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This lonely scientist – that’s all I am – works on subjects of own choice and presents here the draft text of a book – An impossible dream – that will be published at a later stage. The draft – yet to be edited – is a free download intended for comment from the interested reader, contributions are appreciated and will be included in the book when deemed appropriate by the author.

Comment – Contribution – Personal contact

Very much appreciated

The interested reader can issue a comment or contribution or contact the author. With comments no e-mail address is required and the contents will be published on this site and might include remarks, engagement in discussion, point out a different view or draw attention to shortcomings. Contributions are very much appreciated but require identification to be able to make reference when included in the text and will only be published on this site when with permission of the contributor. The interested reader can also contact the author personally.

About the author

Hans Van der Zanden is a materials engineer specializing in durability. Among the many projects he has worked on throughout his career, one of his most accomplished ones was his work on the King Fahd Causeway, pictured at the top of his blog. Mr. Van der Zanden played an integral role in that massive project by providing the engineering analysis and, ultimately, the solution for ensuring the durability of the 25 Kilometer (15.5 Mile) long bridge in the harsh Persian Gulf environment. (More about the King Fahd Causeway and Mr. Van der Zanden’s role can be found on his blog, dated July 7, 2009.)

It was as a result of his work on the King Fahd Causeway in the early 1980’s that Mr. Van der Zanden became involved with the use of plastics in engineering. Because of the growth in the application of composites for various engineering purposes, Mr. Van der Zanden studied composites and the possibility of their use in bridges, but found they were not ideally suited for large load bearing structures. However, they were perfectly suited for other non-primary structures (e.g., window frames or secondary structures). As a result of this work, Mr. Van der Zanden was asked to advise on the application of composites in the automobile industry. This request was for the purposes of insurance and liability analysis. Mr. Van der Zanden concluded that composites were suitable for application on parts that would be easily replaced – a conclusion that was also recognized by the automobile industry.

Sometime later Mr. Van der Zanden invented a new method of optimizing crushing forces from impacts. Intended for comminution of particle materials (e.g., stone, minerals, coal, etc) he realized that the method could also be applied for impact testing of other materials for which no suitable method was then available. Mr. Van der Zanden worked on this with Dr. Ad Vlot, who was then working at the Technical University of Delft on the development of GLARE, which would eventually be used to some extent on the Airbus A380 Super Jumbo Jet. Unfortunately Dr. Vlot died suddenly, and with him much of the work on the new test method. When the Anglo-French Concorde crashed in July of 2000, a crash that resulted from the forces of an object impact, Mr. Van der Zanden felt it was a tragedy that might have been avoided with his new test method and, consequently, redoubled his efforts on developing the crusher for impact testing (see and in the early 1990’s was able to help produce the world’s first detailed video recordings of actual large-scale high-velocity impacts.

Coming home after just such a recording session, Mr. Van der Zanden watched the launch of the U.S. Space Shuttle, Columbia, in January of 2003. A minor mention in the media along with a short video clip of the insulating foam impact during launch led Mr. Van der Zanden to conclude that the flight of Columbia may have been compromised. At the time, Mr. Van der Zanden was probably the only person in the world who could have recognized the severity of such an impact and realized from those brief images that something had gone terribly wrong. Mr. Van der Zanden attempted to contact NASA, to no avail, in order to forewarn them of the possibility of a looming tragedy, and a few days later watched in horror with the rest of the world as Columbia disintegrated over the plains of Texas with the loss of her seven gallant crew members.

Shortly after the Columbia disaster Mr. Van der Zanden became aware of a new commercial passenger jetliner that was being proposed by Boeing that was to eventually be called the 787 Dreamliner. The 787 Dreamliner was to be built primarily out of composites, and with his background and experience, Mr. Van der Zanden wondered how safety would be affected with the incorporation of these composites on such a large scale. However, whenever he contacted anyone familiar with the project regarding issues of safety, the answers he invariably received always seemed to be a standard, “Don’t worry about the safety of composites.” With the Columbia disaster fresh in his mind, Mr. Van der Zanden was this time determined to not give up and instead pressed to get the answers that he felt were essential to the issue of safety.

Mr. Van der Zanden circulated a first draft of his manuscript in January of 2008, just when the first series of delays with the 787 had been announced. Although his manuscript at that time was just a compilation of notes comprising some 70,000 words, the message was the same as in the latest draft on his website. Closely following the development of the 787 Dreamliner, Mr. Van der Zanden became increasingly concerned about the safety of the aircraft the more he learned about it and the problems that Boeing was facing and which were leading to more and more delays. Mr. Van der Zanden devoted all the time he could to study and re-write his manuscript in detail, expending some 3,000 hours in total and all in an effort to try to get his critically important message out to the public.

When the date for the 787’s first test flight was firmed up, to occur at end of June of 2009, Mr. Van der Zanden became increasingly alarmed. The airplane was held together by a provisionally strengthened wing box and thousands of wrongly-placed fasteners. He knew that the engineering models could not be relied upon for accurate stress analysis, not even closely. What’s more, there were more issues with the airplane that remained unresolved, such as the lack of a reliable and robust lightning protection system. As a result, Mr. Van der Zanden decided to publish a draft copy of his manuscript in a desperate effort to get his message out, and put it on his website,, on June 9, 2009. It was quite a relief to him when, two weeks later, problems surfaced and the first test flight was delayed again. It was a relief because the engineers at Boeing had finally found the courage to step forward and tell management that enough was enough.