethrowers.... he he he. "MMMM Tastes just like chicken!"

> One day, while burning trash, an empty (presumably) hairspray can
> exploded. Made a great fireball. We reasoned that a full can would
> do all that much more, so we bought a full can of engine starting fluid,
> built a fire, threw the can in and ran like hell. We waited and after a
> surprisingly long time (a couple of minutes) in the fire, the can
> finally
> burst.
> Did you guess what happened? It doused the fire! No fireball!
> Waste of three bucks! {8^D I hope I never have kids. spike