During filing for U.S. Marshals in 1997, a Boeing 727 containing actor Wesley Snipes "crashed" outside Bay, City, Illinois and rolled into the Ohio River. Despite lawman Tommy Lee Jones' best efforts, Sinpes' character got away, and the production team headed back to New York City. The broken plane was purchased by Glen, pulled out of the river and hauled 12 miles to Mermet Springs, where it now lies with its Nose cone under 50 feet of hazel-green water. The plane's 120 foot long fuselage provides a unique swim through opportunity for the Midwestern diver. Divers are able to test their skills by diving into and around this unique piece of Hollywood memorabilia.
The 727's tail is at a depth of 15 feet and its nose is at a depth of 50 feet. The hull is hollow allowing properly trained divers to penetrate the wreck. At the low price of $1, this 22 ton, 135' x 14' ft. plane was sunk into the quarry using 1 barge, 2 cranes, 2 low-boys, and 2 police escorts. Some of the pictures below were taken during the moving process. You will notice that the plane was cut in half. This was done to allow the plane to be moved from the Ohio river to its final resting place at Mermet Springs. The plane was then sewn back together and prepared for its final flight to the depths of Mermet Springs on March 21, 1998.
Scuba diving through the fuselage is a surreal swim. The combination of charred cockpit controls, missing wings and open hatches throughout is a one of a kind experiences. It truly is First Class Diving!
Besides the 727, we have other submerged attractions including a school bus, semi tractor, sunken boats, a petting zoo, navigation course as well as 100 foot wall dives, a swim beach and lot more.
For shooting the scenes on the plane, director Stuart Baird and production designer Maher Ahmad looked at real prisoner transfer planes but were disappointed to find that they looked just like regular planes. As such, they came up with the design of the plane seen in the film - the feet restraints, the cage door, the mechanical locking system, the open toilet etc.
The pilot of the 727 is played by Steve King, a real life pilot.
For shooting the scene of the airplane crash, the production leased a real Boeing 727 from a Vegas casino owner, purchased two fuselages for the post-crash scenes and built a 1,000 pound model for the actual moment of impact. The scene of the crash was shot on a miniature road 1,200 feet long, with the 1000-pound model plane moving at 60 miles per hour. Because it was a one shot only situation, it was filmed by 9 cameras. The sequence was primarily directed by visual effects supervisor Peter Donen, and in total, the entire scene took 75 people 6 months to bring it all together.
The scenes of the fuselage in the water were shot in the Ohio River, Illinois, whilst all the interiors of the plan were shot on stage in Chicago, with the fuselage rigged to a complex gimbal system so as to simulate the jolting motion of the crash. For the scenes where the plane is upside-down and sinking into the water, the scene was shot in the real upside-down fuselage, which could be submerged in a tank.