Viral Video Is Just What The Creators Ordered

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So it arrived with the morning batch of e-mail and it shocked the hell out of me. Here was an aerobatic plane of some kind going into what looked like a routine snap roll and the right wing falls off.

What's interesting is that our "Video of the Week" this week shows the successful landing of an RC model with one wing, and the similarities are quite eerie.

They end there, though.

The RC video is real. The video of James Andersson, if that's his real name, is a fake a fairly clever one, but a fake nonetheless.

Watch it for yourself, and on the first run it looks faintly plausible.

Now, watch it with a critical eye:

  • Engine noises are out of sync.
  • Why would the wing fall off on a routine snap roll?
  • Watch the shadows disappear and reappear on the ground during the "landing."
  • Why doesn't anything bend or break in a landing that would turn just about any airplane into ball of aluminum?

Those are just a few of the things AVweb staffers picked out. There are probably lots more, and they will be discussed in fine detail over the next couple of days.

And that's exactly what the clothing company KillaThrill is hoping for.

The video, which was posted Wednesday, has hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. It's a clever marketing ploy that has undoubtedly raised the profile of the brand. But is that necessarily a good thing?

Those of us in aviation can take it for what it's worth, but I guarantee that video will be circulating for years to come as a miracle in the air that only further confuses the general public's view of aviation. And what's worse is the company staged an "interview" with the alleged pilot in which he describes, rather clumsily, the sequence of events and the "hand of God" placing him, unscathed, back on terra firma.

Just in case, by the way, I've emailed James on the address provided by his elaborate (but likely bogus) web site asking him for an on-the-record interview. I don't expect to hear back.

In a way, we're propagating the many myths in this video just by presenting it to you. But the truth is that it's become such a phenomenon that we couldn't ignore it, simply because it has something to do with aviation.

But it has much more to do with selling clothes.

Comments (40)

The landing is clearly an R/C aircraft (look at the scale of the grass compared to the plane); there's a nice dissolve from the R/C to the real aircraft after it comes to a halt, just before the canopy is opened.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | October 30, 2008 8:04 AM    Report this comment

The plane appears really small in comparison to the plane & hangar in the background. A full-sized airplane would be larger and the back ground smaller, unless using telephoto, in which case the background would be moving fast and blurry. There seems to be an edited "transition" between the rollout and it coming to rest with the windsock and hangar in the background. The cockpit opening & visible pilot movement lend credibility, but the right side is not in view. For final emphasis to the drama showing the right side with a wing missing and a person would validate the lifesizeness of the plane.

I don't know how they do it, but some pilots can fly a plane in a 90 degree bank, tail low, and "hanging it on the prop." Considering power loading, torque, p-factor, control surface effectiveness, etc. they cause a plane to do amazing things. If the prop is clockwise rotating the aircraft would tend to roll counter-clockwise in this high power condition. The pilot would use left aileron to keep the wing vertical, but with the abrupt reduction of power to effect the landing there would be an abrupt tendency to roll inverted. The left, full-span aileron appears to be UP during the approach and it is UP after touchdown. I wonder if that acro plane has a . Do acro planes and RC models have counter-clockwise rotating engins & full-span ailerons?

Someone is almost as good at video productions as that pilot would have been.

What is truth or illusion.

John 14:6


Posted by: Gerry Gardner | October 30, 2008 9:57 AM    Report this comment

Couple of things popped into my mind when I saw this video.

First, for losing a wing the aircraft didn't really act like it had lost a substancial amount of lifting surface not to mention really messing the c/g.

Second, okay I suppose you could fly knife edge and not worry about a missing wing, but how would your roll out of the knifedge to dead level?

I can't tell from the picutres but you don't see any wires, or control cables or rods hanging out the pane after it lands.

Posted by: robert Kaliski | October 30, 2008 9:59 AM    Report this comment

Sorry, it must be that I hit the "Submit" button twice.

Posted by: Gerry Gardner | October 30, 2008 10:00 AM    Report this comment

The spin after the wing departs is in the wrong direction. In a spin, the outside wing is flying and the inside wing is stalled so the aircraft will rotate around the stalled wing. On the video, there is no outside wing.

Posted by: Beaux Graham | October 30, 2008 10:32 AM    Report this comment

With only one wing, it seems correct that the aircraft would rotate toward the remaining wing because of the drag produced by that wing and the lack of drag on the right side.

But, I have never before observed a one-winged airplane in non-flying flight. I still see some respectable digital video editing having taken place.

Posted by: Gerry Gardner | October 30, 2008 10:46 AM    Report this comment

Doesn't look real to me. A sane pilot would have bailed. Considering the amount of altitude the plane appears to loose, that's either a really good camera or an RC plane much closer than we're led to believe. Lots of convenient fade outs and out-of-frame areas.

I don't buy it. Clever gimmick.

Posted by: Kyle Pack | October 30, 2008 12:29 PM    Report this comment

(Thanks for the note, Gerry. I deleted the duplicate.)

Posted by: Scott Simmons | October 30, 2008 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Watch for the rapid speed change following the blur after touchdown. I think a taildragger would go tail over nose slowing down that fast. I vote for RC in the air/real on the ground.

"In a spin, the outside wing is flying" Correct me if I am wrong(for I am a Student), but a spin requires BOTH wings stalled. One wing stalled more than the other, but both stalled.

Posted by: Ron Smith | October 30, 2008 4:15 PM    Report this comment

Come on...There's only one wing producing lift and the airplane will ALWAYS rotate towards the damaged wing. It will not spin into the good wing! There are many WWII videos that show this! And when he flies a miracously held perfect 90 degree knife-edge near the ground and cuts power the only lift-producing wing suddenly LOSES lift? And much more. Great job by a master video-editor!!

Posted by: Robert Goubitz | October 30, 2008 8:07 PM    Report this comment

I KNEW this was an R/C aircraft the first time I saw the video. I've flown R/C for nearly 30 years, I've been a private pilot for nearly 15 years, and I've been to at least 40 EAA airshows, including Oshkosh and Sun-N-Fun (I attend both every year and for multiple days each) - I still love the airshows.

Look, I've seen (and flown) many R/C airplanes, and it is OBVIOUS that this is an R/C plane, not full-scale. It's not only probable to do this with R/C, such things are done with regularity today given the extensive power-to-weigt ratios of modern model R/C planes. It's not at all difficult to hover a sport plane on its prop - wings become useless. It's all in the throttle and tail surfaces with lots of prop wash going over them.

Yes it should spin the other way - unless Can you imagine how fast the bugger would spin with only one wing and no counter rudder. Even faster if it was a small, light R/C plane. They had to do this or the rapid spin would give it dead away to everyone.

Still, this is a very doable stunt with modern R/C.

Nope, nobody did anything exceptional here, including the computer video work (simple fade to the full-scale shot). Well, maybe some credit is due to the R/C pilot. Heck if you pay me enough I'll replicate it for you.

By the way, if anyone is interested in "3D Flight" in R/C (which is how one can easily hover a plan on its prop), just search YouTube for "rc aircraft 3d flight" and you'll see how really common this is.

Posted by: John Melchert | October 30, 2008 11:26 PM    Report this comment

It's pretty clearly an RC airplane. There have been other RC inflight wing separations in which the high thrust to weight ratio allowed for continued control of the airplane and successful landings - some are on UTube. Some of the give aways are posted above, others include that the behavior of the airplane on touchdown is clearly that of a model and not a full sized airplane, at that point the "pilot" appears to be a plastic figure and it is convenient that the "airplane" turns to the left so that the right wing is not visible when the canopy is opened. As the canopy is opened the airplane is sitting level rather than tilted sharply to the left or even on its left wing tip as it would be were the right wing gone.

Rumor has it that there is a video showing the making of this video floating around on the Internet, but I haven't found it.

Posted by: Rick Durden | October 31, 2008 5:54 AM    Report this comment

Nobody mentioned the ridiculous bounce the plane took on landing...aside from all the other discrepancies already mentioned.

Posted by: Ryan Shettlesworth | October 31, 2008 8:21 AM    Report this comment

How about the Red Bull pylons at the beginning? While this video is clearly making the rounds on the internet, those air races are filmed by a dozen professional cameras (on the ground and in the plane) and witnessed by 10s of thousands. If this really happened at a race it would have been all over the regular media instead of getting hits on YouTube.

And I vote for a mix of real plane (up until it drops out of frame just before the wing comes off) and then computer animation as opposed to RC...

Posted by: Sam Fischer | October 31, 2008 1:07 PM    Report this comment

I've flown R/C that had wing fail/fold and landed successfully. Lots of power and lots of control are the key. You can even fly these things hanging on the prop & catch them in midair if you want to.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | October 31, 2008 2:51 PM    Report this comment

Great Job on the video editing! The prop does appear to be counter-clockwise, so all the torque/p-factor questions are consistent. Also, where is the N-number?

Posted by: Bill Kaht | October 31, 2008 3:31 PM    Report this comment

A little research on the net and it is indeed a fake. It's a viral ad put out by killathrill. I'm not sure exactly what they are hawking in terms of product but this is after all is said and done nothing more than an ad. After watching the aircraft after landing it is clearly CGI. It's a great job. Such a landing is obviousy possible as it's been done with R/C aircraft and the occasional fighter jet. None the less this is indeed a fake meant to get you interested in "killathrill".

Posted by: Thomas Sheridan | October 31, 2008 4:43 PM    Report this comment

It's not CGI and its not great video editing. It is video of an R/C airplane. The only video editing is with the fade to the full-scale aircraft at the end. Nothing spectacular was done here by anyone but perhaps the ad agency with the concept

Posted by: John Melchert | October 31, 2008 5:13 PM    Report this comment

Total BS, for one thing the airplane spun in the wrong direction after loosing the wing because the remaining wing would produce lift and spin the airplane in the other direction. I say Nice try on it but the landing was totally bogus and the CG looked like it was done in 1988. Also those airplanes are insured and a smart pilot (which all of us are ;)) would have bailed out of the airplane instead of making such a risky landing, the airplane is already trashed so if you had any control left you'd head it to a safe direction pop your canopy bail out and pull you rip-cord.

Posted by: Jeff Sheain | October 31, 2008 9:59 PM    Report this comment

Nobody seems to have noticed the plane is unregistered with no markings at all.

Posted by: larry schlasinger | November 1, 2008 9:43 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: STEVE SEARLE | November 3, 2008 11:44 AM    Report this comment

A few thoughts if it were real (it's kind of a bummer it's not):
1) If an R/C plane can do it, it should be possible in an appropriate "real" plane. Some newer aerobatic planes have the power and the control authority.
2) An aerobatic plane likely has a symmetrical airfoil and lots of aileron authority, so the remaining wing could make it roll either way, or not. It couldn't do miracles and make it fly straight and level, of course.
3) There are plenty of left-handed engines flying, especially in Eastern European aircraft, so the torque and p-factor could be to the right.
4) Parachutes take a while to open. As low as that plane appeared to be, I don't think you'd want to hit the silk unless the plane had a zero-zero ejection seat system.

Posted by: Tim McDaid | November 3, 2008 1:42 PM    Report this comment

One mistake was the immediate comment of "Where is the right wing?" There is no chance that an observer could distinguish that it was the right wing that departed the model unless it was anticipated. There is also no reason for the auto focus to loose focus at the critical roll and hop to landing except that it was unbelievable when viewed in sharp focus.
The left turn at the end is necessary to hide the right wing on the larger airplane. A real stunt pilot would have turned toward the crowd, jumped out and pointed to the missing wing. He would then struggle to remove his helmet as his ego swelled his brain.

Posted by: Donald Treadwell | November 3, 2008 2:46 PM    Report this comment

I don't believe that any of it was R/C... yes, it can be done with R/C (just youtube the other video AvWeb is referring to) but the physics are just all wrong to actually be a real airplane. Upon losing the wing, any airspeed the aircraft had would create lift on the remaining wing and (in our video here) the aircraft would roll to the right where there is an obvious lack of lift. I've done it before with R/C airplanes and various Flight Sims. That's just one point I'm making is the rolling defect. Amongst all of the other defects such as the landing and almost Naval "carrier landing" like stopping ability, the almost 8-9 foot drop to landing (yes we've all probably done that actually, haha), or the porpoising on landing that looked like there was a 75-pound lead weight in the tail (although it would make aerobatics easier (: With all of this (and more) evidence, the physics is just not there to be real or an R/C model. It has to be CGI. Just watch any Disney/Pixar movie from the last 5 years and you'll have a trained eye for this stuff... The shadowing... The textures... it's all there.

Now with that being said, kudos sir(s) to whoever did this animation. You've had some people convinced, I'd say it's pretty good.

Posted by: Justin von Linsowe | November 3, 2008 6:54 PM    Report this comment

I've got friends who do the CGI animation for sport video games and there is now questio in my or thier minds that this is what you're seeing.

Posted by: Michael Land | November 4, 2008 10:44 AM    Report this comment

There should be an investigation file with DOT of the country. Newspaper reports world wide, and an investigation file with the plane manufacturer.

the landing looked jerky film quality.

Sounds fake

Posted by: David Naismith | November 4, 2008 2:48 PM    Report this comment

Nobody has mentioned that when something as big as a wing on a real airplane is removed catastrophically, there will be debris, such as nuts, bolts, dust, fuel etc. visible.

Posted by: michael finnegan | November 4, 2008 2:56 PM    Report this comment

In the video, the airplane taxied and came to rest while not listing to the left side. It sat perfectly flat. The left wingtip would have been on the ground if the right wing was actually missing.

Posted by: BRUCE VINNOLA | November 4, 2008 4:34 PM    Report this comment

Fake. Inertia. Too much deceleration. If it were a real plane, the inertia would have wadded it up on a ball as it ground looped.

Posted by: Lawrence Portouw | November 4, 2008 7:53 PM    Report this comment

I've read a number of comments about the plane spinning the wrong way. As it was pointed out earlier, it could spin either way, depending on positive or negative angle of attack. What's wrong here is also inertia though. It looks like it's spinning around the remaining wing, but most of the iniertia would be in the much heavier fuselage. Now imagine the other wing is still there and it will look like a normal, upright spin.

I'll agree with the too much deceleration as being the other obvious giveaway though. Looks to lose most of its speed during that bounce. Where does the energy go?

Posted by: Eric Reed | November 5, 2008 11:01 AM    Report this comment

One view and my mind was made up... fake! Looks like a bad landing on an early version of Microsoft Flight Simulator when you pounce one down and it bounces computer like back into the air and the gear stay intact. Also the image gets blurry as the aircraft gets into the tree line as it is harder to cover up the right wing in an area of non consistent trees than a solid blue sky.

Posted by: Jeffrey Randall | November 5, 2008 5:01 PM    Report this comment

No N number...can't be a legit plane. Great marketing! Look at all of us talking about "Killa Thrilla" clothes...and the company logo is where the darned N number is supposed to be! hello?

Posted by: MARTIN WEISS | November 6, 2008 10:53 AM    Report this comment

Bruce Vinnola,
Not so. The Grumman low wings have wings and torque tube that slide on and off and the plane sits level. It's possible that if the wing were full of fuel i might tip slightly, but the plane is built to be assembled one wing at a time, sitting on the wheels, no wing jacks. The fact the focus blurs is the biggest give away, on a distant object it would remain in focus. It would only change substantially on a close up of an rc plane. Nice transition at the end but the pilot is all the way towards the back of the canopy. In the final taxi, he in the middle, just like all the RC planes.

Posted by: Dave S FAA SEL A&P | November 10, 2008 12:31 AM    Report this comment

I agree its a fake but here is a thought. We fly knife edge by generating sufficient lift off the side of the fuselage and a lift vector component from the prop thrust. The wing aerofoil is symmetrical and with a full span aireron can generate postive or negative lift. If the full lenght aileron could overcome the the lift from the remaining wing then the airctaft could approach nose high but horizontally without the need to approach at 90 degrees. This would avoid the final rapid 90 deg roll on touchdown. Thoughts anyone? (A36-E584)

Posted by: Graham Wood | November 12, 2008 1:02 AM    Report this comment

It is obviously a fake for most of the reasons already listed but the one I have yet to see mentioned... it is setting level on the ground after the landing, without the missing wing for counter balance, the remaining wing would be dragging on the ground or, at very least, sagging alot.

Posted by: David Leedom | November 12, 2008 10:25 AM    Report this comment

Here's one that just occurred to me. So what do you think would happen to the control linkages in a real plane if you lost one wing. Supposing no flaps, which is common to an aerobatic plane, the push-pull rigging or wires/belcrank would likely yank out of the wing. Something would probably be left behind mucking the works for that part of the rigging that remained. Of course an R/C plane with a servo in the wing wouldn't suffer such a fate; just broken servo wires or perhaps just a quick unplugging from the receiver.

Posted by: John Melchert | November 12, 2008 9:00 PM    Report this comment

Regarding Graham Wood's question above, when you fly knife-edge, the angle of attack of the wing is roughly zero, so the aileron doesn't have to work terribly hard to counteract its lift. If you tried to fly it level relying on the fuselage, horizontal tail, and prop for lift, the wing would be at a huge angle of attack and much harder, if not impossible for the aileron to compensate for.

There are lots of interesting comments here; I'm enjoying them and learning some things.

Posted by: Tim McDaid | November 12, 2008 11:40 PM    Report this comment

Have any of you ever carried the wing of a REAL airplane. The plane is sitting perfectly level with one wing missing....I don't think so! The left wing would be laying on the ground.

Posted by: Jerry Clemons | November 17, 2008 11:58 PM    Report this comment

With all these great comments, they'll be able to make a much better fake video next time.

Posted by: Mike Perkins | December 1, 2008 8:56 AM    Report this comment

Seems most unlikely to me, as I commented first on 11/01/08. Seems strange that nobody else has applied the term "jettison" to the KillThrilla stunt in more than two years.

Posted by: Paul Niquette | February 3, 2011 10:03 AM    Report this comment

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