Air Crash Investigation Special Report
Three devastating crashes make front page news around the globe, and the media frenzy puts intense pressure on investigators to uncover the true cause of these deadly disasters. On September 11th, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 disappears from radar and slams into Pentagon. When TWA Flight 800 explodes over Long Island, a media reports spark a four year investigation. And, when an Air France Concorde crashes in Paris just seconds after takeoff, it signals the end of the supersonic era.
The simplest mistakes are at the heart of some of the worst airline accidents, and while commercial pilots undergo hundreds of hours of training and testing, even experienced pilots can make deadly rookie errors. A botched takeoff in Buenos Aires kills 60 people and the cause stuns investigators. Just two months after 9/11, American Airlines Flight 587 crashes in Queens, New York, igniting fears that America is once again under attack. And, when Continental Airlines 3407 stalls above Buffalo, the flight crew's baffling reaction proves fatal.
Facing deadly tragedies that could have been avoided, investigators comb through the wreckage of three separate midair collisions in a race to prevent another fatal impact. In California, a massive passenger plane collides with one of the fastest fighter jets in the sky. Seven years later, another deadly collision leaves investigators puzzled and San Diego in shock. And, in India, two passenger jets collide causing the world's deadliest-ever midair collision.
When an aircraft loses total engine power, a pilot's training can make all the difference in the world, but it's still up to investigators to determine what went wrong. An Airbus flames out en route to Hong Kong, and the crew is determined to avoid a disastrous ocean ditching. En route to Australia, a mysterious engine failure ultimately leads to a giant leap in aviation safety. And, after a terrifying ten-kilometer freefall, a captain is hailed as a hero by passengers, but the resulting investigation tells a different story.
Three mysterious accidents send investigators hunting for clues. In the end, all three trails lead back to the same source-the fuel tank. Minutes before touching down in Portland, United Airlines 173 loses all four engines over a densely populated suburb. In Japan, a Boeing 737 lands safely, but then catches fire with all 165 passengers and crew still on board. And, nearly 700 miles off course, the crew of Varig Flight 254 are forced to make a crash landing in the Amazon jungle.
Three planes fatally out of balance force investigators to question every calculation. It's a flight risk that's entirely preventable, and yet repeated disasters reconfirm the need for critical backup systems. With nearly 90,000 pounds of denim on board, a cargo plane in Miami crashes moments after lifting off. A packed commuter flight slams into a North Carolina hangar, revealing a deadly industry oversight. And, the NTSB is called in when a jumbo jet loaded with armored military vehicles pancakes to the ground in Afghanistan.
Runway In Sight+
If pilots aren't prepared when the runway is in sight, a landing can quickly become a tragedy. On its final approach, an Indonesian passenger jet smashes down at a catastrophically high speed. Without warning, a Delta flight crew faces a deadly storm just before touchdown in Dallas. And, tragedy strikes in San Francisco when a Boeing 777 crew lands short of the runway.
Spatial disorientation is one of the leading causes of all air accidents. Even the most experienced pilots are susceptible to its subtle yet deadly effects. A confused John F. Kennedy Jr. disappears on the way to Martha's Vineyard. High over the Red Sea, a captain loses his bearings and crashes his passenger jet. And, off the coast of Indonesia, pilots fly their Boeing 737 into a violent storm and end up on the ocean floor.
Radio silence between pilots and air traffic controllers can mean many different things, but only the physical evidence can reveal the true story. Three shocking cases send investigators hunting for answers. A Greek airliner goes rogue and crashes outside Athens. A China Airlines 747 disappears from radar and the culprit is discovered on the ocean floor. And, when controllers lose contact with a private jet, fighter planes scramble to intervene.
Drawing the attention of the entire world, three fatal design flaws put air crash investigators in a storm of controversy. When one of former race car driver Niki Lauda's planes nosedives into a Thai jungle, a one-in-a-million failure reveals a weak spot in every Boeing 767. A piece of the plane blows off a Turkish Airlines DC-10 causing the most catastrophic mid-air emergency of its time. And, a risky test flight is the only way to uncover the startling truth about what brought down Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311.