A dramatic documentary follows an international team of experts as they re-create a plane crash was shown Sunday (Oct. 14) in a feature-length on the Discovery Channel.
Elite pilots deliberately crash landed a 170-seat Boeing 727 jet in a remote Mexican desert to provide what they call a once-in-a-generation chance to study the mechanics of a plane crash in real time. The purpose was to study the crashworthiness of the aircraft’s airframe and cabin, the new technologies of black boxes as well as examine the impact of crashes on the human body to try to increase passenger survivability.
Fed Ex Captain James “JimBob” Slocum, who has survived three plane crashes, pilots the passenger jet on its last flight. He had the aircraft take off and aligned it for the runway for landing before bailing. Instead of real passengers, the aircraft had state-of-the-art research equipment including three crash test dummies. Dozens of cameras recorded the crash from the inside, on the ground, in chase planes following it and on the pilot’s helmet. Sandbag dummies also were seated throughout the aircraft.
“We crash cars all the time, we don’t do that with planes to see if we can make them safer, which is what makes this such a unique opportunity,” said Dr. Cynthia Bir a bio-mechanist at Wayne State University.
Although each plane crash is different, the results of this experiment concluded the following:
*the crew in the front and the passengers in the front few rows of the plane would almost certainly not have survived the crash
*passengers in the center of the plane would have survived with minor injuries
*passengers in the rear would have been mostly unharmed with the force being no greater than being hit in a fairground bumper car
*the under-wing landing gear of the plane snapped off, as they should, so that fuel tanks in the wings don’t rupture and cause an explosion
*the wings stayed attached and the mainframe of the aircraft remained largely intact
*passengers not wearing seat belts would have slid under the seat in front of them, potentially causing serious injuries
*overhead lockers remained intact but debris in the cabin could have injured passengers as well as overhead ceiling panels and wiring that collapsed that could have impeded passengers’ attempting to exit the plane.