I submit that the oil companies are right in their assessment of the recent Indianapolis 500: the principal areas of research for the next year must be in the fields of fuel and fuel safety (After the Indianapolis Fire: an Argument, June 22).
Perhaps the time has come to have compulsory fuel stops of, say, one-minute duration which are supervised by a track official. That way, the fuel capacity of the car could be limited to more closely approximate the fuel limits of a production car.
Also, the fuel ought to be dealt with in the same way as in aircraft, viz., under pressure with carbon dioxide or some other incombustible gas which would immediately control any outbreak of fire. To minimize movement within the fuel container, I wonder whether a baffle in the style of an icecube separator, if not already employed, might not be useful.
Introducing CO2 adds a hazard to the driver, and to overcome this I suggest the driver ought to wear a mask. Mindful of Parnelli Jones's narrow escape, one wonders whether an asbestos suit might not be something to be investigated, as well as the introduction of an enclosed cockpit with an ejection seat.
G. M. SMITH
As a consultant and lecturer (at the University of Southern California) on the subject of aerospace safety, I would like to add my thoughts on the argument about fuel volatility and crash fires at Indianapolis. Previously, it was in the field of aviation-crash-injury prevention that there was a cry for kerosene in jet aircraft rather than the more volatile aviation gas.
But when controlled experimental aircraft-crash evidence was analyzed, the real bugaboo turned out to be the dispersal of fuel at impact into a fine mist or vapor. Under these conditions and in the presence of ignition points such as a hot engine, electrical sparks, metal scraping on asphalt or static electricity, the fuel characteristics become mostly academic.
An excellent solution being worked on by Aviation Safety Engineering and Research, a division of the Flight Safety Foundation, in Phoenix, Ariz. is the use of fuel tanks made of honeycomb material. This not only prevents the fuel mist from forming but provides an excellent energy attenuator to reduce the crash loads themselves.
It seems to me the automobile types might well look into this before leaping to premature regulations which may not solve the basic problem.
C. O. MILLER
Buena Park, Calif.
FISH AGAINST MAN
We take exception to the item "The Fish Who Come for Dinner" (SCORECARD, June 15). There are some 16 varieties of piranha of which only four varieties are known to be vicious. An expert ichthyologist has trouble distinguishing one from another; and your New York pet shops do a thriving business selling another half a dozen variety of fishes that only look like piranhas.
Even among the piranhas there are species that refuse to come to dinner unless only the tenderest of aquatic vegetation is served.