727 Crashes For Cameras

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A team from the Discovery Channel purposely crashed a Boeing 727 in the Mexican desert last week and filmed it for a TV show. The airplane, packed with crash-test dummies and dozens of cameras, was flown into the ground at a shallow angle. A single pilot flew the jet until it was set on its final course, then parachuted out moments before impact. The 727 then was controlled by a remote operator in a chase plane. Amateur video (right) shows the 727 breaking apart as it hits the ground in a cloud of dust. "We hope to provide new information about how to improve the chances of survival while providing scientific results on passenger safety and new technologies, including new 'black box' flight data recording systems," said Eileen O'Neill, president of the Discovery Network.

According to Sanjay Singhal, executive producer for the project, the last time a full passenger jet was crashed for science was 30 years ago. "Now, with the improvements in filming and remote control technology we felt that the time was right to do it again," he said. "We want to use this as an opportunity to provide scientific data that might help to improve passenger safety." The crash will be used in the season premier episode of a series called "Curiosity."

In 1984, NASA and the FAA crash-tested a remotely-flown 720 in the California desert. Click here to view a video montage of that fiery wreck: MPG video file.