Discovery Channel Crashes a 727 (For Science!)

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Have you ever wondered what would happen if the plane you were on crashed? Does bracing yourself against the seat in front of you make a difference? Where is the safest place to sit? 

For the fist time on television in the premiere episode of the a new series called CURIOSITY, the Discovery Channel will remotely crash a Boeing 727 passenger jet in the Mexican desert, all in the name of science

With an unprecedented number of cameras, crash test dummies, and science experiments on board, a team of leading aviation experts attempt to pull off what NASA first did 30 years ago: capturing a plane crash as it unfolds to uncover ways of improving airline safety. 

Dr. Cindy Bir is a bio mechanist and professor at Wayne State University. She was responsible for the crash test dummies that were seated on the 727 during the crash. 

"It was surreal," Dr. Bir says. "It was nerve wracking, because I was responsible for getting this data, and as anybody knows who's done instrumentation, one little thing could go wrong, and we wouldn't have gotten anything."

Part of what the researchers were looking for was which zones of the plane would be safest. They found that the back of the plane, at least in this crash, experienced much less force than the front of the plane, perhaps even making the crash survivable. "For our particular crash, the back of the plane had the lowest acceleration, so it was probably the safest zone on the plane." 

Another question was whether following emergency procedures actually make passengers safer. In one of the zones, there was one dummy that was braced for impact, and one in an upright position. "In puts you out of harm's way," Dr. Bir says of the braced position, which protects you from falling debris that could knock you unconscious. 

In addition to being instructive, Dr. Bir says the plane crash is simply fascinating to watch. "Way more exciting than Shark Week," she says of the Discovery Channel's new series.

Plane Crash airs this Sunday, October 7th on the Discovery Channel.