2012 Boeing 727 crash experiment
On April 27, 2012, a team of scientists staged an airplane crash near Mexicali, Mexico. An unmanned Boeing 727-200, fitted with numerous cameras, crash-test dummies and other scientific instruments, was flown into the ground. The exercise was filmed for television.
The experiment aircraft while still in service with Champion Air
|Date||April 27, 2012 10:00|
|Summary||Remote controlled deliberate crash into terrain / CFIT|
|Site||Laguna Salada, Mexico (Laguna Salada - salt lake) |
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727|
|Aircraft name||Big Flo|
|Flight origin||General Rodolfo Sánchez Taboada International Airport (IATA: MXL, ICAO: MMML)|
Aircraft and test site
The site in Mexico was chosen because authorities in the United States would not allow the test to take place. The aircraft's original owner was Singapore Airlines. The last United-States-based owner was Broken Wing LLC of Webster Groves, Missouri, who then exported it and transferred it to a Mexican production company. Broken Wing is also the company that planned and executed the experiment. The aircraft had been leased to Bob Dole's 1996 presidential election campaign by the then-owner AvAtlantic.
Several federal permits by the Mexican government were needed before the remote controlled flight and crash could be performed. In addition, the Mexican authorities stipulated that the aircraft had to be flown by humans during part of the flight, since it would be flying over a populated area.
The flight was piloted by captain Jim Bob Slocum, then controlled remotely by Chip Shanle, a former United States Navy pilot who works at American Airlines.
The airplane took off from General Rodolfo Sánchez Taboada International Airport in Mexicali, with the flight crew and a small group of passengers, as well as a number of crash dummies, and with a chase plane following close behind. As the flight progressed towards the Sonoran Desert of Baja California in Mexico, its occupants parachuted to safety via the 727's ventral airstair. Slocum was the last one to leave the jet, four minutes before impact. Shanle then flew the jetliner by remote control, from the chase plane.
The jetliner hit the ground at 140 miles per hour (230 km/h), with a descent rate of 1,500 feet per minute (460 m/min). Upon impact, the Boeing 727 broke up into several sections, the cockpit being torn off the fuselage.
Most of the large sections of the plane that survived the crash were moved to a field next to Federal Highway 5 south of Mexicali at 32°30′05″N 115°23′48″W, and were still there in March 2019.
The conclusion for this test was that, in a case like this, passengers at the front of an aircraft would be the ones most at risk in a crash. Passengers seated closer to the airplane's wings would have suffered serious but survivable injuries such as broken ankles. The test dummies near the tail section were largely intact; so any passengers there would have likely walked away without serious injury. However, in other crashes, such as when the tail hits the ground first, as was the case with a Boeing 777 that crashed just short of the runway at San Francisco, the reverse might apply. The brace position was found to be protective against concussion and spinal injuries, but created additional loads on the legs that could result in fractured legs and/or ankles. Additionally, the aircraft's wiring and cosmetic panels were shown to have collapsed into the passenger compartment, creating debris hazards and obstacles to evacuation.
A television program about the experiment was produced by Discovery Channel (United States), Dragonfly Film and Television Productions (United Kingdom), Pro Sieben (Germany), and Channel 4 (United Kingdom).
The 1-hour-35-minute episode "The Plane Crash" aired on Channel 4 in Britain on October 11, 2012. The program garnered criticism in Britain, as it was aired less than a fortnight after the Sita Air Flight 601 air crash in Nepal.
ProSieben planned to air the documentary special before the end of 2012 and the French channel France 5 broadcast it on June 23, 2013.
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