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17 Killed in Montana Plane Crash

According to CNN, 17 “children and adults were among the victims of a plane crash Sunday in Butte, Montana, that killed as many as 17 people, according to authorities in Oroville, California, where the aircraft stopped for fuel.” – read the CNN article.

Aircraft crashes are always unfortunate, and all the more sad when so many children are involved.  What was the cause of the accident?  We can rely on the NTSB to provide us with an answer.  What was the cause of the deaths?  This question will remain unanswered, the implication being that it was the accident that caused the deaths.  But is it necessarily so?  People are involved in car accidents but when there are survivors to a car accident, we do not think of it as a miracle.  We do when it’s an airplane crash.  Why?

Cabin intact after cartwheel crash.
Cabin intact after cartwheel crash.

Cars are designed with crashworthiness in mind. Portions of the car will deform to absorb the energy of a crash and the portion of the car where the passengers are is designed to stay intact.  Airplanes are not.  When you see pictures of a plane crash, you often see only a tail, the wheels, maybe an engine or two but the structure that is supposed to protect the passengers is missing, having disintegrated during the crash – it did not protect the passengers.  See the site for more on this subject.  You may want to look here and here to start.  See our SAFETY page to get a quick understanding why the Burnelli principle of design is superior to the conventional aircraft that we all fly in.

Flight 1549 and the Hudson: survival in an urban environment

On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 (A320) ditched into to the Hudson River after having both engines fail due to ingestion of Canadian Geese in both of its engines. All passengers and crew survived. This was a miracle that was in part thanks to excellent piloting skills of Capitain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the proximity of numerous ships that came to the aid of the slowly sinking aircraft within minutes of crash landing. The air temperature at the time was 20 degrees F (-7 degrees C) and the water temperature was icy cold. Undoubtedly, prolonged exposure to the elements would have caused numerous fatalities.

A similar ditching occured in 1996, when an Ethiopian Boeing 767-200ER had to put down in the Indian Ocean off the island of Comoros. That accident, while it occured in relatively warm waters, close to a tourist resort, cost the lives of 125 of the 175 passengers and crew on board. (see: A short video of the crash is also available on

Burnelli floats in case of water landing
Burnelli floats in case of water landing

Since the 1940s an aircraft design exists that makes aviation crashes more survivable – a Burnelli.

In its December 1946 issue, Mechanix Illustrated, in an article entitled “Something New on the Wing” stated:

“In addition to their hitherto unapproached stability, 80 passenger ships of the new 1946 design, … are designed to descend on the water with complete safety and travel for days under their own power as full-fledged sea-going boats. This feat is the more remarkable in consideration of the fact that they are strictly land planes.

Under any circumstances necessitating a landing at sea, passengers of this type of ultra modern sky hotel lose none of the comfort and luxury that they enjoyed in the air. A specially designed mechanism, which cannot be operated in flight, is used to disengage the wings from the fuselage section once the ship is on the water. Once this is done, even a stormy sea holds no terrors for the occupants of the safety-sealed fuselage with its complete set of navigation instruments and its diesel-driven underwater propeller. In short, a landing at sea is not even an emergency for this newest of passenger aircraft.”

Why do aircraft manufacturers, airlines, the FAA and the NTSB continue to subject passengers and crew to aircraft designs that are inefficient, dangerous (low survivability in case of an accident) and outdated when a superior type of aircraft exists? Why is the Burnelli Company prevented from competing in what is allegedly a free economy?

A complete expose about Burnelli and it’s history is available at


1. Mechanix Illustrated – Dec 1946 – Something New on the Wing.PDF full article.

2. Full-size copy of floating Burnelli seen at top of this page.