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A Physics Question about the realism of the plane hijacking in The dark Knight Rises

  1. May 1, 2012 #1
    First time poster, but have always had conversations physics related with friends, none that are experts lol. I'm also a fan of movie and the physics/realism within films. Recently i've been listening to Neil D. Tyson's startalk podcast about the science in movies (his story on the error of the starry sky of Titanic is pretty funny) among all other subjects heavy in physics/science.

    I looked around for a good physics forum to ask and hopefully this forum can help quell a heated debate amongst physic neophytes around the water cooler :)

    Sooo, to get to the point. (seemed most appropriate section for question)

    In the Dark Knight Rises trailer, could the cargo plane still fly with the added weight and drag of the jet hanging down?

    In essence could this hijacking happen in real life? The more details the better :p

    Link - sorry first time poster so couldn't put direct link.


    Timecodes for helpful images. Couldn't find the leaked prologue footage but has more information there.

    0:16 - 2 planes
    0:19 - Big plane CU
    0:23 - Side view of big plane
    0:24 - side view of small plane (not sure if useful)
    0:25 - View of both planes from back
    0:25 - closer view of both from under (wings brake off)
    0:29 - Back pops pop off little plane, you can see wires


    If this is an inappropriate place to ask such a question, apologies.
    Last edited: May 1, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2012 #2
    Re: A Physics Question about the realism of the plane hijacking in The dark Knight Ri

    That would make for a pretty cool physics problem. I don't know much about aerodynamics.

    I think you'd want to know more information, like how fast are the planes traveling, how much do they weigh, how much power does each plane have, etc. If you had numbers to these factors, you probably would quickly get a feasibility answer. The video looks very unrealistic though, and I doubt a plane's wing's would break like they did from air flow (the fuselage would not remain perpendicular, but rather move at an angle with the air), but that's just a guess. I also doubt the other plane has enough power and lift to tow the second, and its probably so unstable that both would fall out of the sky.
  4. May 1, 2012 #3
    Re: A Physics Question about the realism of the plane hijacking in The dark Knight Ri

    Thanks for the reply DragonPetter.

    We were asking the same kind of questions. The weight, the speed, and other factors that help. I was hoping the Christoper Nolan would have thought about the science of the hijacking to add some realism to the scene but i guess there are too many unknowns to answer comprehensively (also, its a batman flick hehe). Unless some aeronautic guru could chime in.

    Would be interesting to see what a realistic possible mid air hijacking would look like! If thats possible :)

    Below is my friend's own delving of trying to reach his conclusion.

    Hawker 800

    Maximum take-off weight - 28,000 lb (12,701 kg)
    Empty weight - 15,670 lb (7,108 kg)
    Length - 88 ft 4 in (26.9 m)
    Wingspan - 77 ft 10 in (23.7 m)

    Lockheed C-130 Hercules
    Maximum take-off weight 155,000 lb (70,300 kg)
    Empty weight 75,800 lb (34,400 kg)
    Length ft 9 in (29.8 m
    Wingspan 132 ft 7 in (40.4 m)
    Max fuel weight 45900 lbs / 20819 kg

    The Hawker 800 is the closest plane to the one in the video I could find. I think the Cargo plane is the one pictured.
    So, I took the empty weight of cargo plane and added the max fuel it would hold, not that it needs it. Then multiplied the empty weight of the jet by 2 to account for the jets weight plus drag and added that to the cargo planes weight. The total comes to 153,700. I rounded up. The jet would really weigh less than this because it doesn't have wings and if drag on the jet were equal to the weight of the jet it would be horizontal. But just to be safe lets use that number. The total of 153,700 is still under the cargo planes max takeoff weight of 155,000 lbs. Which means that the engines have enough power to take off with that load. So it has to be able to fly with it if it can take off with it. And planes take off at an angle that would be similar to the angle you said the load might put the cargo plane in. So I'm pretty sure it could happen.
    P.S. Even with the cables hanging out the back of the cargo planes bay door they would still be just behind the main wings, which is the most stable load bearing point on the plane.
    Last edited: May 1, 2012
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