Beechcraft Explosion, Wichita, Kansas, USA

Last week we had a news item about an explosion at a Beechcraft facility in Wichita, Kansas. It made our news section because of the possibility that it was related to heat treating the company does. As it turns out it was an autoclave furnace with nitrogen addition and this photo shows what a tremendous explosion it was. 

“New pictures released by the Sedgwick County Fire Department show the devastation left after a massive explosion at Textron’s Beechcraft plant number three in December. “Once again, it not only does it show the force of this blast but it also shows how fortunate we were that they were on a shutdown,” says Chief Doug Williams. Chief Williams told Sedgwick County commissioners the cause of the blast that left 15 workers injured is still a mystery, but he says this massive piece of equipment called an autoclave blew up, sending a fan 450 feet in the air. It landed in a nearby field. “The autoclave exploded out at Textron. This is a very, very large piece of equipment. It was pressurized with nitrogen which is an inert gas.  It’s not something that’s harmful, you’re breathing it right now, so, as a result of that explosion, we don’t why it exploded,” says Commissioner David Dennis. The autoclave is a large oven, 25 by 65 feet…used to mold airplane equipment. It’s so big, it was used to cure a space shuttle wing several years ago. The blast blew the autoclave off its concrete base. At the time of the blast, Textron thought it was a small pipe that exploded. The blast was so big it damaged at least a dozen cars in the parking lot and left mangled metal strewn everywhere. A 20-foot-long piece of iron was launched through the roof of a completely separate building. “One piece traveled across to another building and just missed a major gas line, which if it would’ve hit that gas line it would’ve caused a huge explosion,” said Dennis.”