Boeing 747 Disintegrating

The photo in question (shown below) was received by one of our staff members as one of those emails that has a way of winding around the world. We are unaware of the original source of the 747 picture, but we received it via a fellow at Lockheed Martin.

Aft fuselage of an Air Canada 747 disintegrating
Aft fuselage of an Air Canada 747 disintegrating

The picture is rather striking and remarkable, and we have no reason to believe that it's anything but authentic even though we have been unable to locate any further information about the incident on the internet. The only details we have on what transpired comes from these brief comments contained in the original email:

"Guys at work said the whole aft end of the plane just aft of the Center wing box destroyed. No real fire as plane carrying very minimum fuel load.

"The aircraft in the picture was being flown to Air Canada's maintenance base in Montreal after having a hard tail strike on the previous flight. The pilot did it again on landing and the pressure dome gave way...."

If anyone can refute this description of events, we await the evidence.
- answer by Greg Alexander, 5 May 2002

More Opinions...

Mark Karjaluoto writes:

Air Canada 747 Picture Doctored

A few points...

1) I've never been to Montreal, but I do live in Vancouver BC... and both the airport and the mountain in the background of the photo look very much like they belong in Vancouver.

2) As the picture is seemingly in Vancouver and during the day-time, someone would have theoretically seen this happen. But I work for a major radio news outlet here in Vancouver, and have not seen nor heard any official or witness reports of such an "accident."

3) the photo looks very much like a job out of photo-shop, and a bad one. Notice how the white on the forward part of the fuselage seems almost yellowish, but is more "pure" in the area where the plane is apparently cracking up? I'm not an expert in air crashes, but that sure does not look real when one takes a close look.

Our Response...

I guess if I really look at it closely, I can see the color shift that you are talking about, but this could be due to the lighting angle as the fuselage disintegrates. Contrary to your opinion though, I think it is indeed a "good" forgery, if it is one at all. The detail of the debris cloud and the internal structure of the fuselage is quite convincing and difficult, though not impossible, to fake. Everyone thinks doctoring photos is easy, until they try.

Assuming the photo is genuine... Since no one died, I can understand that it wasn't a big news story. As for the Vancouver vs. Montreal issue, I could understand someone making an honest mistake. If this did occur in Canada but the caption was written by an American, it is easy to see how someone could've mixed up the location. We don't even have any solid evidence that this occured in Canada at all, and the background terrain certainly looks more mountainous than I would expect of Montreal. Again, we await some solid evidence to confirm or deny the truthfulness of this surprisingly controversial image.
- answer by Doug Jackson

The Evidence Arrives...

Thanks go to Dan R. who finally provided the convincing evidence that this photo has been faked. The true genesis of this picture can be found at Jez's Aviation Picture Gallery (link no longer available). Apparently the aircraft shown in the "back half" of the disintegrating 747 was in reality a retired Air France 747-100 used for experiments by the British Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

In particular, the fuselage was pressurized and subjected to four explosive detonations to determine how much damage such charges could do to an airplane in flight. This research was done in response to the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988 which brought down the aircraft killing all aboard and several on the ground. The research also evaluated different types of blast protection that could be used to improve the survivability of passenger airliners in the event of future terrorist bombings.

In terms of our discussion, the following photos illustrate the effect of the explosive charges on the aircraft fuselage.

Aft fuselage of an Air Canada 747 disintegrating
Aft fuselage of an Air Canada 747 disintegrating

The third still image is clearly familiar, and it is obvious that some skillful photo editor cleverly superimposed this picture over that of a landing Air Canada 747 to produce the infamous forgery that we've all come to know and love. But even though the forgery has been exposed, my hat goes off to the perpetrator who did an exceptionally good job of merging those two photos. Kudos!
- answer by Jeff Scott

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