In April 2012, a remarkable experiment was conducted in Mexico’s Laguna Salada desert that was designed to shed light on plane crashes. In collaboration with various companies, a Boeing 727-200 crashed into the desert sand, completely destroying the plane. But this crash was not an accident, but part of an experiment.
Crew jumped off just before crash
The experiment was conducted by Dragonfly Film and TV Productions for an episode of the Discovery Channel TV series Curiosity. The real Boeing 727-200 was fitted with sensors, cameras and 15 mannequins to analyze the impact of a plane crash on passengers.
Preparations for the experiment lasted several months, and finally April 27 was set as the crash date. The Laguna Salada Desert in the Sonora region served as the impact site.
The maneuver could easily come from an action movie: Pilot Jim Bob Slocum piloted the plane until just before impact, when he and 5 other crew members parachuted and Chip Shanle, a former Navy pilot, took over the remote control.
The extravagant crash test was extremely demanding and expensive. The team acquired a used Boeing 727-200 at a cost of around 450.000 US-Dollar. The aircraft had a long history and had already been used by various airlines.
Several cameras documented the moment of impact, when the Boeing at a speed of 225 km/h flew and with one sink rate of 460 m per minute hit the desert floor. The front section of the plane shattered as the fuselage slid across the sand. You can see the moment of the crash for yourself with the following snippet of documentation:
Link to YouTube content
Investigation of the results revealed that in an actual plane crash none of the passengers located behind row seven would have survived. Seat 7A in particular was thrown 152 meters away.
Those near the wings would have sustained some injuries, while those in the rear of the plane, near the stern would have had the best chance of survival.
The experiment also provided insights into carry-on baggage behavior during a crash, as well as the importance of seat belts and correct safety position before impact. For example, buckling up can prevent so-called “submarining”, in which the passenger slides under the seats in the event of an impact, and the correct brace position can prevent concussion and head injuries.
The spectacular test has contributed to expanding knowledge about aircraft accidents and developing measures to improve flight safety.
What do you think of the experiment? Should this be repeated with a Boeing 747 or other models? Tell us in the comments!