The Discovery Channel Crashes A 727 Intentionally (Video)

After building a plastic model airplane I used to fantasize about what it would look like crashing. This urge became overwhelming when my best friend was over at my house trying to annoy me to death. So I sent a B-52 across my bedroom for a bombing run.

The end result was a crash that was a bit of a let down.

Someone at the Discovery Channel recently had a similar idea, albeit on a more grand scale. Back in March, Kate Nixon, a producer working for Discovery, emailed me looking for a ‘727 guru.’ She told me that they had purchased a Boeing 727 that they would be crashing in April for a scientific study. I’m sure the fact that it would make for some great T.V. was also part of the plan.

I explained that I was hardly a guru on the old three-engine Boeing, but that I might be able to put her in touch with someone. At the end of the exchange, I asked her what the “N” number was of the airplane to be crashed.

“Our aircraft is a 727-212 built in 1978 registration N293AS,” She said.

A quick check revealed I had flown that exact airplane when working for ExpressOne International (pic), a passenger charter airline. In fact, my sister Kim had flown it as a flight attendant at Alaska Airlines (pic), the original operator of the doomed airplane.

Kate swore me to secrecy and explained that the planned crash that would be extensively filmed for an upcoming special. They were mounting cameras inside and outside to capture the event. I suggested testing some AmSafe airbag seat belts that I had recently seen while sitting on a 737 at a bulkhead seat.

Of course I wanted to share it with all my friends at those two companies. But I had to keep quiet, at least until now.

They apparently used a pilot and some form of radio control device operated by a chase plane to guide it during the final moments. The pilot jumped out (D. B. Cooper style?) before the final descent into the ground.

And of course, in this day of cell phone cameras everywhere, someone managed to capture the crash, and it looks like the results for the Discovery Channel are far from a let down:


Here’s the full press release from the Discovery Channel:

DISCOVERY CHANNEL CRASHES A PASSENGER JET FOR SCIENCE DOCUMENTARY

A Boeing 727 passenger jet has been deliberately crash-landed in a remote and uninhabited Mexican desert as part of a scientific experiment for an unprecedented international television documentary for Discovery Channel, Channel 4 in the UK, plus Pro Sieben in Germany. The pilot ejected the 170-seat aircraft just minutes before the collision after setting it on a crash course, it was then flown remotely from a chase plane. The crash went according to plan and there were no injuries or damage to property.

Rather than carrying passengers, 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. The program is being made by award-winning British production company Dragonfly Film and Television Productions.

The project aims to recreate a serious, but survivable, passenger jet crash landing with a real aircraft in order to allow an international team of experts to study the crashworthiness of the aircraft’s airframe and cabin as well as the impact of crashes on the human body, plus possible means of increasing passenger survivability and evaluating new ‘black box’ crash-recording technology.

The plane was crashed in a remote and unpopulated part of the Sonoran Desert of Baja California, Mexico. The location was chosen after an extensive international search to find a suitable location offering the perfect conditions for this groundbreaking scientific project.

For safety reasons, an exclusion zone at the crash site was manned by security teams, as well as the Mexican military and police. Ahead of the crash, a full safety review of the project was undertaken by the highly-qualified pilots and commanders as well as the Mexican authorities who concluded that it was safe for all concerned.

Following the crash, the aircraft will be salvaged and an extensive environmental clean-up operation is being carried out by a reputable agency with the full co-operation of the Mexican authorities.

“This ground breaking project features an actual crash of a passenger jet and explores the big questions about how to make plane crashes more survivable; it’s the ideal premiere episode for our CURIOSITY series that stirs the imagination of our audience, bravely asking questions and fearlessly seeking answers. This latest production captures that audaciousness perfectly and I can’t wait to share it,” said Eileen O’Neill, Group President of Discovery and TLC Networks.

“For the first time, leading scientists and veteran crash investigators, who have been enthusiastic supporters of this project, witness a plane crash in real time and explore what happens to the airframe and cabin, as well as the effects on the human body during a catastrophe of this magnitude. 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.”

Executive Producer, Sanjay Singhal, from Dragonfly Film and Television Productions, said: “NASA were the last people to attempt a crash test of a full passenger jet three decades ago. Now, with the improvements in filming and remote control technology we felt that the time was right to do it again. It’s never been safer to fly, but we want to use this as an opportunity to provide scientific data that might help to improve passenger safety in those extremely rare cases when a catastrophic aircraft accident does occur.

“This has been an extraordinary feat of organization, involving up to 300 people on location, including the production team, pilots, experts, risk management, plus local crew, military, fire teams and police. This is the culmination of four years of planning and hard work. We’re particularly grateful to the Mexican authorities for their assistance and support.”

The crash and the results of the accompanying research will be shown later this year in a feature-length documentary on Discovery Channel in the United States, Channel 4 in the UK plus Pro Sieben in Germany. The program is made by award-winning production company Dragonfly Film and Television Productions.

Antarctica Heats Up As Popular Travel Destination

AntarcticaAntarctica was once considered the horribly barren, frozen place that only brave scientists would travel to. In the past, if Antarctica was on a travel bucket list it was probably in the same category as “Walk on the Moon” or “Travel back in time.” In other words, it probably was not going to happen. Recently, Antarctica has gained new popularity as a viable travel bucket list addition as more travelers visit and live to tell about it – some on television.

The debut of the Discovery Channel’s “Frozen Planet” brought to light the beauty of Earth’s polar regions and the animals that inhabit them, encouraging travelers to fulfill that bucket list dream a bit sooner.

Since the program aired on March 18, tour company Abercrombie and Kent has received over 200 hundred phone calls from travelers interested in Antarctica, specifically referencing the show with 49 bookings to Antarctica directly linked to “Frozen Planet.”

Increased interest in Antarctica comes with a price tag too. Travelers will need the time and the financial ability to make the trip. Abercrombie and Kent have an Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands tour that is priced at $16,995 per person. On sale now for $12,750, it’s still not a cheap swing around the Caribbean but a cheap swing around the Caribbean is probably not a top spot bucket list item either.

So what’s the best part of Antarctica?

“The penguins are adorable, the seals are spectacular and the whales have that ‘Wow Factor’ that take your breath away when they pop up beside your zodiac,” says travel blog ThePlanetd who has a photo gallery of their recent trip.Want to know more about Antarctica?

Gadling’s John Bowermaster has a series of posts made during multiple visits in “Bowermaster’s Adventures.”

Frozen Planet” airs Sundays 8 p.m. E/P on the Discovery Channel.

Learn about Antarctica



Photo courtesy Abercrombie and Kent

Discovery Adventures announces 8 new tours for 2012

Discovery Adventures introduces new options for 2012Discovery Adventures, the travel arm of the Discovery Channel, has announced that it is expanding its line-up of for 2012, adding eight new options to their already impressive catalog. These new tours include several new destinations, as well as revamped itineraries to Tanzania and Southern Africa.

Amongst the highlights of the new trips is an eight day journey through Jordan that includes visits to such iconic destinations as Petra and Wadi Rum, as well as a swim in the Dead Sea. The new Spirit of Nepal tour gives travelers the opportunity to experience spiritual and natural wonders in the heart of the Himalaya, while the Cultural Treasures of Vietnam itinerary includes cooking lessons and a visit to the famous caves of Halong Bay. Travelers to South America will enjoy the Ecuador Volcanoes and Cloud Forest tour as well, which sends them on birdwatching and hiking excursions into the breathtaking Andes Mountains.

Each of these tours has been designed in conjunction with G Adventures, one of the best adventure travel companies in the world, to provide travelers with a great mix of active escapes and cultural immersion – something the Discovery Channel is famous for. The trips include comfortable accommodations, daily breakfasts, and a number of other amenities based on the destination.

These new tours bring the total number of Discovery Adventures to 37, giving them options to nearly every corner of the globe and ensuring they have something for every kind of traveler.

Survivorman Les Stroud returning to televison

Survivorman Les Stroud is back for more!One of the Discovery Channel’s most popular programs, Survivorman, is returning to television after being on hiatus for more than three years. The show, which features host Les Stroud demonstrating survival techniques in extreme settings, such as the Kalahari Desert or Alaskan wilderness, will relaunch with a series of special episodes sometime in 2012.

While Stroud’s list of destinations is not yet known, we do know that the format for the show will remain mostly the same. The episodes are filmed by Les himself, who goes out into the wild alone, carrying all of his camera and survival gear. In the past, he would usually spend seven days living in the wilderness, but according to the announcement on his website, he’ll actually be staying out for ten days on these new episodes. Apparently he’ll also begin filming the first new show in just three weeks time.

Fans of Stroud will be happy to hear of his return, as he had garnered quite a loyal following when the first three seasons of Survivorman were being aired. At the time, there were numerous comparisons to Man vs. Wild, the show hosted by Bear Grylls, which often sparked debates as to which of the men best knew his stuff. While Bear is a bit more theatrical and over the top, Les tends to remain more grounded and practical in his approach. Both shows are fun to watch however and I always enjoy seeing the destinations as much as what kind of trouble the two men can get into there.

The new Survivorman specials are set to air on OLN in Canada, Discovery Science in the U.S., and Discovery Channel International elsewhere. No word yet on when we can expect the shows to hit the airwaves however.

[Photo credit: Les Stroud]

Watch Shark Week on Discovery Channel, have a shark encounter of your own

Shark Week returns to the Discovery ChannelThis Sunday marks the return of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, one of the most popular annual events on any cable network. Now in its 24th year, Shark Week manages to pull in millions of viewers who are both fascinated by, and terrified of, the notorious predators from the deep. And after watching sharks on television all week, if you should happen to find yourself inspired to see them in person, Discovery can help you with that too.

This year, Discovery has enlisted the aid of Saturday Night Live‘s Andy Samberg to help host their fin-filled prime-time specials. Samberg has been named CSO (Chief Shark Officer) for Shark Week, which will see the return of some of the most popular shows from the past, as well as seven new shark-centric programs. One of those new shows actually sends Samberg himself to the Bahamas where he gets up close and personal with some of the local sharks.

Discovery knows that Shark Week is extremely popular with their audience, which is why they also give us the opportunity to have a shark experience of our own. The network’s adventure travel company Discovery Adventures offers four unique itineraries to the Galapagos Islands, where travelers will have the opportunity to see a variety of shark species –including Reef Sharks, Whale Sharks, and Hammerheads– in their natural environments.

For a complete listing of the shows that will air during Shark Week click here, and don’t forget to tune in on Sunday to get your shark fix. And when Shark Week ends for another year, book your own shark adventure to help ease the wait for Shark Week 2012.

[Photo courtesy Terry Goss via WikiMedia]