A Boeing 747 was spectacularly blown up in the U-K on Saturday, by scientists investigating the effects of terrorist bombs on airliners.
The explosion -- from four bombs set off simultaneously in the jumbo jet's cargo hold -- almost split the giant jet in two.
The scientists were researching methods of safeguarding passenger planes against bombs.
The test is part of continuing research into the Lockerbie disaster, when Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a luggage bomb in December 1988, killing a total of 270 people.
Countdown to explosion.
UPSOUND AS BOMBS GO OFF
But this airliner wasn't being blown up by terrorists.
This was a scientific test trying to protect planes and passengers from terrorist bombs.
The old Air France Boeing 747-100 jumbo jet was the guinea pig in Saturday's test at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, about 110 miles (175 kms) north of London.
Researchers set off four simultaneous explosions, three of them in cargo areas that had been reinforced and one control blast in an unprotected cargo hold for comparison.
The bombs were about three times the size of the device that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing a total of 270 people.
But the reinforced cargo containers withstood the explosion well.
Only a few windows were blown out.
Damage from the control blast was much more extensive, ripping a huge hole in the airplane's fuselage, just behind the wings.
The test was sponsored by Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (C-A-A) and the U-S Federal Aviation Administration (F-A-A).
"We wanted to know how explosions work, how do they load the structure, how does the structure respond to both the explosion and in interaction, as well, how does it fail? Knowing this, we could focus protection systems in order to safeguard the aircraft should this terrible threat ever occur again. Safety, is the Civil Aviation's (Authority) prime concern."
SUPER CAPTION: Rory Martin, British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
A fully bombproof plane is a long way away, but together with other countermeasures such techniques can make life increasingly difficult for the terrorist.
"Trying to incorporate these kinds of concepts into the initial airplane design, so that we don't have to pay the cost of retro-fits in later years. But we're ways away from truly having bombproof airplanes I think by any stretch of the imagination but what we have to be able to do is if we can minimise somewhat, and couple that with what we're doing in detection and just making the job harder and harder for the terrorist and that's really what we're trying to accomplish."
SUPER CAPTION: Ken Hacker, US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Bomb incidents against civil aircraft have already involved 33 countries and 40 airlines.
In just over half of the bombings, the planes have managed to land - but authorities
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