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.
Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was a commercial flight operated by Iran Air that flew from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai. On Sunday July 3, 1988, the aircraft flying IR655 was shot down by the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes between Bandar Abbas and Dubai, killing all 290 passengers and crew aboard, including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children. The Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters at the time of the shoot-down.
According to the U.S. government, the Iranian aircraft was mistakenly identified as an attacking military fighter. The Iranian government, however, maintains that the Vincennes knowingly shot down a civilian aircraft.
On 8 February 1986, a VIA Rail passenger train and a 118-car freight train collided, killing 23 people. The freight train crew did not stop at a red railway signal on a section of a passing loop because they were possibly asleep.
On 26 September 2000, waves push the MS Express Samina off course, causing it to hit a group of rocks off Paros and sink, killing 80 people. The ferry was on autopilot with the crew not monitoring the ship's course. Instead, they were watching an association football match.
Japan Airlines Flight 123 was a JAL domestic flight from Tokyo International Airport in Haneda to Osaka International Airport in Itami. The Boeing 747-SR46 that made this route, registered JA8119, crashed into the ridge of Mount Takamagahara in Gunma Prefecture, Japan 100 km from Tokyo, on Monday August 12, 1985. The crash site was on Osutakano-O'ne (Osutaka Ridge), near Mount Osutaka.
It remains the worst single-aircraft disaster in history, and the second-worst aviation accident of all time, second only to the Tenerife disaster. All 15 crew members and 505 out of 509 passengers died (including the famous singer Kyu Sakamoto): a total of 520 deaths. The four female survivors were seated towards the rear of the plane: Yumi Ochiai, an off-duty JAL flight attendant, age 25, who was jammed between a number of seats; Hiroko Yoshizaki, a 34-year-old woman and her 8-year-old daughter Mikiko, who were trapped in an intact section of the fuselage; and a 12-year-old girl, Keiko Kawakami, who was found sitting on a branch in a tree.
The DHL shootdown incident in Baghdad occurred on 22 November 2003, aboard an Airbus A300B4-203F cargo plane, registered OO-DLL, operating on behalf of DHL. The aircraft was hit by a missile, which resulted in the loss of its hydraulic systems. It was the first time an aircraft in this condition was landed safely.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 was hijacked on November 23, 1996 en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, by three Ethiopians seeking political asylum. The plane crashed in the Indian Ocean near Comoros after running out of fuel, killing 123 of the 175 passengers and crew on board.
Aeroflot Flight 593 refers to an accident on March 23, 1994 in which an Aeroflot Airbus A310-304 passenger airliner, registration F-OGQS, crashed into a hillside in Siberia.
The cockpit voice recorder revealed that the pilot's 15-year-old son, Eldar Kudrinsky, was initially at the controls when the incident began, and that he had unknowingly activated an automatic feature of the A310's autopilot that many pilots at the time were unfamiliar with.
All 75 passengers and crew were killed.
Flight 990 was a Los Angeles-New York-Cairo flight operated by EgyptAir. On October 31, 1999, at around 1:50 a.m. EST, Flight 990 dove into the Atlantic Ocean, about 60 miles south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.
Radar and radio contact with the Boeing 767-366ER aircraft (Registration number: SU-GAP) was lost 30 minutes after the aircraft departed JFK Airport in New York on its flight to Cairo. The flight departed from its assigned altitude (FL330: 33,000 feet) and dove to 16,000 feet, then climbed again to 24,000 then continued to dive, hitting the Atlantic Ocean within the span of 36 seconds.
Alternate title: "Suicide Attack"
FedEx Flight 705 was the scene of an attempted hijacking of a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 on April 7, 1994. Auburn Calloway, a FedEx employee, was due to be fired for lying on his résumé about his previous flying experience with the United States Navy. He boarded the San José, California-bound aircraft, which was loaded with electronic equipment bound for Silicon Valley, intending to murder the flight crew with hammers, and then use the aircraft for a kamikaze attack on FedEx Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. His reason for using hammers was so that the injuries inflicted would resemble those occurring in a plane crash - Calloway wanted to disguise the attack as an accident so that his family would benefit from his work's $2.5 million life insurance policy. As a last resort, he was also armed with a speargun, smuggled on board in a guitar case. Calloway attempted to disable the Cockpit Data Recorder to cover his tracks. Unbeknownst to Calloway, the 2 man flight crew that was supposed to fly that flight was replaced by a new 3 man crew, consisting of Pilot Dave Sanders, Co-Pilot James Tucker, and Flight Engineer Andy Peterson. Calloway, a former Navy pilot and a martial arts expert, decided to attack just minutes after take-off. He brutally wounded the flight crew with hammers, and fractured the skull of Co-Pilot James Tucker. A lengthy struggle ensued with the flight engineer and pilot. Co-Pilot James Tucker, also an ex-Navy pilot, managed to control the plane as the 3 men struggled in the cockpit.
The G-TIGK North Sea ditching was an incident with the Super Puma helicopter G-TIGK on January 19, 1995 in the North Sea. The flight was carrying 16 oil workers from Aberdeen to an oil platform at the Brae oilfield.
En route the helicopter ran into poor weather and was then struck by lightning. This caused severe damage to the tail rotor. Though the helicopter managed to limp for a few more minutes, the tail rotor eventually failed completely and the pilot was forced to turn off the main rotor and let the helicopter fall into the rough seas. Emergency floaters on the helicopter allowed the passengers and crew to be evacuated onto a life raft. In spite of the high waves and bad weather, all the people onboard the flight were rescued.
Aloha Airlines Flight 243 was a scheduled Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200 flight between Hilo and Honolulu in Hawaii. On April 28, 1988, the aircraft suffered extensive damage after an explosive decompression in flight, but was able to land safely at Kahului Airport on Maui. One crew member was blown out of the airplane and another 65 passengers and crew were injured. The extent of the damage was only just below that which would have caused the airliner to break up, and the survival of the aircraft with such a major loss of integrity was unprecedented and remains unsurpassed.
On 12 May 1989, a 69-car freight train went out of control while descending from California's Cajon Pass. It derailed into a residential neighborhood of San Bernardino after reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Two residents and two train crew were killed in the initial crash. A clerical error had caused the train's weight to be greatly underestimated, and it had been assembled without enough locomotives to provide adequate braking. Additionally, several of the engines had completely inoperable brakes, but this information was not passed on to the crews. More than a week later, an underground gasoline pipeline, which was damaged by earth-moving equipment during crash cleanup, ruptured and sparked a fire that killed a further two people.
Philippine Airlines Flight 434 (PAL434, PR434) was the route designator of a flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Metro Manila, Philippines, to New Tokyo International Airport (now Narita International Airport), Narita near Tokyo, Japan, with one stop at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Cebu. On December 11, 1994, the Boeing 747-283B on the route was on its second leg, from Cebu to Tokyo, when a bomb exploded, killing one passenger. The rest of the passengers and the crew survived.