In studying the Concorde crash the investigators determined it was caused by debris on the runway, which had fallen off a Continental Airlines Aircraft, which went down the same runway prior to the Concorde. Some thought the crash was an International Terrorist Attack. Had the debris, which had fallen off been known it could have been picked up prior to the Concorde’s take off roll.
In fact debris on run ways is common, I have seen stuff on runways myself during takeoff rolls, usually it is something minor and in a light aircraft you are not going very fast so a slight bit of steering for someone on the ball and the problem is solved. The Concorde however takes off at 180 knots or at least that day it tried. It hit the debris and it popped a tire and that tire shredded and sent pieces into the bottom of the wing and fuel tank along with a little of the debris. The aircraft on fire took off and then immediately crashed.
A young man, only twelve years old has come up with a little gadget, which will prevent this from ever happening again. It is a small real-time video camera, which runs along the runway on a track and videos the aircraft as it lands or takes off. It can also be sent solo to inspect the runway from afar, such as a room in the control tower or ground control workstation. The British Airport Authority (BAA) is interested in possibly developing this concept. Interesting as a 12-year old came up with it. Incidentally today NASA announced a spherical device to fly around the ISS-International Space Station to check for damage from space debris. Had this been available it could have inspected the Space Shuttle prior to its return and prevented the accident by way of video preflight.
The young man’s device is said to be able to spot even a single nut on the runway, which could be picked up by a tire or sucked into a jet engine. This is an awesome idea and I would hope the US Military would put them on the catapults so when it returns it video tapes the deck. The young man developed the concept in the “Young Engineers for Britain” contest. This shows why it is important to get ideas from everywhere and how contests spur on innovation. In the United States we have constant robotic contests and we all know about Robot Wars. The young man wants is counting on becoming a mechanical engineer if he ever grows up and I think he will make a damn good one.