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Numerical investigation of the fatal 1985 Manchester Airport B737 fire

  • E. R. Galea (a1), Z. Wang (a1) and F. Jia (a1)

In this paper, fire and evacuation computer simulations are used to reconstruct the 1985 Manchester Airport B737 fire that resulted in the loss of 55 lives. First the actual fire and evacuation are reconstructed. Secondly, the impact of exit opening times and external wind on the fire and evacuation are investigated. Finally, the potential benefit offered by modern materials is evaluated. The results suggest that the number of fatalities could have been reduced by 87% had the forward right exit not malfunctioned and by 36% had the right over-wing exit been opened without delay. Furthermore, given the fuel pool size and location, a critical wind speed of 1.5m/s is necessary to cause the fire plume to lean onto the fuselage eventually resulting in fuselage burn-through. Finally, it is suggested that the use of modern cabin materials could have made a significant difference to the fire development and survivability.

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