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Filmmakers crash Boeing 727 for scientific experiment

The Discovery Channel staged a test to find out how to design a plane that's better equipped to handle a crash. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Television producers at the Discovery Channel, Channel 4 in the UK and Pro Sieben in Germany recently crashed a Boeing 727 in the name of science.

The plane's pilot ejected from the aircraft minutes before the jet, guided remotely, went down in an isolated part of Mexico's Sonoran Desert, according to a press release from the Discovery Channel.

"Rather than carrying passengers, the plane was packed with scientific experiments, including crash test dummies," the statement said. "Dozens of cameras recorded the crash from inside the aircraft, on the ground, in chase planes and even on the ejecting pilot's helmet."


Scientists and veteran crash investigators will review the results of the crash. Laurie Goldberg, executive vice president of public relations at the Discovery Network, told msnbc.com that the company is not releasing the names of the experts at this time.

The goal of the experiment, according to Discovery, is to learn more about how to improve survival chances when a crash occurs.

Footage captured by an onlooker of the Boeing 727 experiment crash recently conducted by the Discovery Channel.

Intentionally crashing a plane is an atypical way of testing for safety. Laura Brown, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration, told msnbc.com that the agency has in the past conducted "drop tests," which involves dropping a plane fuselage (the body minus its wings) from a certain height.

The FAA, which was not involved in the Discovery Channel experiment, requires that manufacturers build planes to certain safety specifications, and create their own tests accordingly. Brown said that manufacturers, for example, frequently test wing structure and strength by bending it until the snapping point.

Such tests are a lot less dramatic than crashing a plane, but still effective in keeping passengers safe.

Boeing 727s were "the best-selling airliner in the world during the first 30 years of jet transport service," Boeing said on its website. The jet was produced from 1960 through 1984.

The crash will air later this year on the Discovery Channel program "Curiosity."

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