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If you like flying, then thank the robots

Written by

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

We all have our flying stories and they are best retold when you are not about to board a flight. Personally, I love flying, airports and the whole rigmarole of getting from A to B on a plane. 

A former client of mine was responsible for manufacturing fan blades for the giant Pratt & Whitney and General Electric engines that power many of the modern airliners. His factory forged the basic blade shape from huge blocks of metal. A blade from each run had to be tested for its tensile strength, before it went to another factory for machining. And each blade was numbered and after it was placed into the engine, it’s whole life history was available to the regulators for checking.

I was chatting with the sales director after one factory visit. We were looking at the rough blades and I said, stupid question, how often does one of these cause an accident? If you  watch a jet engine spool up, you’ll see the blades start to whizz around at frenzied speeds. He said, no worries, the engine casings are protected with Kelvar if anything goes wrong with a blade, they are usually contained. Relieved, I made a mental note of that. He then added, mind you, there have been cases of them coming loose and ripping right through the engine casing and through the side of the aircraft. If that happens, it's Goodnight Vienna. Ah, nice, thanks for that, so good of him. Now I try to choose the seat not directly opposite the engine. 

But, I’m comforted by the fact that robots being involved in the manufacturing process can only be a good thing and they are making airliners safer. That’s good, as long as I don’t think about those engine blades!