By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
What would you do if you were able to get your hands on a vintage Boeing 727 jet?
Intentionally crashing it into a Mexican desert probably wouldn’t be among your top choices, but that’s just what a team of TV producers did on Friday.
The crews filmed a Boeing 727 from multiple angles as it crashed, part of what producers at the Discovery Channel, Britain’s Channel 4 and Germany’s Pro Sieben have labeled “part of a scientific experiment for an unprecedented international television documentary.”
The flight’s pilot “ejected from the 170-seat aircraft just minutes before the collision after setting it on a crash course.” The jet “was then flown remotely from a chase plane” and “went according to plan” with “no injuries or damage to property,” according to a Discovery Channel press release.
The jet was rigged with scientific sensors and experiments and flew with crash-test dummies in the passenger seats.
In its release, Discovery Channel says:
The project aims to recreate a serious, but survivable, passenger jet crash landing with a real aircraft in order to allow an international team of experts to study the crashworthiness of the aircraft’s airframe and cabin as well as the impact of crashes on the human body, plus possible means of increasing passenger survivability and evaluating new ‘black box’ crash-recording technology.
“This groundbreaking project features an actual crash of a passenger jet and explores the big questions about how to make plane crashes more survivable,” Eileen O’Neill, group president of Discovery and TLC Networks, says in the release. “We hope to provide new information about how to improve the chances of survival while providing scientific results on passenger safety and new technologies, including new ‘black box’ flight data recording systems.”
The episode will be featured later this year on the Discovery Channel’s premiere episode for its CURIOSITY series.
The Daily Mail of London says the crash marked “the first time in almost 30 years a passenger plane has been crashed on purpose for a scientific experiment. The last time was in 1984 when NASA teamed up with the FAA to crash a Boeing 720 into the Mojave Desert in California.”
However, Flight International notes the 1984 crash didn’t go exactly as planned. It was meant to test a fire-suppressing fuel additive, but Flight International writes the test “did not go according to plan … because the aircraft impacted with a different attitude from that intended.”
As for Friday’s crash, the Discovery Channel says it occurred “in a remote and unpopulated part of the Sonoran Desert of Baja California, Mexico. The location was chosen after an extensive international search to find a suitable location offering the perfect conditions … .”
The network adds “an extensive environmental clean-up operation is being carried out by a reputable agency with the full co-operation of the Mexican authorities.”
BOOKMARK: Add Today in the Sky to your favorites
TWITTER: You can follow me at twitter.com/TodayInTheSky