By Ken Hegan for MSN Travel

If you only fly first class, I have alarming news for you: it’s much safer to sit in the back of a plane. First class passengers are literally paying more for a front row seat TO THEIR OWN DEATH.

That’s according to a recent crash study done in a remote and unpopulated corner of Mexico’s Baja California. On Friday, a team of experts (I presume) deliberately crashed a 170-passenger jet, nose-first, into the Sonoran Desert. The test was filmed by a UK production company, Dragonfly Film and Television Productions, and will be broadcast later this year as a feature-length doc on Channel 4 in the UK and Discovery Channel in the USA.

Crashing plane
Artist’s rendering of crashing jet. The artist was hovering in mid-air, like a bird or a god.

A spokesperson for Dragon Fly said there were “300 people on location, including the production team, pilots, experts, risk management, plus local crew, military, fire teams and police.”

The goal of this $1.5 million project was to test safety equipment by recreating a survivable commercial jet crash to see who would live — and who would die. Oh, and if you’re wondering, they didn’t use actual passengers. Yes, they may be cynical TV types but they’re not MONSTERS. Instead, the plane was filled with crash test dummies, video cameras, and lots of scientific machines that go “Ping!” They also shot footage from the ejecting pilot’s helmet.

According to The Daily Mail in London, pilot James Slocum, age 55, parachuted out of the plane at 2,500 feet (762 metres). Then a second pilot, who was flying a Cessna behind the jet, used “a remote control device” to crash the jet. The crash was also filmed by helicopter because that’s just an awesome way to spend a Friday.

There were three types of crash test dummies on board, all built with sophisticated sensors. One type of dummy wore a seatbelt and did “the classic brace” position (where they lean forward and hold their head). A second dummy wore a seatbelt but did not brace itself. And the third dummy was unbelted and did not brace itself. Probably was secretly smoking in the bathroom too, the dummy.

According to The Telegraph in London, as the plane hit the ground, “the jet is torn in two with the nose becoming embedded in the ground as the body of the plane slides over it.” Tough luck for those first class dummies.

Wreckage
Wreckage from the Mexican jet crash. Photo: Channel 4

After the crash, experts studied the wreckage, video footage, and scientific data. They discovered the following:

1) The dummy who braced him/herself would have survived the crash

2) The dummy who didn’t brace would’ve suffered serious head injuries

3) The dummy who didn’t wear a seatbelt or brace itself would’ve died

4) 78% of passengers would have survived

5) Since the plane landed nose-first (which then sheared off the front fuselage), everyone in first class would have died. And probably pretty spectacularly, too.

6) Your best chance for survival is if you sit in the back of a plane, provided you can endure the horrible smells wafting from the bathrooms

7)  Mexicans don’t seem to mind if you crash jet planes there for fun

8) According to one of people who commented on the Daily Mail story, there’s an even greater risk:

“Since watching Lost i’ve decided that wherever you sit in a plane there’s always a chance you could end up going back in time and being killed by a mysterious smoke monster that sounds like a train. So i tend to brace myself for that every time i get on a flight.”

By the way, this is only the second controlled-crash of a jet plane. NASA crashed a Boeing 720 back in 1984, but The Daily Mail says that one “ended up as a fireball.”

Oh, and that reminds me: do NOT try this at home.

— Ken Hegan

Read all Ken’s stories here and follow him on Twitter: @KenHegan

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