They Crashed A 727 To Learn Which Seats Had The Best Survival Rate

by SharonKurheg

Obviously, everyone involved in the airline industry – from those who manufacture planes to the airlines that own them to the airline staff that work in them – want to ensure that planes are safe. It’s also important to know which parts of a plane might be safer than others.

Back in 2012, a a multinational team of television studios staged an airplane crash in the Mexican desert near Mexicali. Their goal was to test and see which seats would be safest to sit in.

The chose that site in Mexico because U.S. authorities wouldn’t allow the test to happen on American soil. So they got the permits to have it happen in Mexico. The Mexican authorities were OK with their country “hosting” the experiment, but they did stipulate that the aircraft had to be flown by humans during part of the flight, since it would be flying over a populated area.

The plane they chose was originally owned by Singapore Airlines but it had transferred hands a few times and was, at the time of the crash, owned by Broken Wing LLC of Webster Groves, Missouri (they were also the company that planned and executed the experiment). They rigged the Boeing 727-200 full of crash test dummies, cameras, and all sorts of measuring instruments before bringing it down. The crash zone was cordoned off, for the safety of the public.

The plane had a crew of six – three flight crew and three support jumpers, who all parachuted out a few minutes before the plane was allowed to crash over the desert. After they left the plane, control was switched to a remote control operator who was in another plane flying behind the 727.

The jetliner hit the ground at 140 miles per hour, with a descent rate of 1,500 feet per minute (460 m/min). The plane broke up into several sections upon impact; the main landing gear collapsed and the cockpit was torn off the fuselage.

Scientists were satisfied with the data they received – a doctor hired for the event was able to determine which of the test dummies would have had fatal injuries vs. spinal cord injuries vs. broken limbs vs. probably wouldn’t have had any injuries. This was based sole only where specific dummies were sitting, whether or not they were in the brace position, etc.

The main goal was to figure out which spot or spots in the plane give you the best odds of survival. Considering that the cockpit and front of the plane were torn off,  that definitely wasn’t a safe place to be. In fact, seat 7A was flung almost 500 feet away from the collision, which would have undoubedtly killed someone sitting in that seat.

The experts worked out that the best places to be in the event of that type of crash were by the wings, as that’s where the aircraft’s body is strongest, and near the back of the plane.

That does come with the caveat that in this test flight the front end crashed first and took the brunt of the impact. If the back end of the plane smashed into solid ground first, the it’s determined the opposite would have been true – those sitting near the wings and in the front would have had the best chance of survival.

The brace position was found to be protective against concussion and spinal cord injuries, but also created additional loads on the legs that could result in broken legs or ankles. Additionally, the aircraft’s wiring and cosmetic panels collapsed into the cabin, creating debris hazards and obstacles to evacuation.

Once the experiment was over, the crash site had a full environmental cleanup and salvaging under the supervision of authorities.

Large sections of the intentional wrecked plane are stored in a field next to Federal Highway 5, south of Mexicali.

And the TV studio? They got a TV show out of it.

Here’s a 3-minute synopsis of the event:

And a full TV show, 53 minutes in length, all about the experiment:

Feature Image: YouTube

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