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Dragonfly crashes passenger jet for C4 & Discovery doc

Dragonfly crashes passenger jet for C4 & Discovery doc
News
Pippa Considine
30 April 2012

A Boeing 727 passenger jet has been deliberately crash-landed in a remote and uninhabited Mexican desert as part of a scientific experiment for a feature documentary from Dragonfly for Channel 4 in the UK and The Discovery Channel in the US, plus Pro Sieben in Germany.

The pilot ejected the 170-seat aircraft just minutes before the collision after setting it on a crash course, it was then flown remotely from a chase plane. The crash went according to plan and there were no injuries or damage to property.

Rather than carrying passengers, the plane was packed with scientific experiments, including crash test dummies. Dozens of cameras recorded the crash from inside the aircraft, on the ground, in chase planes and even on the ejecting pilot’s helmet.

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.

The plane was crashed in a remote and unpopulated part of the Sonoran Desert of Baja California, Mexico on Friday. The location was chosen after an extensive international search to find a suitable location offering the perfect conditions for this ground-breaking scientific project.

For safety reasons, an exclusion zone at the crash site was manned by security teams, as well as the Mexican military and police. Ahead of the crash, a full safety review of the project was undertaken by the highly-qualified pilots and commanders as well as the Mexican authorities which concluded that it was safe for all concerned.

Following the crash, the aircraft will be salvaged and an extensive environmental clean-up operation is being carried out by a reputable agency with the full co-operation of the Mexican authorities.

Channel 4 senior commissioning editor, David Glover, said: “This is a ground-breaking project, allowing a team of leading international scientists and crash investigators the first chance for a generation to study the crash of an entire passenger jet to investigate what really happens to the airframe and cabin of a crashing plane, as well as the effects on the human body, plus the programme asks ‘how can we make plane crashes more survivable?’

“The scientists are also looking at passenger safety, plus new black box flight data recording technology. They have been hugely enthusiastic supporters of the project and couldn’t wait to get to the crash site. Despite long careers, none of them have seen a plane crash before their eyes like this before.

“We hope that this documentary will provide valuable new scientific results as well as giving passengers vital information about how they can improve their own chances of surviving the extremely unlikely, but frightening, prospect of being in a serious plane crash.”

Executive producer, Sanjay Singhal, from Dragonfly Film and Television Productions, said, “NASA were the last people to attempt a crash test of a full passenger jet three decades ago. Now, with the improvements in filming and remote control technology we felt that the time was right to do it again. It’s never been safer to fly, but we want to use this as an opportunity to provide scientific data that might help to improve passenger safety in those extremely rare cases when a catastrophic aircraft accident does occur.

“This has been an extraordinary feat of organisation, involving up to 300 people on location, including the production team, pilots, experts, risk management, plus local crew, military, fire teams and police. This is the culmination of four years of planning and hard work. We’re particularly grateful to the Mexican authorities for their assistance and support.”

The crash and the results of the accompanying research will be shown later this year in a feature-length documentary on Channel 4 in the UK, Discovery in the US, plus Pro Sieben in Germany.

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