With the blazing success of "Fast & Furious 6" this weekend, many of you are writing in to ask about the plausibility of, well, anything that happens in that movie.
Is it physically possible for Vin Diesel and his wheels of justice to go up against tanks and airplanes -- and win?
I found out for you, with the help of an expert: Marty Gordon, a professor of mechanical engineering technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a board-certified forensic engineer specializing in accident reconstruction.
He and I went through the most memorable scenes in the movie. The result: this Burning Q&A.
Can a car -- any car -- really drive through the nose of a plane?
Make that an engine of a cargo plane. And the answer is no.
"There is just too much metal for him to get through," Gordon tells me of the scene in which Diesel's car bursts through a hunk of flying machine. "If he did get through, he would have come through in chunks. That's like driving through a giant torch. The paint would have burned off. Another amazing thing: No glass was broken. And the headlights are still on, too!"
Could the windshield glass have been some sort of special glass?
"Was this a 'Star Trek' movie? No. So there was no force field."
At one point, Diesel jumps off a moving car, leaps through the air, catches Michelle Rodriguez from a moving tank, and then lands on another car to break his fall ...
"Let's say that Vin is moving at 70 miles an hour," Gordon notes. "He's still going to be going at 70 miles an hour when he lands. You can't just stop." In fact, it's pretty likely that Diesel would continue to slide until he, well, crashed into something else -- something a lot harder than Rodriguez.
In another scene, Paul Walker launches his car over a dusty hump and lands, nose down-ish and hard, on asphalt. Wouldn't the front of that car splinter into pieces instead of just bouncing a little bit and continuing on?
"With that positioning," Gordon tells me, "he would have probably damaged the front end, lost the steering, and crashed the car."
Can a tank really chase down a speeding car?
Well, here's a fact for you. The Guinness World Records once clocked "a production-standard S 2000 Scorpion Peacekeeper tank" moving just over 51 miles per hour. The Guinness people have crowned that tank as the fastest ever. I'm no Marty Gordon, but the tank in "Fast & Furious 6" is not moving at just over 51 miles per hour -- unless everyone else is moving at 10 miles per hour.
Maybe villain Luke Evans retrofitted the tank with balsa-wood sides and a rocket engine and forgot to tell us?
"That tank looked pretty light," Gordon acknowledges. "There are tanks out there retrofitted with turbo engines, but they don't provide the right thrust. In this case, there would be too much friction; if you got the tank to move that fast, you would just end up breaking something. The treads on the tank might fly off if you went too fast.
"I think this was a tank that they made up," Gordon says.
Can a plane take off, even for a short time, with the weight of a tank and a couple of cars hanging off it?
Well, technically, yeah.
"This was some sort of cargo plane," Gordon reminds me. And cargo planes are huge, built to carry things like -- yes -- tanks and Humvees. In fact, Gordon tells me, he doubts that a speeding car or two could do much to make such a powerful plane yaw and crash onto the tarmac like it does in "Fast & Furious 6."
"Best-case scenario, one of those cars can exert 4,000 or 5,000 pounds" of weight against the moving plane, Gordon says. "That's, like, 1 percent of the payload capacity of the plane. The thrust of those engines has to be 100,000 pounds each. So I don't think a car's going to do much."
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