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Discovery Channel Crashes a Boeing 727 For Science Documentary 281

Posted by samzenpus
from the crashing-for-ratings dept.
conner_bw writes "A Boeing 727 passenger jet has been deliberately crash-landed. The pilot ejected just minutes before the collision. 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. All of this was done for a feature length documentary to be shown on the Discovery Channel later this year."
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Discovery Channel Crashes a Boeing 727 For Science Documentary

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  • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:04AM (#39842347)

    First cool thing Discovery Channel has done in like... 10 years?

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garfnodie (683999) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:24AM (#39842419)
      I know. I've been watching Discovery and other channels like it since before it was cool to watch that kind of stuff, but now the main channels are mostly full of stupid reality crap. You have to go to Science, H2, NatGeo, Green, BBC, Bio, etc to find good stuff, and not all cable or satellite providers offer all of those newer networks, much less offer them on the lower packages.
      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Would be great for people with a fear of flying to watch I'm sure!
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Electrawn (321224) <electrawn@yahoo . c om> on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:54AM (#39842705) Homepage

        H2?! The Ancient Aliens Bull Shit network? All of History channel, RIP.

        • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

          by owlnation (858981) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:12AM (#39843357)

          The Ancient Aliens Bull Shit network?

          Hey, don't knock it, Ancient Aliens is one of the funniest comedy shows on TV. Is the presenter's -- that sports scientist's -- hairstyle, and orange skin, evidence of ancient alien visitors? Some ancient alien researchers believe they are.

        • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Fished (574624) <amphigoryNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:49AM (#39844427)

          I happen to be expert in one particular area of history (Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christian Studies), and when I watch programs related to that area on the History Channel, I'm astounded at how uniformly awful they are. They seem determined to present any and every wacky theory, and to distort every recognized fact. While I'm not expert on other areas (e.g. American history), I also find their reporting in these areas to be... idiosyncratic?

      • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by isorox (205688) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:58AM (#39842713) Homepage Journal

        I know. I've been watching Discovery and other channels like it since before it was cool to watch that kind of stuff, but now the main channels are mostly full of stupid reality crap. You have to go to .. BBC ... to find good stuff, and not all cable or satellite providers offer all of those newer networks, much less offer them on the lower packages.

        Dunno what country you're in, but the BBC is broadcast OTA in my country, and it's full of stupid reality crap. There's the occasional gem, but you can say the same about any channel.

        • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday April 30, 2012 @05:55AM (#39843145)
          Even the BBC has gone downhill, though for different reasons. The other channels all chased each other to the bottom seeking higher ratings (That reality crap is very popular, as are pseudo-docs like Ancient Aliens and Most Haunted) to keep the cash coming in. The BBC followed shortly after out of a concern of becoming irrelivent - fear that it could become 'that snobby producer' that no-one watches because it's full of boring programs about some medieval king that no-one cares about any more. So they started making reality crap too, trying to up ratings to maintain their status as a british institution rather than just to get the money coming. They have at least managed to resist the temptation of the pseudo-doc.
          • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by asdf7890 (1518587) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:34AM (#39843703)

            They have at least managed to resist the temptation of the pseudo-doc.

            They do plenty of "docu-drama" stuff, which tries to both educate and entertain but manages to do neither well, and some of the proper documentary output has falling in quality over they years. Their overall output is significantly better then the commercial channels though, IMO.

            The other channels all chased each other to the bottom seeking higher ratings (That reality crap is very popular, as are pseudo-docs like Ancient Aliens and Most Haunted) to keep the cash coming in.

            Most of it isn't as popular as it seems, it is just rammed down your throat so much that you assume everyone is watching otherwise it would not justify the advertising budget. But with parts of the advertising industry suffering (and it not mattering on the BBC anyway as they are just plugging their own content and not competing against commercial interests for the air time used) that air time comes dirt cheap. But the shows don't have to be massively popular: they are incredibly cheap to make compared to just about every other variety of TV content so they pay their way with only a mediocre following. There are a few examples that draw in many many viewers of course, but the rest just potter along in the "meh" ratings category, using airtime that they'd otherwise have to make/license something more expensive to fill.

        • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:50AM (#39843453) Homepage

          The BBC's Horizon programme used to be the gold standard for documentaries. Go download some episodes from the 70s and 80s. The presenting, the clear and deep explanations and the lack of gimmickry is incredibly refreshing.

          It all started to go wrong in the 90s. Instead of a documentary it became a drama, setting up artificial rivalries between scientists and going for a sense of bemused wonder at the pretty graphics and throaty voice-over instead of pleasurable enlightenment.

          Brian Cox said words to the effect of "people don't want the science, they want a story, they want the journey". Call yourself a scientist and educator?

      • H2 and NatGeo? Wtf are you smoking?

        I'm not even sure you can get real educational programming in the US, but when I compare the channels you listed against something like EQhd or OasisHD, they're not even in the same category.

      • Really?

        NatGeo is all Locked Up Abroad and Taboo and stuff like that now. Very little of it is science-content-oriented.

        H2 is just like History, but with their less-popular, less-intelligent shows. OMG! A Biggest Loser marathon!

        Green might as well be Trading Spaces 22/7 with a couple hours of infomercials, and Bio is almost all courtroom drama and COPS or reenactments of crimes.

        BBC has a few awesome shows, but a majority of their network is directed at teenage to middle-aged women. It's like soap operas with

    • Shark week (Score:5, Funny)

      by rve (4436) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:59AM (#39842529)

      Hey! Shark week is a national treasure

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Crash landed != crashed

      Just sayin'

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bruce_the_loon (856617) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:13AM (#39843361) Homepage

      According to the accident report, this was for National Geographic's Seconds from Disaster. http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=145323 [aviation-safety.net]

    • Don't get your hopes up, they still can ruin it. Remember Life, they decided that Attenborough was not a good narrator and to have Opera do it. Then they doubled down on this with Frozen Planet with one of the Baldwins.
    • by argStyopa (232550)

      I'd wait until we see the show that comes out.

      Given Discovery's last year or three, they'll probably blame it on Hitler or use it to prove the existence of Bigfoot.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:09AM (#39845391)

      I know this will be unpopular, but I actually rather like the Discovery Channel. It also doesn't hurt that when I watch the shows, they are 20% shorter and have no commercials, so that makes me happier about them (watching TV online FTW).

      Mythbusters is by far one of the most fun-without-thinking shows I have seen. It explores critical thinking, which is more than I can say about pretty well any other show on television. There are always a couple times I'm shouting at the screen "You did it wrong! Your science is bad!" but more often than not I'm just entertained by how far they will go for a fan's forum question.

      Shark Week is also another favorite of mine. Sure, it has become pretty binaural with "here's what to do if a shark attacks you" and "sharks won't attack you, look, I can swim with them!" but there are still a lot of cool programs about specific species of sharks interspersed. I have to say, every time I watch Shark Week I want to fly to Florida and hop in the ocean for a quick dive.

      Shows that present less-well-known aspects of North American life such as Flying Wild showing the bush pilots in Alaska. Sure, there is a lot of unnecessary drama, but it still shows me an aspect of America I may never get to see. I'm not watching it to follow the characters (even if Ariel Tweto is hot...), I'm watching it to see what it's like to fly a plane in the Arctic in some of the worst weather in the world.

      Anything with Michio Kaku is awesome. That guy is like the pop-scientist of our generation (sorry Bill, sorry Niel). He may be less science and more speculation, but he makes it seriously entertaining, and puts it in terms that my whole family can follow. I'd rather they watch even a dumbed-down science show than Jersey Shore or 16 and Pregnant.

      I know a lot of people who love Deadliest Catch, but I personally hate the shit out of that show. Eight seasons? For fucking real? They're pulling cages full of crab out of the ocean. That is all that happens. Oh no, someone got clocked by a piece of ice. Why don't you put the cameras on a coast guard ship so at least you can see something besides dudes on a boat hanging out and hauling rope around?

      Our whole society is becoming VERY dumb. The popularity of functionally-retarded-oriented shows like ____ Housewives of ______, underage pregnancy shows, moronic frat-tards running into walls and getting drunk, catty women fighting over men who don't deserve it: please, leave the Discovery Channel alone. If you need to attack a network, aim at History. Toddlers and Tiaras? Little People in a Big World? Ancient Aliens? Hunting for Sasquatch? Give me a fucking break. Shut that shit down.

  • Piloted plane? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:45AM (#39842473)

    Why risk human life when you can fly it via remote control? There are some *very* good RC pilots out there who would have creamed their shorts to get a chance to auger one of these planes in!

    • by fotoguzzi (230256)
      Did the pilot take the Cooper steps?
    • Re:Piloted plane? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by garfnodie (683999) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:01AM (#39842539)
      I know the FAA crashed a plane on purpose years ago, and they piloted it remotely. Remember though, this plane is being crashed first and foremost for a TV show, so having a human pilot who has to escape will allow them to add some drama. I would imagine though that they had to get the FAA involved pretty heavily in this project, so I'm sure all the safety regulatory agencies had all kinds of monitoring equipment on board along with all of Discovery's camera's and such.
    • by Verunks (1000826)
      I'm no expert but the 727 is an old plane maybe it's just not possible to fly it remotely
      • Virtually anything can be flown remotely. It takes little additional gear to get the job done.

        • Re:Piloted plane? (Score:5, Informative)

          by icebrain (944107) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:46AM (#39843287)

          The actual stick manipulation for basic flying doesn't take much additional equipment, but running all of the systems does. Remember, the 727 is a relatively old design, requiring a three-person crew. The third person is a flight engineer, whose job is to monitor and run the hydraulic (flight controls, brakes, landing gear), pneumatic (pressurization and deicing), electrical power, and powerplant (engine) systems. These functions are much more automated on newer aircraft (compare a modern computer-controlled car engine to one from the 60s), but older ones like the 727 require a human to monitor the analog gauges, control the systems, and prevent them from exceeding limits.

          Trying to automate all of those things for a one-time flight would be simply cost-prohibitive. I know some of them wouldn't be necessary for the flight in question, but you couldn't just wave them all away, either.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        We've been converting planes into remote controlled drones since around WWII. It's a bit more complicated than converting a car to remote control, like what mythbusters does in a couple days all the time, but it's fairly straightforward with the right people today.

        On the other hand, maybe the pilot was because operating a drone over occupied land requires permits, inspections, and certifications that were more hassle than having a pilot take it up until it was over the target area before bailing.

      • Re:Piloted plane? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Nimey (114278) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:00AM (#39845279) Homepage Journal

        Not at all. We used remotely-controlled BQ-7 Aphrodite drones (converted B-17s) packed with explosives to crash into U-boat pens during World War II, albeit unsuccessfully.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      That sort of thing has been looked at before as a way of controlling aircraft where the pilot has become incapacitated. Unfortunately it was considered just too complex and unreliable to proceed with.

    • Re:Piloted plane? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by couchslug (175151) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:32AM (#39843691)

      WAY too much money.

      If you have a (plentiful at Davis-Monthan etc) surplus ejection seat whose pyrotechnics are current all you need is to bolt the rails to the cockpit floor with a simple mount of your choice and cut a hole in the roof covered with a light panel. No electronics to connect and the seat is self-contained.

      OV-10 Broncos had a very fast seat because it used a canopy breaker and punched through the light upper transparency.

      Neat site with lots of interesting ejection info:

      http://www.ejectionsite.com/seatgalnf.htm [ejectionsite.com]

  • Number Perspective (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vencs (1937504) on Monday April 30, 2012 @02:53AM (#39842507)
    Actor Rem in Boeing 727s'. According to a basic search [controller.com] used 727 costs ~$6mn. And according to Forbes, remunerations are as below:

    Johnny Depp ------------ 15
    Ben Stiller ---------------- 10.5
    Tom Hanks -------------- 9
    Adam Sandler ---------- 8
    Leonardo Di Caprio --- 5.5
    Daniel Radcliffe -------- 5
    Robert Downey Jr ----- 4.5

  • This seems like it might provide them will valuable data that they could use in design considerations.

    On the other hand, if they did do this, they would probably not make it public and broadcast it to the general public. Who wants to ride in an airplane that you have seen in detail in a disastrous crash?

    The documentary will probably start with a disclaimer, "This crash was caused on purpose. This do not happen to real planes made by Boeing. Please keep flying Boeing. Pay no attention to the man behind

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 30, 2012 @04:48AM (#39842863)

      Get more valuable data from a design standpoint doing that. Like every plane gets its wings bent way beyond normal tolerances to see what they can survive. There's a cool video of the 777 being tested (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRf395ioJRY) where they push its wings to 154% of their designed load capacity (they are bent way up) before they shatter. Since it is being subjected to kinds of stresses almost impossible in the real world (the 100% number is set by the maximum expected real world stress).

      The problem with an actual crash is that things are highly unpredictable. So maybe you go and crash a plane, and you probably only do one they are hundreds of millions of dollars, and everything looks fine. No major damage, people inside are good, etc. Wonderful... Except you later discover that the crash was just lucky, or unlucky depending on your view. It just happened that nothing got subject to very severe stress and that only because of that precise kind of crash was everything so tame. In another crash everything goes to hell because shit was slightly different.

      Better to spend time and money doing specific stress tests.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Plenty of crash test footage for cars out there.

    • NASA has [wikipedia.org]

  • With all the risks associated with ejecting, and the long-established tech to fly/land aircraft remotely (or via autopilot) why even put a human on board?

    • by locopuyo (1433631) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:47AM (#39842679) Homepage
      Probably because it would cost more, hasn't been tested for this particular craft, and there are regulations that make it illegal.
    • How does this ejecting work from a 727? Does the roof above the cockpit open and the chair jumps out, or how?

  • Series name (Score:5, Insightful)

    by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot AT davidgerard DOT co DOT uk> on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:36AM (#39842635) Homepage

    "BECAUSE WE CAN: Doing Cool Shit Just Fucking Because."

  • by binarstu (720435) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:51AM (#39842697)
    You mean to tell me that the Discovery Channel is producing a new show that is something other than watching fisherman, lumberjacks, gunsmiths, gold miners, auctioneers, motorcycle builders, or used car salesmen as they go about their daily jobs and argue with one another??? I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Here's a thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Monday April 30, 2012 @03:53AM (#39842701)
    Rather than worrying about how to survive a crash retire planes after their projected life has been reached. A disturbing number are still in the air years and in some cases decades after their operational life has been reached. They do receive major overhauls but the airframe is the same and they do get stress fractures. Weakening structure has caused some dramatic failures including large sections of the fuselages tearing out mid flight. A large number of planes still in the air are older than most people on this web site. The fact some of these planes haven't been built in decades should be your first clue.
    • by dbIII (701233) on Monday April 30, 2012 @04:19AM (#39842757)
      Non-destructive testing has been done on airframes for a very long time and points where expected overloads or fatigue are likely have been identified fairly well since the 1950s.
      There's a movie out there called "The Thing From Outer Space" filmed in 1951 which heavily features a ski equipt DC3, and today (2012) there are two DC3's that are very similar to that one which fly from South Africa to Antarctica each year. A section in front of the wings which is prone to fatigue has been removed and replaced with a longer section, and they have turboprops, but the airframe is out of the 1940s.
      Remaining life assessment of aircraft is something that has been going on for a long time, and it's hours of flight instead of physical age that is the important thing anyway. A lot of factors determine whether an airframe gets retired at a certain age or not instead of them all having the same use by date.
      • by swalve (1980968)
        I thought it was flight cycles that determined the "age" of an aircraft? Flight hours determines the age of engines, but cycles (takeoffs and landings) determine the airframe's age.
        • by Lothsahn (221388)
          This is absolutely true, but only on pressurized aircraft. It's the stress/release of the metal which causes metal fatigue and eventual failure of the airframe.

          I expect (but don't know) that the 727 they used for the show had exceeded its "safe" pressurization cycles and was destined for the scrapyard anyway--so it only had scrap value anyway.

          However, the DC3 that dblll mentioned is NOT a pressurized aircraft--so it need not worry about cycles at all. It's only about flight hours and wear and tear.
    • by baegucb (18706)

      The 737s are still being built. And it's fuselage is heavily based on the 727. Here's a recent article about it, and the problems. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/03/19/is-boeing-s-737-an-airplane-prone-to-problems.html [thedailybeast.com]
      Of course, that's not the same as deliberately crashing a 727 into the ground, but I'm sure Boeing would be interested in the effects.

  • Did any of the dummies survive?

  • by Catmeat (20653) <`ku.ca.aeu.sys' `ta' `mtm'> on Monday April 30, 2012 @05:24AM (#39843031)

    I call bullshit on the word "ejected". Installing a seat would be a massive amount of hassle - cutting a hatch in the roof of the cockpit would be a major modification of the airframe. I'm no airplane geek but I bet the airframe would need FAA recertification after that kind of modification, plus a massive amount of testing to make sure it all worked correctly (you really don't want the situation where the seat fires but the hatch remains locked in place). I admit I'm pulling a number out of the air, but I'd be unsurprised if there was little change from ten million.

    Forget the ejection seat. I bet the reason they used a 727 is that it's fitted with an Airstair [wikipedia.org], a combined hatch/stairway at the very rear of the aircraft. The Airstair makes the 727 one of the few airliners that it's possible to parachute from without the risk of being hit by the engines, wing or tailplane - a person known as "Mr Cooper" [wikipedia.org] proved this was possible in 1971. The only modification needed to do it again is the removal of the Cooper vane [wikipedia.org], a small aerodynamic device fitted to 727s after the DB Cooper hikack, intended to stop the Airstair being opened in flight.

    • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:40AM (#39843423) Journal

      The 727 has also been used as a skydiving jumpship. A friend of mine has jumped from the 727, and she said it was somewhat painful hitting the air at that speed (they are actually above terminal velocity when they jump, and can climb a little until they are higher than the actual jumpship before starting their fall)

      • by Catmeat (20653)

        It might be this plane she jumped from, a DC 9 not a 727 - similar but a bit smaller.

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/eigjb/4035916870/ [flickr.com]

        I wouldn't be surprised if it featured on the documentary. Assuming the 727 pilot is an experienced skydiver, it would still make sense for them to take a few practice jumps from the DC 9 to familiarise themselves with jumping out the back of a jet airliner.

    • by k6mfw (1182893)

      Forget the ejection seat. I bet the reason they used a 727 is that it's fitted with an Airstair [wikipedia.org], a combined hatch/stairway at the very rear of the aircraft. The Airstair makes the 727 one of the few airliners that it's possible to parachute from without the risk of being hit by the engines, wing or tailplane - a person known as "Mr Cooper" [wikipedia.org] proved this was possible in 1971.

      I done a few jumps from a 727 during World FreeFall Convention in 1990s, Quincy, IL. They brought in a 727, a cargo plane, for one of the jumpships at the convention. Removed the airstair door, lined the wall, ceiling, stairs with plywood to avoid having skydivers snag on something on the way out. As it is a cargo, no seats, they loaded the aircraft with 200 skydivers, and it took forever,very hot and humid (IL in August) and sitting our butts waiting for last to load (hint, don't be the first in line). Ai

  • by clarkes1 (1309863) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:41AM (#39843275)
  • Some company years ago was trying to sell the airlines on a new fuel formulation designed to not vaporise and erupt into a conflagration after a crash. They set up a deliberate crash landing by remote control onto a paved runway surface spiked with iron stakes designed to shred the plane's wings and fuel tanks. It was very cool and video has to be out there somewhere.

    Even cooler: how the revolutionary fuel concoction disappeared overnight after the plane burst into s hellish inferno of flames after touching

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