Aviation experts vs. Lego man

Lego man in space - Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad - pix 02

According to TorStar, “Aviation experts worry about Lego man copycats

“Most weather balloons are launched from known sites, according to Capt. Barry Wiszniowski, chairman of Air Canada Pilots Association’s safety division. If other balloons are being sent up, it could pose a concern to aviation. […]

A pilot might not have enough reaction time if such a balloon popped up unexpectedly, he said. With the speed of a plane, the impact could be similar to a bird strike and could cause damage, especially if something was sucked into an engine, he said.

Unmanned balloon flights are not governed by the Canadian Aviation Regulations, but Transport Canada should be informed ahead of any such launch to ensure aviation safety is not threatened, said spokesperson Kelly James.”

OK, no one want any plane accidents and I am not disputing Air Canada Pilots Association’s safety division’s and Transport Canada’s concerns. I especially respect their job and duty to worry. But at the same time, I do think there may be a bit of too much worrying here. May be with an added dose of just-in-case cya.

I am not an expert but here are some of my unscientific “justifications”:

* Planes’ engines are designed to withstand the impact of a flying bird or two. In fact, I think aircraft engine manufacturers are required to test their engines to ensure flying birds may destroy an engine but the engine enclosure should hold up, localizing the damage.

* I believe planes are designed to be able to fly and land with lost of one engine. So even in the unlikely event of losing an engine, the plane can and should still be able to land.

* Don’t know if I am close in this guestimate but, in terms of probability, we may be talking about throwing a rock to hit a speeding bullet thousands of feets away. It is possible (like me winning a lottery) but it might be very very unlikely.

* Finally, are we going to have hundreds or thousands of kids rushing out to fly stuff up into near-space? I don’t know but I kinda doubt it. I guess I will worry more when there are many more cases of such attempts.

P.S. I am glad I don’t work for Air Canada Pilots Association’s safety division or Transport Canada! Otherwise I will likely have the same worry and issue the same warning!

Jan 29, 2012 update: TorStar, “The science and engineering behind Lego Man’s balloon voyage

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