Lift - Fall 2012 - (Page 8)
F l i g ht Path
By R e B e c ca D o u g l a s
LeLand ShanLe Jr. (’92, WW) leads team that executes 727 drone flight and controlled wreck for safety’s sake
Embry-Riddle alumnus Morris ‘Barney’ Barnett shows the remote control that was used to crash-land the 727.
Photo (left): Sam Hodgson. Photos (top, from left): Mark L Berry, Sam Hodgson, Vance Jacobs
Above, left: ‘Big Flo,’ in the sky near the mountains, followed by a chase plane, performs a practice run over the crash site. Above: Embry-Riddle alumni Leland ‘Chip’ Shanle, Mark Berry, Sean McDonald and Quinton Weiskittel. Above, right: Wreckage of the Boeing 727.
hen Broken Wing aviation consultancy, led by Leland Shanle Jr. (’92, WW), managed to fly and intentionally crash-land a 727-212 via remote control in late April, the mission became known as the world’s largest successful drone flight. More importantly, the project yielded copious amounts of data about precisely what occurs during an actual airline accident. Through partnerships with leaders in the scientific community and numerous aircraft equipment manufacturers, the 727—affectionately known as “Big Flo”—was wired with stress gauges and outfitted with anatomical crash dummies, data recorders and other equipment for subsequent analysis. Despite last-minute challenges, Broken Wing managed to put the 727 down just as the researchers requested: a wings-level impact, with the aircraft dropping at 2,500 to 2,800 feet per minute. By achieving such specific parameters, the team helped prevent an aircraft fire and facilitated maximum data collection. As planned, the controlled impact created three different “zones of survivability” within the aircraft: fatal, catastrophic and survivable. “The scientists were giddy about the amount of information we were able to provide,” reports Shanle, president and CEO of Broken Wing. “The final flight was a long time in the works, but it was all worth it for the amount of data collected.”
Hitting tHe Mark
The carefully choreographed flight will figure prominently in a television documentary being produced for Discovery Channel, Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and German broadcaster ProSieben. Shanle’s ability to safely guide the unoccupied aircraft into a designated 9,000-foot impact zone allowed the event to be filmed from multiple angles. Broken Wing crew members also shot footage from support aircraft, and video cameras recorded the action inside the airliner. Behind the scenes, Broken Wing navigated a series of engineering, aeronautical and bureaucratic challenges to produce the picture-perfect crash landing. The unique mission required extensive ground planning, a comprehensive “buildup”-based flight plan and split-second in-flight adjustments.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Lift - Fall 2012
Lift - Fall 2012
Letter from the President
Wings of Legacy
Carving New Ventures
Releasing the Dragon
Giving to Embry-Riddle
Alumni in Action
Lift - Fall 2012