Tonight’s episode of Mythbusters, Flights of Fantasy features two very different types of flying machines: drones and a Lockheed U-2 spy plane. Show hosts Adam Savage and Jaime Hyneman took a couple of minutes to chat with us about the episode and the rest of the newly-rebooted season of the show.
Tonight’s episode sees the duo testing out two aviation questions: is the U-2 spy plane really as difficult to fly and land, and as we see more and more drones put to work with deliveries, just how dangerous can that be?
For the U2 spy plane segment, the pair head out to the Beale Air Force Base, home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, which flies the planes. The Mythbusters crew spent a couple of months working with the United States Air Force to figure out just what type of episode they could structure an episode around.
Once they had permission to fly aboard the planes, they had to make sure they were ready. “The suiting up was incredibly extensive.” Savage noted, “Jamie and I went through an accelerated program: 2 solid days of learning how to put on the pressurized suit, and all the ways you can get out of the U2 while in mid air.”
Where the pair have worked with bombs and other items with extensive safety protocols, the U-2 was slightly different. Because the planes aren’t in as widespread use as other aircraft in the USAF, “the [escape] protocols were built by people just a few years ago. They were showing us how to pull the first ejection handle, then the second if the first didn’t work, then the third. If that didn’t work, you have to push back the canopy and climb out and jump.” If they survived that? “They told us if we survived, that would be the new protocol.”
Recently, Savage showed up at San Diego Comic Con dressed in a space suit of his own, along with Astronaut Chris Hadfield. When asked how they compared to one another, “My fake space suits are far more comfortable and easier to put on.”
The pair noted that the crew of the Beale Air Force base were fantastic: Jamie noted that “the entire support crew couldn’t be more accommodating and were excellent in their jobs. Honestly, the U2 is one of the most wonderful flying experiences I’ve ever had.”
The other half of the episode was all about commercial delivery drones and how safe they really can be. When they test one of the rotor blades against a raw chicken, they find that they can do some pretty serious damage.
Savage had some thoughts on how drone pilots need to remember that there’s a certain level of responsibility that comes with flying a potentially dangerous tool: “Everyone who’s currently flying a drone is representing the hobby. When people do something stupid, that’s what people remember. Our tools are dangerous if they’re done dumbly. I hope that our episode doesn’t sensationalize the danger, and reinforces how they should respected.’
Hyneman pointed out that while there have been some sensational mishaps with drones - chiefly when drones got in the way of aerial firefighters - drones need to be kept in perspective: “it’s certainly a legitimate concern, [but] it’s important to remember that most of these are the size of birds and flying at the same height. It needs to be kept in perspective. I think as a result of the concerns, it’ll make a it safer and better for everyone.” He went on to note that in some of the more sensational cases, drone pilots were completely ignoring existing flight ceiling regulations.
“Let’s be clear, it doesn’t take any new regulations for the idiots with the fires” Hyneman noted “these people were flying above the approved ceiling. My thinking is not necessarily regulation, but nice and nifty ways to take them out of the sky.”
When asked if either would be ordering pizza from a drone delivery service, each said that they would. Hyneman noted that there’s another problem with this that really hasn’t been addressed: “I think people will see it as a free drone program.”
Despite some of the risks that they cover on the show, the pair noted that drones have been in use on the show for two years now. Hyneman noted that “Control on these things is so good, the camera guy is going out with a couple of them, he’ll send them up and frame the shot, and then go off to operate another camera. These are perched over our set like they’re on a boom. The reach and extention that we have as a result is already pretty amazing.”
Looking towards the rest of the season, the pair were excited to show off the upcoming Star Wars-themed episode, where they’ll be looking at if it’s possible to dodge out of the way. They noticed that you can calculate the speed of the bolts fired by the stormtroopers, and worked on figuring out how to get out of their way. The results, Savage noted, “were kind of surprising.”
This season is the continuation of the new style after Kari, Grant and Tory departed the show. “It wasn’t our choice to let them go, but we’ve worked hard to make the best show that we can. Now that we’re responsible for 100% of the content, we’ve done something remarkable - it’s more focused on the building.”
It was the building aspect that they felt that they had gotten away from what they really loved doing: creating things. “The new format allows us to dig a little more deeply into the material,” Hyneman noted.
The show recently earned an Emmy nomination - their seventh- something that they’re very proud of. “We’ve very proud of this show, and to continue to be nominated is thrilling!” Savage noted. However, they indicated that the awards were falling slightly behind the pace of reality television: there’s only a couple of categories for reality television: Structured Reality Program, Unstructured Reality Program, Reality Competition Program and Reality Host. They noted that there’s numerous genres within reality television, and that it’s become a rich environment.
Hyneman closed out the interview with an observation: “One thing we’ve been fascinated by is we somehow are included in the science fiction genre. It says something about scifi and it’s actual connection with science. That’s sort of the way that we became a bridge, which I think is kind of cool. That’s the soul of Mythbusters, and one reason that we’ve done a couple of scifi related myths as well.”
Flights of Fantasy airs tonight on Discovery at 8/7c.
Image credit: DLC