Revealing the dark truth that aviation safety improves one crash at a time, Mayday investigates legendary aviation disasters to find out what went wrong and why. Based on cockpit voice recorders, accident reports and eyewitness accounts, every episode also features interviews, state-of-the-art CGI and gripping reenactments.
July 17th, 2007
TAM Airlines Flight #3054 is on its final approach to Sao Paolo's notorious Congonhas Airport. Runway 35-L at Congonhas is one of the busiest and most treacherous airports in the world. It's built on a hilltop, completely surrounded by tall buildings. The crew of Flight #3054 gets a report that the runway is wet and slippery. Captain Henrique Stephanini brings his Airbus A-320 down at the foot of the 1,945 meter long runway, activates the one working reverse thruster and applies the brakes, but his plane doesn't slow down. It hurtles down the runway at top speed, crosses a highway and slams into a building and adjacent gas station. No one on the plane survives. Twelve people on the ground are also killed. This is the worst aviation disaster in South American history. Investigators are under enormous pressure to figure out what went wrong on Brazil's busiest runway, before it claims any more lives.
August 16th, 2005
Several hours behind schedule, West Caribbean Airways Flight #708 finally takes off from Panama City en route to Martinique. The aircraft flies through weather so severe that the pilots must divert to avoid it. In addition to the turbulence, the pilots have another problem; their engines are not providing enough thrust. To solve this issue the pilots drop down to a lower altitude, but before they can reach it a Stall Warning fills the cockpit. The plane is flying too slowly to remain airborne. Before the pilots can figure out what has caused the problem, the aircraft drops from the sky and crashes on a remote Venezuelan farm. By far the worst aviation disaster in the country's history, a small team of Venezuelan investigators must now determine what brought down one of the safest airplanes in the world.
December 12th, 1985
After a six-month peace keeping mission in the Middle East, 248 elite American soldiers are on their way home for the Christmas holidays. Destined for Fort Campbell, Kentucky, they are travelling on Arrow Air Flight #1285, a discount air carrier contracted by the military to transport troops. En route from Cairo, the DC-8 eventually touches down for a routine refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland. But just seconds after taking off again for the last leg of its journey, the plane immediately loses airspeed and altitude and crashes into a heavily wooded area just outside the remote Canadian town. An unprecedented disaster, it is one of the deadliest aviation accidents of all time and the resulting investigation ignites a storm of controversy that continues to this day.
On its second routine trip of the morning, Continental Express Flight #2574 is nearing the end of its 90-minute flight from Laredo to Houston, Texas. A state-of-the-art Embraer 120 Brasilia, the commuter plane is scheduled to make several more short flights. But just as the pilots are preparing to land, the plane falls out of the sky. Dropping thousands of feet in mere seconds, there is a massive explosion as the aircraft crashes into a farmer's field. All 14 people on board die in the disaster, and the impact is so violent that the wreckage is not recognizable as an airplane. Investigators first suspect there was a bomb on board, but when the theory is dismissed, they dig deeper and eventually reveal a chilling story of good intentions gone horribly wrong.
On 6 February 1958, British European Airways Flight 609, carrying members of the famed Manchester United football team, crashed shortly after taking off from Munich, killing 23 aboard.
On 9 October 2002, Northwest Airlines Flight 85 is cruising above the Bering Sea before problems develop and pilots must make an emergency landing in Anchorage, Alaska.
On 22 December 1999, a cargo flight operating as Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 left London Stansted Airport for Milan, Italy, crashed about 55 seconds after taking off. All 4 crew members died in the disaster.
Just minutes from landing in San Diego, PSA Flight # 182 collides with a Cessna and both planes crash in a residential area; investigators must determine what went wrong in the biggest airline disaster in American history.
On 11 July 1991, shortly after taking-off from Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport, Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 suffered an in-flight fire. The crew unsuccessfully tried to return to the airport, the plane breaking up within sight of the runway. The plane was carrying 247 Nigerian pilgrims and 14 crew who all perished.
On 7 December 1987, an angry former USAir employee by the name of David Burke boarded its parent airline, PSA Flight 1771 en route to San Francisco. The hijacker killed the pilots and shot himself after take off. Shortly afterwards the CVR picked up increasing windscreen noise as the airplane began to dive rapidly and shortly thereafter the plane crashed in a cattle ranch in San Luis Obispo County, California. All 43 people onboard were killed.
On 24 May 1988, TACA Airlines Flight 110, a Boeing 737 flew through a thunderstorm and suffered a dual engine flameout. The pilots amazingly managed to land on a grass levee close to a nearby stream at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in the Michoud area of eastern New Orleans, USA. All onboard survived.
On 8 October 2001, Scandinavian Airlines Flight 686, a McDonnell-Douglas MD-87 airliner carrying 110 people bound for Copenhagen, Denmark collided on take-off at Milan's Linate Airport into an Air Evex Cessna Citation CJ2 business jet carrying four people bound for Paris, France. The MD-87 plane suffered major damage and crashed into a hangar shortly afterwards. All 114 people on board the two aircraft were killed, the crash and subsequent fire killed a further more four Italian ground personnel in the hangar, and injured four more.
On 19 July 1989, United Airlines Flight 232's DC-10 was crippled when an engine explodes causing serious damage to the vital hydraulics system causing the plane to go out of control. The plane managed to land at Sioux City but the plane erupted into a fireball shortly after.