Episode 37: Escape Slide Parachute

Air Date: August 10, 2005

It is possible to jump from a disabled airplane and use an inflatable life raft to safely return to earth (as in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)


Any attempt to use the raft failed due to the instability of the raft in freefall. It was possible to rig the raft as a parachute and land with minimal injuries, but this would not be possible to perform while jumping from a disabled aircraft.

It is possible to jump from a disabled airplane and use an inflatable escape slide to safely return to earth.


While it was shown that the slide could safely land Buster with no injuries, he had to be strapped in and there is no possible way to perform this from a disabled aircraft.

A person strapped into the rear stewardess seat could survive the destruction of the aircraft in flight by having the surviving tail section slow her fall and absorb impact.


While Adam and Jamie’s attempt to recreate the incident resulted in Buster once again being heavily damaged, this event actually happened in real life. The stewardess was severely injured in the incident, but did survive. It was agreed that it was very improbable, but could happen if circumstances were just right.

A number of Canadian Air Force pilots were explosively decapitated when their hair gel exploded in the oxygen-rich environment of the cockpit.


After recreating the environment in an F-104 Starfighter cockpit, it took some effort to ignite the hair product. Even with extreme amounts of product, the best result was a fire and/or small explosion, which came nowhere near decapitating the test head. It was confirmed that there have been a number of incidents in which small fires have occurred, but there are no recorded fatal injuries. It was noted that a fire in a pure oxygen environment killed the astronauts of Apollo 1.


  1. mike g says:

    A columbian girl survived falling in a swamp strapped to a seat from a airplane that desintegrated mid-air, if I recall properly, slim…

  2. Andrew says:

    I’m a licensed pilot and it’s part of my training that petroleum products, lip balms being the primary offenders, are not to be mixed with pure oxygen at any time. Apparently, the petroleum reacts with the supplemental oxygen in a way that is dangerous, or at least very painful, to the wearer.

    Could this possibly be a part of the hair gel myth? Did the tested products products contain petroleum? Thanks.

  3. Justin says:

    There is a number of WW2 myths, not sure how confirmed or not they are, about the tail gunners in the large bombers, ie B17 Flying Fortresses, B24 Liberators, B29 Superfortresses, etc, having survived the fall from flight hight after the tail section was separated relatively cleanly, usually from impact from another aircraft, or from ack ack (antiaircraft) fire. Maybe the mythbusters might want to check this one out again?

  4. dewey says:

    Hey ask jamie to try a diete plan your friend dewey tackett.

  5. Flight says:

    Does anyone else have any experience with this?

  6. Buzz says:

    I’d like to see Mythbusters revisit the falling tail episode. The posted “myth” info is here.

    On January 26, 1972, a Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 departed from Copenhagen for Belgrade (via Zagreb) with 28 passengers and crew. At an altitude of approximately 33,000 feet, a bomb in the cargo section planted by the Ustashe Croatian separatist group exploded. The plane disintegrated and fell into the mountains below. In what must be one of the greatest survival stories of all time, stewardess Vesna Vulovic survived the 33,000 foot descent in the tail section of the plane. She had a fractured skull, two broken legs, and three broken vertebrae – one of which was crushed and left her paralyzed from the waist down.

    I was a tail gunner (B-52) and I remember the other falling without parachute stories in training. However we were told that the tail is the safest part of any aircraft. It’s light and has no fuel or other combustibles.
    The error that Adam and Jamie make is cutting off the stabilizers or fins.
    The fins are what allow the tail to flutter of fall into a flat spin when disconnected from the aircraft. Slowing its decent.

  7. Wild Cobra says:

    I finally saw a rerun of episode 37. They buted the myth wrong. The 5 PSI pressure is absolute pressure, not gauge. They used guage pressure with is about 4 times higher than absolute. You see, the atmosphere is about 14.7 PSI at sea level. At that height, it is about 5 PSI. To simulate that pressure at sea level, you need a pressure of -9.7 PSI. Not +5 PSI!

    The primary difference I can thing of is how the flammable hair gel reacts at lower pressure. the vapor point is far different, and may become even more explosive.

  8. Mrmot says:

    Not only did Vesna Vulović survived, but she recovered from her injuries. Although she had three broken vertebrae, she was only temporary paralyzed.
    Bizzar fact was that she was not sheduled for that flight, but due to some clerical mixup, she was there instead of another attendant with the same first name.

  9. SADIK says:

    ıslak çamaşırı uçaktan aşağı atsak yere düşene kadar kurur mu?

  10. Saša K says:

    Vesna Vulović: This aircraft had the horisontal stabilizers mounted on top of the vertical stabilizer. This gave it the ability to “glide” in a somewhat stable way. Also, she landed on a hill slope, not on flat area. This also dampened the impact dramatically. Had this been a plane with a different wing configuration, other side of the hill, etc, the outcome would probably not have been the same. A lot of stars had tonalign that day…

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