The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 94: Airplane Hour

Premier Date: December 12, 2007

An untrained civilian can be instructed how to successfully land a plane over the radio.


Based off of multiple airplane movies, this myth posed a challenge to the MythBusters because they could not afford to test it using real aircraft. Instead, they used a NASA simulator. For their first test, both Adam and Jamie decided to see if they could land a plane unaided. However, since both MythBusters had no flight experience and had no idea what most of the instruments and controls did, they both were forced to crash land their planes. In their second runs, a licensed pilot give them instructions via radio. With this help, both Adam and Jamie were able to land their planes safely. However, even though the test was a success, the pilot pointed out that most modern planes are so advanced that their autopilot systems can literally land the plane by themselves, negating the need for a civilian pilot. This information, coupled with the lack of any recorded incidents, led the MythBusters to declare the myth plausible.

The next three myths were based on the film Point Break.

A person can free fall for over ninety seconds from a height of 4,000 feet (1,200 m).


The Build Team dropped a dummy from a plane at a height of 4,000 feet (1,200 m) and measured the amount of time it took for it to hit the ground. They timed the total free fall time at just 31 seconds, which would make the ninety second free fall scene in the movie impossible.

Two people can have a conversation with each other while in free fall.


To test this myth, Grant sky dived out of a plane. A skydiving instructor was to approach Grant while he was free falling and then attempt to say a certain phrase to Grant. During the free fall, the instructor yelled the phrase multiple times, but Grant could not hear him because the sound of the air rushing past drowned out his voice. The Build Team concluded that it was impossible to have a conversation in free fall.

By streamlining their body, a person can catch up to another person free-falling at terminal velocity in the skydiving position with a fifteen second head-start from 15,000 feet (4,600 m).


The Build Team first performed several small scale tests using wind tunnels, and demonstrated that objects with a greater surface area do in fact have a slower terminal velocity than objects with equal mass but smaller surface area. For the full scale test, Tory jumped out of a plane and assumed the skydiving position. Nick, a professional skydiver, gave Tory a fifteen second head-start and jumped out of the plane after him and assumed a streamlined posture. Twenty seconds after leaving the plane, Nick closed the distance between himself and Tory and passed Tory just as he was deploying his parachute. With such definitive results, the Build Team declared the myth confirmed.

A person can stop a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate and hot water.


Grant and Kari both demonstrated that the myth was possible, citing that the chemicals and sugars in the chocolate neutralized the acid.

(This myth was a promotion for the upcoming MacGyver special.)