"The supports adjacent to the seat lost five or six rivets and the metal bowed out, but the structure didn't fail," said Captain J. Joseph, an aviation expert also featured in the BBC documentary, which is also airing on Discovery Channel this week. "The actual aircraft would have remained intact."
On Dec. 25, 2009 Abdulmutallab boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253, flying from Amsterdam to Detroit. Sewn into Abdulmutallab's underwear was pentaerythirtol tetranitrate, or PETN, a powerful explosive.
As the Airbus A330 was about to touch down in Detroit, Abdulmutallab allegedly removed a syringe and tried to ignite the PETN and blow up the aircraft. Instead of a powerful explosion, however, Abdulmutallab created a small fire, which was extinguished. The would-be bomber was subdued by other passengers and crew members on the flight.
Using a decommissioned Boeing 747, Joseph, Wyatt and the BBC team set about recreating the conditions of last year's attempted bombing.
They placed about 80 grams of PETN's base material, pentaerythritol, near the 747's fuselage where Abdulmutallab was seated. Eighty grams of pentaerythritol contains about the same explosive power as a hand grenade, but lacks the the hot, sharp metal fragments of an actual grenade that cause so much damage. The BBC set up cameras and Wyatt set off the explosives.