‘Curiosity Plane Crash’ Airs this Sunday

A team of crash investigators has completed a compelling documentary that will air this Sunday on the Discovery Channel. As part of the show "Curiosity Plane Crash," the team deliberately crashed a Boeing 727 with a half-million dollars worth of anthropomorphic crash dummies, g-force sensors and 38 video cameras on the Sonoran Desert (which spans parts of California, Arizona and Mexico).

A crew of pilots flew the airliner onto its approach path, and then bailed out of the rear door, reminiscent of the infamous D.B. Cooper. Cameras and impact sensors recorded the mayhem of the crash, which was designed to be survivable for most of the passengers.

The Boeing hit the desert slightly nose-down, and the forward section ripped apart. The investigators determined that the area from Row 7 forward (including the cockpit) was not survivable, but aft of there, passengers would have sustained relatively minor injuries.

Part of the team’s takeaway message is that the “brace for impact” position substantially increases chances for survival, not only because it decreases chance of head trauma and spinal injuries, but also because there is less chance of being hit by flying debris.

A study conducted at MIT, based on accident data from 2000 to 2007, revealed the odds of dying on a scheduled airline flight in a developed nation (such as the U.S., Japan or the UK) was one in 14 million. So a passenger who flew one flight every day would go an average of 38,000 years before dying in a crash.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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