Video: US airlines study blast-proof cargo containers as threat of terrorist bombs in hold increases

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In the wake of of August’s UK airliner bomb threats, US carriers Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have held talks with Norway’s Hydro Nordisk Aviation and Florida-based Blastgard International about introducing new blast resistant hold containers and pallets developed by the two companies.

The products use Blastgard International’s Blastwrap, a blast mitigating material that looks like bubble wrap and which its maker says can suppress post-blast fires (see video below, after lengthy explanation). The two companies have been working for the past eight months to complete the new product range. The containers have Blastwrap built into them and are lighter than normal containers to avoid the weight penalties that could be associated with additional material. Last month Nordisk and Blastgard held talks with Continental’s head of security.

“There is nothing onboard today that would stop another Pan Am 103,” says BlastGard chief operating officer and Blastwrap co-inventor Jack Waddell. He adds that there are no certification requirements by aviation agencies for hold containers.

Blastgard’s senior engineering vice-president Kevin Sharpe co-operated with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority on security issues when he worked for the UK’s then Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, which has since been split into the Qinetiq company and the UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Sharpe says Blastwrap could be incorporated into a widebody airliner’s walls and doorframe assemblies for in-cabin explosion resistance.

After the bombing of the Pan Am Boeing 747 over Scotland in 1988, the US Federal Aviation Administration developed a Kevlar-lined container that was so heavy airlines have never used it.