Excerpt from the October 28, 1967 issue of Science News
US Navy/Wikimedia Commons
A gigantic emergency arresting gear system, capable of stopping the largest four-engined jet aircraft without discomfort to passengers, is being developed for the French Ministry of Transportation. The system consists of a nylon net … which engages the aircraft for the full width of its wingspan. Net and airplane are brought to a slow stop by energy absorbing devices located along the sides of the runway. — Science News, September 28, 1967
Catching commercial airliners in giant nets never took off. However, aircraft carriers have deployed nets since 1931 for emergency landings. In modern versions, nets are linked to energy-absorbers below deck to help bring a plane to a safe stop. Today’s net systems are a big improvement over the original barricade: Aviation pioneer Eugene Ely first landed an airplane on a ship, the USS Pennsylvania, in 1911. His landing relied on sandbag-secured ropes across the deck plus a canvas awning between the plane and the sea.
Editor's note: This story was corrected on November 6, 2017. The nets used on the aircraft carriers to arrest airplanes were not made of nylon until after nylon became available in 1935.
Pittsburgh II (Armored Cruiser No. 4). Naval History and Heritage Command. August 21, 2015.
P. Jakab. Eugene Ely and the Birth of Naval Aviation — January 18, 1911. Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. January 18, 2011.
M. Temming. Rising temps may mean fewer passengers on airplane flights. Science News Online, July 13, 2017.
A. Grant. Aircraft industry could take tips from penguins. Science News Online, January 5, 2016.
T. Sumner. Warming climate will force airlines to shed weight, increase costs. Science News Online, January 9, 2015.
B. Bower. Right questions could help spot devious air passengers. Science News Online, November 18, 2014.