Since the 1950’s the state-of-the-art for transport aircraft design has been the extendable ‘tube’ that transfers strength and rigidity through the external skin. This design includes a passenger compartment with its ‘overhead bins’ and a floor under which cargo and utility equipment ride. This design requires that specially trained baggage handlers load and unload the cargo-hold while ‘specially’ trained passengers load and unload the overhead bins. This process is time consuming and therefore expensive and includes a certain innate level of passenger dissatisfaction due to abusive and oblivious travelers.
The ‘tube’ design was necessitated by strength and weight requirements that no longer dominate aircraft design. The Secure, Known-Yield, Cargo Access Pallet (SKYCAP) system is a projection of applied modern materials and devices to better protect the air traveling public. The unique application of durable lightweight materials protects passengers from explosive and bio/chemical weapons by isolating potentially harmful items in modular cargo pallets that support ease of handling and mitigate traumatic impact to critical aircraft structures. The system requires that the aircraft fuselage structure be radically reconfigured as a ‘strong back’ constructed of composite materials. The backbone would house mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic components shielded from mishap while providing maintenance access. The strong back is envisioned as a monolithic box-beam structure with the cross-sectional “T” shape. On top of the “T” passenger modules can be fitted while along the sides of the “T” are cargo pallets (Ref. Figure 1, Fuselage Cross Section).
The passenger modules are envisioned to be jettison-able escape capsules with parachute and floatation devices for use in emergency situations. The cargo pallets on the other hand are configured to remain attached to the aircraft structure while providing interior shielding and a frangible exterior skin (Ref. Figure 2, Conceptual Transport Aircraft).
In this way if an explosive device is contained within an individual pallet, any damage caused would be confined to a single pallet and would be directed outward through the frangible skin and away from any vital aircraft components (Ref. Figure 3, Explosive Discharge).
The critical technology revolves around the ability to contain damage from an explosive device by enabling the aircraft structure to shape the blast energy out and away from passengers and critical aircraft structures. The result is a rupture of the external ‘skin’ and the expulsion of any baggage within that particular pallet, while retaining the primary aircraft structure and a providing for fire damage mitigation.
The modular nature of the concept lends itself to customization and exploitation for various commercial applications. The pallets can be configured as a variety of emergency response applications such as medical units or logistics modules that can be deployed as required using any available commercial aircraft. Likewise, the passenger modules could be commercially leased luxury suites or high priority cargo carriers. This would open the airline industry to boutique coachwork and would cater to people that don’t want the expense of maintaining an airplane but want a personalized flight experience.