Least Risk Bomb Location
This fascinating tidbit is from Aviation Week and Space Technology (April 9, 2007, p. 21), in David Bond’s “Washington Outlook” column (unfortunately, not online).
Need to Know
Security and society’s litigious bent combine to make airlines unsuited for figuring out the best place to put a suspected explosive device discovered during a flight, AirTran Airways tells the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Commenting on a proposed rule that would require, among other things, designation of a “least risk bomb location” (LRBL)—the place on an aircraft where a bomb would do the least damage if it exploded—AirTran engineering director Rick Shideler says it’s hard for airlines to get aircraft design information related to such a location because of agreements between manufacturers and the Homeland Security Department. The carrier got LRBL information for its 717s and 737s from Boeing but can’t find out why the locations were chosen, “or even who specifically picked them,” because of liability laws.
I’d never heard of an LRBL before, but the FAA has public proposed guidelines on them. Apparently flight crews are trained to stash suspicious objects there.
But liability seems to be getting in the way of security and common sense here. It seems reasonable that an airline’s engineering director should be allowed to understand the technical reasoning behind the choice of LRBL, and maybe even give the manufacturer feedback on it.
EDITED TO ADD (4/21): Comment (below) from a pilot: The designation of a “least risk bomb location” is nothing new. All planes have a designated area where potentially dangerous packages should be placed. Usually it’s in the back, adjacent to a door. There are a slew of procedures to be followed if an explosive device is found on board: depressurizing the plane, moving the item to the LRBL, and bracing/smothering it with luggage and other dense materials so that the force of the blast is directed outward, through the door.