12 Oct 2012

The Life of a Pilot Is Never Dull.


Image credit: Death on Small Wings, Neville Atkinson.

Last night a ground-breaking documentary was shown on Channel 4 titled 'The Plane Crash.' The Channel invited viewers to book a virtual seat through the Channel 4 website on a flight with an unusual destination. The 170-seater Boeing passenger jet was unlike any other air craft as it was set on a flight path to crash-land on purpose for the sake of science. Viewers were invited to log onto the site after the programme aired to see what their fate would have been in their chosen seats. Many newspapers are criticising Channel 4 for being insensitive after the Sita Air crash in Nepal less than a fortnight ago in which 7 Britons died, killing 19 in total.

However the main objective of the documentary seemed clear: studying the mechanics and impact that a plane crash causes and what passengers can do to reduce fatalities in a plane crash situation. The documentary followed a team of scientists, other experts in the field and skilled pilots as they crash-landed the passenger jet 'Big Flo' in the Mexican desert.

One of the pilots, Jim Bob Slocum, was a seasoned pilot who'd previously parachuted out of three planes and had given the nick name 'Big Flo' to the passenger jet that was intended for the crash experiment. Big Flo was taken up in the air by a team of pilots who then parachuted out of the aircraft at which point it was remotely controlled by military experts. Pilot Jim Bob, one of the most experienced pilots in the experiment, was the last man out of the air craft.

Once the air craft had crashed in the Mexico desert it became apparent that if there had been anyone on board to pilot the air craft that they would have met their maker as the plane took a slight nose-dive and the nose eventually broke free from the craft, being squashed by the remaining chunk of the plane.

As well as the experiment demonstrating where to sit, as a passenger, for the best chance of survival it also demonstrated that pilots put their lives on the line every time they set off on a flight. This is certainly highlighted in the Death on Small Wings eBook, written by Neville Atkinson (pictured above) who left a career as a fighter pilot in the Royal Navy to take up a position as personal pilot to the President of Libya, Colonel Gadaffi. The turmoil of the Middle East at the time meant that the jet was constantly under attack as well as being forced to transport Carlos The Jackal and three other terrorist from Algeirs to Moogadishu in Somalia after a kidnapping in Vienna.

So whether it's parachuting out of commercial air-liners in the name of science or being the personal pilot to one of the most infamous men in history there is one thing that rings true in my observation: the life of a pilot is never dull!

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