“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Die Hard 2

This is, by no means, a movie review blog but I just can't resist here. I've wasted a few minutes watching part of "Die Hard 2." The extent to which the way the airplanes, the air traffic control system, the communication systems, etc. work is confused and distorted is unparalleled. It's said that a film maker can ask the audience to suspend disbelief for one major item. After that, the minor items have to be right. This movie doesn't merely break this rule, it obliterates it. Nearly every aspect of the way the systems mentioned above work is rendered incorrectly.

A great example is when Sam Coleman, a reporter who's standing at the airport, ostensibly with a gaggle of airplanes who are in a low fuel emergency circling the vortac in a holding pattern because terrorists have disabled the instrument landing system and taken over the communications system, says "I can see airplanes circling above me." Really? Do you suppose that, perhaps, the pilots can see the airport?

When Colonel Stuart wants to punish the Airport Manager, he adjusts the instrument landing system by turning a dial and using a light pen and "lowers sea level to minus 200 feet" so an airliner, whose tanks are "as dry as a martini" and which is "running on fumes" will fly into the concrete. Never mind that the ILS system does not work this way (altitude information is gotten from the - ready now - altimeter) and the descent rate of an airliner at 200 feet, what does this airplane, whose fuel tanks are supposedly as dry as a popcorn fart, do when it crashes into the runway? It erupts into a massive oily orange and black fireball, that's what it does.

I won't bother to wonder why the aircraft don't talk to approach control or ARTCC and, oh, go to an alternate airport. And, while we're at it, the Mythbusters in Episode 88 demolished the idea of lighting a trail of leaking kerosene (jet fuel) and having it catch up to an airliner to blow it up as happens in the climactic scene in Die Hard 2. Then there are the little things. The news helicopter pilot won't set down in front of the terrorists' 747 because he won't "play chicken with a 20 ton plane." Hello? An EMPTY 747 weighs well over 200 tons. OK,OK, it was pointed out to me that he says "200 ton plane." Repeated listening using the digital video recorder has confirmed this. My apologies.

But: below is a screenshot from Die Hard 2 where General Esperanza and Colonel Stuart are in their "getaway plane," a Boeing 747 of late 1980's (pre glass cockpit) era. Above it is a photo of an actual 747 cockpit of that vintage. Are you kidding me?

The one-time suspension of disbelief is used on McLane's circumstances. There are probably dozens of small errors, seemingly no five minute period could elapse without one. Just like newspapers, every time, without exception, some subject is covered in which I have either specialist or personal knowledge, there are factual errors.

1 comment:

Steve Bloom said...

OT: KotR, re John Baez you'll want to start at the Azimuth Project home page.