Air Date: May 20, 2009
A skydiver whose parachute fails to open can hit the high end of a playground seesaw, landing on his feet, and launch a child on the low end safely up to the roof of a 7-story building.
In their first test, Adam and Jamie constructed a steel seesaw and placed a dummy on one end whose weight matched that of an average 6-year-old girl. To approximate the effect of a skydiver hitting the high end at terminal velocity, they calculated the proper combination of weight and height and dropped several water-filled barrels. The impact crushed the seesaw, ruptured the barrels, and launched the dummy to a height of 20 feet (6 m). Adam and Jamie went on to design and built a seesaw that could effectively deliver the energy of the falling skydiver to the girl without buckling.
The Build Team was brought in to further analyze the terminal velocity based on a specific type of skydiving suit and the diver’s body position; the determined it was 122 miles per hour (196 km/h). They also built a rig with bungee cords and guide wires that could accurately propel a dummy diver onto the target at the right speed. The child dummy was outfitted with “shock watch” stickers to measure the forces exerted on it. Three drops were carried out. The results:
1st drop: diver hit slightly off-center and burst on impact; girl flew 55 feet (17 m) up and 70 feet (21 m) laterally, but suffered enough force to kill her
2nd drop: sand-filled inner tube used for diver; girl hit the guide wires
3rd drop: girl flew 130 feet (40 m) up at an angle (equivalent of 200 feet/60 meters straight up), but experienced a g-force of 42 g which would cause serious injury even before she hit the ground
Based on the need for a super-strong seesaw and the injuries inflicted on the girl, the team declared the myth busted.