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.

2012 Boeing 727 crash experiment
The experiment aircraft while still in service with Champion Air
Crash experiment
DateApril 27, 2012 (2012-04-27) 10:00
SummaryRemote controlled deliberate crash into terrain / CFIT
SiteLaguna Salada, Mexico (Laguna Salada - salt lake)
32.36°N 115.66°W / 32.36; -115.66
Aircraft typeBoeing 727
Aircraft nameBig Flo
OperatorDiscovery Channel
Flight originGeneral Rodolfo Sánchez Taboada International Airport (IATA: MXL, ICAO: MMML)

Aircraft and test site

The aircraft used was a Boeing 727-200 purchased by the television production companies, registration XB-MNP[1] (formerly N293AS).[2]

The site in Mexico was chosen because authorities in the United States would not allow the test to take place.[3][4] 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.[5] The aircraft had been leased to Bob Dole's 1996 presidential election campaign by the then-owner AvAtlantic.[6][7]


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.[8]

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.[8][9]

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).[10] Upon impact, the Boeing 727 broke up into several sections, the cockpit being torn off the fuselage.

The zone of the crash had been cordoned off by security teams, as well as Mexican police and military, for the safety of the public.[11]


The crash site received a full environmental cleanup and salvage operation, under the supervision of Mexican authorities.[11]

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.

Study result

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.

Television program

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).[12]

The crash was the subject of a Discovery Channel television series Curiosity 2-hour episode "Plane Crash".[13][14] The episode was aired on October 7, 2012, and narrated by Josh Charles.[14][15]

The 1-hour-35-minute episode "The Plane Crash" aired on Channel 4 in Britain on October 11, 2012.[16][17] The program garnered criticism in Britain, as it was aired less than a fortnight after the Sita Air Flight 601 air crash in Nepal.[18]

The 2-hour "Plane Crash" episode of Curiosity aired on Discovery Channel Canada on October 28, 2012[11] and on Discovery Channel India on December 17, 2012.

ProSieben planned to air the documentary special before the end of 2012 [19] and the French channel France 5 broadcast it on June 23, 2013.

See also


  1. "27 APR 2012". Aviation Safety Network. (accessed 2012-10-17)
  2. "FAA - N293AS". FAA. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
  3. David Hinckley. "TV Review: ‘Curiosity: Plane Crash’". New York Daily News, October 6, 2012. (accessed 2012-10-17)
  4. Natalie Evans. "The Plane Crash: Channel 4 documentary discovers where is the safest place to sit on an aeroplane" The Mirror (London), 12 October 2012 (accessed 2012-10-17)
  5. "FAA Registry - Aircraft - N-Number Inquiry". registry.faa.gov. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  6. "Discovery's 'Curiosity' slams a jet into the desert floor to study the damage in a plane crash - NY Daily News". nydailynews.com. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  7. "Photos: Boeing 727-212/Adv Aircraft Pictures | Airliners.net". airliners.net. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  8. Bart Jansen. "As this (intentional) 727 crash shows, you can survive". USA Today, October 4, 2012.
  9. "It pays to fly economy: Dramatic Boeing 727 crash suggests that sitting in the cheap seats on a plane could save your life". Daily Mail (London), 17 September 2012. (accessed 2012-10-17)
  10. Amy Marcott. "Scientists Crash a Plane in the Name of Safety" Archived 2013-01-29 at the Wayback Machine. Slice of MIT, October 10, 2012. (accessed 2012-10-17)
  11. Discovery Channel Canada, Curiosity, "ABOUT Curiosity: Plane Crash" (accessed 2012-10-27)
  12. David Kaminski-Morrow. "VIDEO: Boeing 727 deliberately crashed in desert for TV". Flight International, April 30, 2012. (accessed 2012-10-17)
  13. Discovery Channel. 2012-10-07 TV schedule (accessed 2012-10-17)
  14. Discovery Channel, Curiosity season 2 episode 1, "Plane Crash", airdate: 2012 October 7
  15. Sorcha Pollak. "Discovery Channel Crashes a Jet Plane — on Purpose". Time, October 7, 2012. (accessed 2012-10-17)
  16. Channel 4. "The Plane Crash" (accessed 2012-10-17)
  17. Channel 4. 2012-10-11 TV schedule (accessed 2012-10-17)
  18. Caroline Shearing. "The Plane Crash: Channel 4 defends latest publicity stunt". The Telegraph (London), 11 October 2012. (accessed 2012-10-17)
  19. (in German) Sebastian Steinke, "Fernsehsender lassen unbemannte Boeing 727 bruchlanden", FlugRevue, 3 May 2012 (accessed 2012-10-27)
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.