I flew 16 different naval aircraft in 10 squadrons; including the F-4 Phantom II, EA-6B Prowler and TA-4J Skyhawk. Attached to CAG (Air Wing) 5, 11 and 1. I cruised on the USS Midway, America and Lincoln. I flew 80 missions over the war torn skies of Bosnia, Somalia, and Iraq. An Airline Transport Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor; I have flown numerous civilian types from the Cessna 150 to the Boeing 767-300. Currently I am rated in 767, 757, 727, MD-80 and Sabreliner series aircraft.

I have also been an aviation/military technical adviser on 5 major motion pictures (Pearl Harbor, Behind Enemy Lines, xXx, The Day After Tomorrow and Stealth) and a television series pilot (not yet announced). My production company, Broken Wing LLC, is currently working on an intense documentary for 3 major television sponsors.

My latest project, Curiosity: Plane Crash, remote drone crashes a Boeing 727 in the Mexican desert to gather more information on controlled plane crashes.

It airs tonight on Discovery Channel at 9 PM EST and tomorrow night on the Science Channel.

Proof: http://project7alpha.com/blog/




EDIT: I'll also be continuing the AMA after the premiere.

Comments: 1518 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

ironichaos437 karma

Is it going to make me never want to fly again?

LCDRChipShanle668 karma

I think actually the opposite.


Because watching planes crash is an effective tool in combating flight anxiety.

RidinTheMonster164 karma

I think he's implying that the plane/passengers fared reasonably well. If that's the case, I think it will definitely be an effective tool in combating anxiety.

redditcats67 karma

I think he was trying to rustle jimmies..

LCDRChipShanle283 karma

Believe me, my jimmies aren't rustled that easily.

bobmillahhh317 karma

What's it like to purposefully destroy something worth millions of dollars on tv?

LCDRChipShanle537 karma

It was actually pretty cool.

(The 727 was purchased for $449,000 and put a couple more hundred thousand in maintenance and mods. We pulled it out of storage in Ardmore, OK.)

who__whatwhat230 karma

What made you choose the Boeing 727 instead of a 737 or other model?

LCDRChipShanle392 karma

They are virtually the same aircraft. They have the same fuselage and cockpit, so the data we gather is directly transferable. The main reason, was because of the rear exit (the "DB Cooper" door. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Db_cooper)

who__whatwhat232 karma

So there were pilots on the plane, then at some point they ran to the back and parachuted out DB Cooper style and then you took over the controls remotely?

LCDRChipShanle400 karma

Correct. The flight engineer and first officer went out on downwind after the practice run. The captain flew it by himself to the descent point where I took it over after running through the checklist. At 4000 ft he left the cockpit, at 2500 ft the jump master and the captain jumped.

KaneHau209 karma

I'm curious as to the telemetry involved. How many sensors were deployed and how was the data recorded. Was all telemetry sent wireless to the chase planes or to a ground station? Or was it black-box recorded in the plane itself?

LCDRChipShanle295 karma

Data was all recorded internally, the aircraft was instrumented from front to back all keyed off a triggering system. There were high speed cameras (I believe 40 cameras in total) mounted internally. We also had external cameras on all participating aircraft, as well as a dedicated helicopter camera. We also had two separate black boxes (which actually are neon orange). One a new box design for General Aviation.

This is why it was extremely important to try and prevent a fire on impact.

Dire_Crow204 karma

Being a Electronic Warfare troop in the Air Force, I enjoyed the SAM sequence in Behind Enemy Lines. Did you have any close calls In Bosnia or Iraq? I can't imagine the terror of having a telephone pole flying Mach 6 screaming after your jet.

LCDRChipShanle311 karma

I actually flew those missions in an EA6B flying cover for the photo bird which was an F-14 Tomcat equipped with a TARPs pod.

We never had missiles launched, occasionally they would lock on us but all I saw was a little triple A fire.

edx77186 karma

What did it sound like? Is it like the movies crash sound? Or worse?

LCDRChipShanle338 karma

I was in the chase aircraft, so I heard nothing. Obviously in the aircraft, you would hear ripping of metal and the sound of impact - and surprisingly, two jet engines running on a high power setting, they continued to run on impact.

AlcoholicIrishMan137 karma

What is your favourite plane to fly?

LCDRChipShanle291 karma

Easy. F-4 Phantom II. Next, A-4 Skyhawk.

F-4 was just a bad ass muscle car, always trying to kill you, but you loved it anyway. The A-4 was a sports car and you felt like you could do anything you want in it. Roll twice in a second.

OhTen40oZ124 karma

What was going through your head as you were about to hit the ground?

LCDRChipShanle199 karma

I was actually in the airplane next to the 727, remote droning it into the ground. You will see tonight in the show, that we chased it all the way down and it was almost surreal. It seemed to bounce and come apart in slow motion.

RADRidingHood105 karma

What is the one piece of advice you'd give to a passenger on a crashing plane?

LCDRChipShanle154 karma

Follow the directions given. Bracing for impact makes a definitive difference, as you'll see later in the show.

bravo_delta92 karma

Can't wait for this! I have my DVR set!

  • Why did you pick a Mexican desert, and not an American one? Insurance or legal reasons?

  • Why and how did you decide to do an AMA on Reddit?

LCDRChipShanle96 karma

We went to Washington DC and briefed senior FAA officials and they suggested it.

I'm doing the AmA because a couple of our Broken Wing team members are Redditors and suggested it. I'm here to answer any and all questions!

snakattak50 karma


LCDRChipShanle80 karma

Possibly nailed it ... possibly.

McCrafty86 karma

Thanks so much for doing an AMA! I've been looking forward to the show for weeks.

How did you get involved with the Curiosity project, and what was the #1 thing you hoped the team would learn from the expirament?

LCDRChipShanle109 karma

Thanks for the interest!

We got started four years ago, when a production company called from London asking if I could find a suitable airliner and put a team together to modify it and fly a very specific profile.

We were validating component based testing, what that means is, they don't crash entire airplanes. For example, if there's a new type of seat, they'll test only the seat under crash loads.

The number one thing was that we could verify remote controlling an airliner from a chase airplane.

McCrafty24 karma

Thanks for the response! I'll be watching tonight!

LCDRChipShanle57 karma

Thanks, McC!

KaneHau80 karma

What were the backup plans (or even planes) if the shot was bad?

LCDRChipShanle118 karma

It was a one take event. We had backup chase aircraft, which you will see tonight, had to be utilized. We had back up systems, but once our last pilot left the 727, it was all or nothing.

LCDRChipShanle86 karma

You'll have to tune in tonight to see if we hit the data point.

795273 karma

Thanks for the AMA! How did you train for this?

LCDRChipShanle107 karma

When I was a test pilot in the Navy, I flew full scale aerial targets (we used the QF-4 Phantom) and droned them. The Q designation was for drone aircraft.

The squadron was VX-30 "Bloodhounds" and the core members of Broken Wing were all VX-30 personnel.

Jim353533 karma

How many of the controls were remotely accessible? I can't imagine they would have every button, switch, indicator, etc.

LCDRChipShanle23 karma

I had control of pitch, roll, and throttle.

bklingaman63 karma

At any point, when you had control of the aircraft as you brought it down, did you think you were close to making any mistakes? (like the plane being too tilted to the left on impact)

LCDRChipShanle112 karma

Absolutely. You will see tonight (I made a mistake on the time; it's 8 central, not eastern), that we had great difficulty when we went to the back up, which caused problems in accuracy and being able to stay close enough to maintain control of the 727 via remote.

ikno61 karma

How was a fire prevented?

LCDRChipShanle63 karma

We kept the wings level and the attitude flat so we wouldn't rupture any fuel tanks. That was the plan and it worked.

alexja2156 karma

What kind of involvement did the FAA have in re-certifying the 727 for flight? Was it pretty much a pencil-whipped deal knowing that its only flight would be ending in a fireball? Or did they go the whole nine yards inspecting the landing gear, anti ice systems, navigation systems, and all that stuff?

LCDRChipShanle65 karma

They went through the WHOLE NINE YARDS. I paid for the C check inspection. We had to apply for an AMOC (alternate means of compliance). Bill Withacomb, the southwest regional manager of the FAA, was instrumental on making this work. He was easy to work with and forward leaning on the project. Couldn't have happened without him.

BaconatorWithCheese56 karma

If you could eat one fast-food item for the rest of your life, what would it be?

LCDRChipShanle118 karma

Racanelli's New York style pizza. Pepperoni, of course.

LCDRChipShanle144 karma

It's all of the food groups. It IS the perfect food.

BaconatorWithCheese39 karma

How do you feel about Baconators? How do they compare to Racanelli's pizza?

LCDRChipShanle83 karma

Never had it, but anything with bacon in the name gets my vote.

Windyvale53 karma

How does it feel one-upping the Mythbusters themselves?

LCDRChipShanle61 karma

I don't think we did that... I love the mythbuster guys.

al-gore-rhythm51 karma

WHY on earth do you keep with a 50 yard range controller with such an expensive project? you have 3 $150,000 crash dummies, the "ferrari of the sky" and a 727... but you save money on a hobby town controller?

LCDRChipShanle80 karma

NASA had 40 million dollars (in 1984 dollars) I had $800,850 in today dollars. And I couldn't drill holes in the airplanes for antennas. We had rented the chase aircraft. The DGAC wouldn't allow us to modify the 27 beyond its certification, thus, we had to put antennas on the windows to increase the range of the signal.

oce4nlife49 karma

Do you listen to the Danger Zone as you fly?

LCDRChipShanle206 karma

No. I LIVE in the danger zone.

[deleted]38 karma

Hi Chip! Since I haven't seen the show yet, I'll just do a couple questions and maybe come back later if I watch the show (It's not that it doesn't seem interesting, it's just there is a SpaceX rocket launch at the same time and I think that takes priority in my book) but anyway

  • What is the number one thing you hope will come from the findings of the study?
  • From what you've seen, do you think you look Bad-ass?
  • Do you watch Doctor Who?
  • Any stories of real plane crashes? Yours or your fellow Pilots.

LCDRChipShanle84 karma

-The scientists were very happy with the profile we flew, it gave them three survivability zones: Fatal, catastrophic, and walk-away. It gave them ten years of hard data to go through. They were very happy with the data gathered, which is what the whole project was about.

-No, old!

-No, I don't.

-The entire Broken Wing team took it very seriously. Everyone of us has known someone who has perished in an aircraft accident. I myself lost my uncle to a Naval Aviation accident, and over my years in the Navy I watched quite a few young men perish. One of our team members lost his fiancee on TWA 800. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_800)

AirspeedAlive36 karma

Hey Chip,

A little off topic, but was wondering if you had any advice for a beginner career pilot. I'm currently a First Officer for a commuter airline with about 2,000 hours. Here are my questions:

-Any advice for a fairly new/ young career pilot? -Do you think the military gave you much more opportunities as an aviator? -I've always wanted to be a pilot, because I saw pilots as pioneers back when I was younger. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting farther and farther from the truth as cockpits become more and more automated. Where do you see the industry going in the next 50 years? -Is space travel the new frontier? Or is it just a commercial hype right now?

Any responses are appreciated! Thanks!

LCDRChipShanle44 karma

Go to the military and fly grey jets. Nothing compares to lighting burners and going pure vertical I get a shot.

The future of the industry is bright because everyone's my age.. I'm 54. I'm the average age of airline pilots. In 15 we will all be gone.

Space age is the future. But it's very narrow. Until they can figure out how to move large amounts of people at a low cost, it will be a very small part of aviation.

it_aint_easy28 karma

I have a more general question, I know some blame pilot error for a large percentage of flight incidents. What's your take on this? What more can be done to combat it? Are the smaller airlines rushing things with younger pilots to stay competitive? or is war time experience simply invaluable and that generation of pilots was simply depleted leaving more civilian only pilots around?

LCDRChipShanle33 karma

This is another good question. Yes. They press young pilots in this service above their experience. Nothing will ever replace being shot at to focus a pilot. The cold war produced a lot of pilots and they're just not being produced right now.

ken2723827 karma

What is the strangest thing you and the team had to overcome to make this possible?

LCDRChipShanle107 karma

The roadside seafood stand..

Put three of us out of commission for a day.

rakketakke27 karma

What will the future of flight look like? And will military flights all be done by drones in the next twenty years or so?

Groty23 karma

To expand upon that; What do you think the political, moral, and ethical implications would be if we transitioned to a largely drone based attack aircraft military? I've always feared that taking US servicemen and women out of harms way and utilizing robotic or drone aircraft more heavily would inhibit politician's patience for diplomacy.

LCDRChipShanle46 karma

This is a great question. It's quite true. When you take the person out of it, it's much easier to throw weapons across the beach.

The problem with drones, is A: they crash a lot. And B: they're expensive to operate. and C: no computer can ever outthink a fighter pilot. He will always be able to do what the plane is not supposed to do and defeat a computer.

conrick20 karma

I live in the city where the plane was crashed(Mexicali ,Mexico),is there any site to see the show live outside the US?

LCDRChipShanle38 karma

Honestly, try to find an online stream.


I have a weird question. So I see the Raptors flying out of Langley most weekday mornings. On rare occasions I can see them head on flying pretty low. When they do this I can see their headlight pointing straight out. This light is SO bright. What knid of light is it that it can be so bright from so far away?

LCDRChipShanle21 karma

Landing lights. They're bright so you can see the runway.

DustyChud20 karma

Being a test pilot, ever had the desire to become an astronaut?

LCDRChipShanle35 karma

Good question! No. They never fly. In fact, to be honest, I find most test flying to be boring. I liked being an adversary pilot fighting the fleet to be the most enjoyable part of flying.

s4g4n12 karma

  • 1)I saw on the commercial a futaba 8fg, please tell me you're flying the boeing with that. If not what did you guys use it for?
  • 2) How did you guys rig the airplane via remote control, were you able to fly it fpv through a cockpit camera?
  • 3) What's the range of the radio before it failsafes?

LCDRChipShanle16 karma

We did use a Futaba off the shelve. We didn't have video because we couldn't drill correct antenna holes for the feed so I flew it off my view in the chase plane. It worked!

310_nightstalkers10 karma

how hard was it to crash the plane? did you instincts keep fighting you to pull out of the dive or did you just pretend it was a game?

LCDRChipShanle22 karma

No, the mission called for a certain profile and I flew that profile. The profile just happened to end in a crash.

bb1889 karma

I am getting ready to quit my $75k/yr job as an engineer to become a pilot for the AF. Is this a smart move and what advice could you offer me?

LCDRChipShanle22 karma

When you select zone 5 an suck the gear up and doing five hundred and fifty knots indicated and snap on six g's into the pure vertical you will know you did the right thing.

Get a flight physical and take the AFOQT/TBAS. Do your research. You'll be fine.

kirbs20017 karma

Ok 2 questions if you would

  1. which of the aircraft you have flown is the easiest (or hardest) to land on a carrier?

  2. Why did they pick that trajectory for impact? why not a nose dive or something more dramatic?

LCDRChipShanle21 karma

Easiest plane to land on an aircraft carrier? There is no easy landing on an aircraft carrier. To flip this, the hardest was landing with a completely spiderwebbed windscreen. I lowered the seat all the way down, and at the bottom of the seat I could see a bit out of the lower corner. I used ILS until impact and the Lso was trying to see how much I could see, to determine if he would have us fly next the carrier to have us eject as we could not be diverted to hong kong. I saw this going on and put her down.

Fishstixxx167 karma

I like planes

LCDRChipShanle9 karma

Planes are neat.

clinicall7 karma

Can you give me some relief as I have huge anxiety flying and flying in 2 days. Perfect timing to get my feathers rustled if you ask me...

LCDRChipShanle32 karma

Don't be a roodypoo candyass. You have a better chance of being struck by lighting, but you still go outside.

clinicall12 karma

You're the first person that actually ever answered one of my AMAs.. I will not be a roodypoo candyass. AWESOME SHOW!!

LCDRChipShanle16 karma

Haha, my son told me to write that. I have no idea what it means.

[deleted]7 karma


LCDRChipShanle12 karma

Send me a PM tomorrow and we will chat about it.

Pamander6 karma

Haha I noticed a Wilson ball in the cockpit of the Boeing.

LCDRChipShanle6 karma

Perceptive of you.