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Series: Air Crash Investigation
Mayday, also known as Air Emergency in the United States and Air Crash Investigation in the UK and Australia, is a Canadian documentary series about aircraft accidents and incidents.

Episodes usually start In Medias Res while the disaster is underway, following them with a sequence of the disaster and the following investigation, and at the end a re-enaction of how the disaster occurred and of how measures were taken to prevent the disaster from happening again.

This series provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot:
    • Subverted in the Tenerife special. Captain Van Zanten was KLM's most experienced and decorated pilot, and was regarded with such esteem that he served as KLM's spokesman and appeared in all of KLM's print adverts. It was this preceding reputation — as well as the fact that he was the pilot who had certified his first officer on the Tenerife flight — that probably factored into the crew's reluctance to stop him from impatiently taking off from the crowded, foggy airport without ATC clearance. This resulted in the destruction of two jumbo jets, the loss of 500+ lives, and the worst aviation disaster in history. (When KLM found out that one of their jets crashed in Tenerife, they tried to contact Captain Van Zanten to have him clean up the PR mess. They then realized that he was the pilot involved in the crash.)
    • Eastern Airlines Flight 401 and United Airlines Flight 173 also show how having an ace pilot can be a liability instead of an asset. Flight crews are now trained to work together as a team, thanks to these accidents.
    • This trope is played straight in a few episodes, such as Captain Sullenberger and the Flight 1549 crew. Considering the panicky reactions we have seen from even the blameless flight crews so far in the series, the Danger Deadpan demeanor with which the 1549 pilots handled their situation is almost surreal.
    • The Captain of British Airways Flight 38 made a split second decision to reduce the flap setting when the jet suddenly lost engine thrust seconds before reaching the runway at Heathrow airport. Doing so reduced lift, which would almost certainly prevent a safe landing, however it would also reduce drag and allow the plane to clear a busy motorway. The counter-intuitive action allow the aircraft to make a semi-controlled crash on the airfield instead of stalling and dropping onto the highway.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Count the number of times that they had episodes covering plane crashes in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s where you can see 2000s model cars. One particularly egregious case is the Pan Am Flight 103 episode, as the opening segment documenting a German police bust on two terrorists working for the PFLP that happened two months before the Lockerbie bombing shows 21st century cars.
    • In the episode about the Tenerife jumbo jet collision, which takes place in 1977, the air traffic controllers have, of all things, a modern personal computer in their office!
    • In many episodes, the passengers tend to be shown in generic modern clothes and hair rather than in obvious contemporary fashions. May be somewhat justified in that given that this is an ongoing show that requires many actors and extras, they would not only need to provide a lot of period clothing but also do many contemporary hairstyles/wigs.
  • Artistic License - History: There was no Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) on BEA Flight 548, only the communications with air traffic control were recorded, so the cockpit chatter is entirely conjectural.
  • Ax-Crazy: Or, in the case of Auburn Calloway on FedEx Flight 705 in "Fight for Your Life", Hammer-and-Speargun Crazy.
  • Bald of Evil: David Burke, the man who crashes PSA 1771 to get back at his employers. It's inaccurate, though, as David Burke actually had a full head of hair. The mustache appears to be accurate.
  • Big "NO!": Yelled by the crew of USAir Flight 427 just before their plane hits the ground.
  • Clip Show: The "Science of Disaster" episodes can be counted as this, as it's usually half a recap of air disasters centering around a theme (ATC, bad weather, pilot errors, deferred maintenance, hidden defects, etc.) and half an explanation about the theme itself and how to prevent similar disasters in the future.
  • Captain Crash:
    • Inevitable. The pilots seen on the show either handle the incident very professionally, committed errors that caused the incidents, or were victims of hijacking attempts. The pilots of Egyptair Flight 990 and Silkair Flight 185 may have purposefully crashed the plane in a murder-suicide.
    • Captain Lutz of Crossair Flight 3597 was almost literally this before his fatal accident, and yet his airline continued to let him fly.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The captain of the "Gimli Glider" happened to be an experienced glider pilot and pulled off some gliding maneuvers to land the plane after it ran out of fuel.
    • One of the pilots on FedEx Flight 705 used to fly jet fighters in the Navy, and used his instincts from that area to maneuver the plane to keep hijacker Auburn Calloway off-balance.
    • Flight instructor Dennis E. Fitch offered his services to the crew of the crippled United Airlines Flight 232, which had lost the use of all flight controls due to an engine explosion severing the hydraulic systems. He had previously studied the case of Japan Air Flight 123 that had also lost all of its primary flight controls and devised strategies of using engine thrust as an alternate means of control.
  • Crash Course Landing: Averted; see "Ghost Plane" below, about Helios Airways Flight 522. The male flight attendant who was the only conscious person on the plane was possibly under the influence of hypoxia and was unable to pilot it. The plane eventually ran out of fuel and crashed into a mountain.
  • Culture Clash: Since so many of the accidents involved American aircraft (mainly from Boeing or McDonnell Douglas), then American investigators were often sent to assist investigations. These investigators often ran into problems in countries where the police force or military have greater powers over the investigation, or countries with an Obstructive Bureaucrat or two. Sometimes, they were more cooperative, like the in-flight breakup of China Airlines Flight 611.
  • Danger Deadpan:
    • Captain Sullenberger and the US Airways Flight 1549 crew.
    • Also the crew of British Airways Flight 9
    "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress."
  • Crying Wolf:
    • On Aeroperu Flight 603, pieces of duct tape covering the plane's static ports caused the flight instruments and onboard computer to behave erratically, causing contradictory alarms to sound off in the cockpit all at once. So when the pilots heard the ground proximity warning system ("TOO LOW TERRAIN") they assumed it was another malfunction. It wasn't. The GPWS was one of the few things actually working.
    • On Northwest Airlines Flight 255, the MD-80's takeoff configuration warning constantly went off when taxiing, so pilots often pulled a circuit breaker to silence it. This time, the plane's flaps really were configured improperly.
    • In the PSA Flight 182 midair collision, Lindbergh Field's new radar system attempted to detect possible mid-air collisions, but constantly malfunctioned, indicating an imminent collision when there was none. When the plane crossed into the path of a Cessna, the alarm sounded again, but the controllers assumed it was another malfunction.
  • Dangerously Short Skirt: It may seem like an exaggeration, but the stewardesses outfits shown in the feature on American Airlines Flight 96 are entirely authentic for their time.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Captain Alfred C. Haynes on United Airlines Flight 232 while getting ready to land without functioning flight controls.
    Sioux City Approach: You're cleared to land on any runway.
    Haynes: You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?
  • Death from Above: For 11 residents of Lockerbie when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up passing over them.
  • Death in the Clouds: The show's approach to terrorist attacks and hijackings.
  • Dirty Old Man: The first officer of EgyptAir Flight 990 was caught sexually harassing female employees at the hotel at which he and the other Egyptair crew and management had been staying. This got him in trouble with EgyptAir management, who told him he'd be demoted after returning from JFK to Egypt... which may have led him to crash his plane in revenge.
  • Disaster Dominoes: It's basically one long sequence of these. For example, Crash of the Century, which covers the Tenerife runway collision between two Boeing 747s, has the dominoes from lack of ground radar, an overloaded airport (the result of the two planes being diverted from their destination by a bombing at that airport), bad communication, foggy weather and a captain too eager to take off.
  • Distant Prologue: The China Airlines Flight 611 episode starts with the tailstrike accident in 1980 that eventually led to the plane's breakup in 2002.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Auburn Calloway and the Air France hijackers both ultimately wanted to kamikaze their planes into buildings; Calloway targeted Fed-Ex's headquarters in Memphis while the Air France hijackers planned to gun for the Eiffel Tower. The parallels to a certain terrorist attack are not ignored.
  • Drives Like Crazy: With flying, the KLM captain in the Tenerife special is portrayed as this, and for good reason.
  • Eject...Eject...Eject...: Used frequently during the reenactments with standard alarms or, in more recent incidents, mechanical voice warnings of "PULL UP! PULL UP!"
  • Everybody Lives: A major accident from which there are no fatalities is shown about once or twice a season. It's not as uncommon as one might think. The fact that 309 people were able to evacuate from Air France Flight 358 (Season 4) before it was consumed by fire was all the more remarkable considering that similar accidents involving fire like British Airtours Flight 28M (Season 9) and Air Canada Flight 797 (Season 4), resulted in fatality rates of about 50%. The slow on Flight 28M explains how safety improvements made after that event made such an improvement possible.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Many of the accidents happen because of the flight crew not paying attention to something they should.
    • "Flying Blind": Aeroperu Flight 603 crashes because no one notices a piece of duct tape covering the plane's static port.
    • "Fatal Distraction": The pilots of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 focused on a burned-out light and fail to monitor their altitude, causing the plane to literally fly into the Everglades.
    • "Dead Tired": The flight crew of Colgan Air Flight 3407 overlooked their airspeed and allow their plane to slow to the point of stalling.
    • "Lost In Translation": The pilots of Crossair Flight 498, unfamiliar with the western style of attitude indicatorsnote , don't realize their plane is banking dangerously to the right, causing it to nosedive into the ground.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The passengers and crew of British Airways Flight 9 started their own club after their strange and nightmarish ordeal.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: In "Pilot vs. Plane", the pilot of Air France Flight 296 audibly shouts "Merde!" right before he crashes his plane into a forest.
  • For Want of a Nail: Frequently a factor in accidents.
    • Fatal Distraction: A burned-out landing gear indicator light downed Eastern Airlines Flight 401.
    • Flying Blind: A piece of tape accidentally left over a static port downed Aero Peru Flight 603.
    • Flying on Empty: A few millimeters too little separation between a fuel pipe and a hydraulic hose.
    • Gimli Glider: A miscalculation between imperial and metric units during fueling.
    • Mixed Signals: A pitot tube possibly infested by a species of Dominican wasp downed Birgenair Flight 301.
    • Out Of Control: A missing row of rivets downed Japan Airlines Flight 123.
    • Crash of the Century: The Tenerife disaster had several but the most prominent are; informal terminology used by the ATC staff, the Pan Am not taking the right exit off the runway, and the KLM taking on 55 tonnes of extra fuel.
    • The Air Inter crash: A momentary gust of turbulence activated a feature of the autopilot that made the plane descend more quickly into the path of the mountain.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • "Runaway Train", about the San Bernardino train disaster. First, a runaway freight train derailed at a bend in the tracks and crashes into a residential neighborhood, killing nine people. Then, about two weeks later, the gas pipeline alongside the tracks ruptured from damage received during cleanup.
    • "Attack Over Baghdad", about a DHL cargo plane that was hit with a surface-to-air missile by Iraqi insurgents. The crew managed to safely land the plane...only to learn that they may have landed in a mine field.
    • Once again, "Crash of the Century." First a terrorist bomb closed the airport in Las Palmas, forcing all inbound traffic to be relocated to Los Rodeos airport on Tenerife, which was not equipped to handle this many planes, including two Boeing 747s (one Pan Am, one KLM). The airport got so crowded in fact that the only way to leave was to taxi down the sole runway and then do a 180 degree turn (called a backtaxi) and take off. Then as Las Palmas reopened a fog dropped in on Los Rodeos, causing the weather conditions to deteriorate rapidly. Then the ATC crew had to get two 747s out of the airport. The Pan Am got lost in the fog and couldn't find the exit to leave the runway, and the KLM was piloted by an impatient captain who was trying to complete his flight before his duty time limits are up. The KLM was starting to take off while the Pan Am was still trying to get off the runway. And the rest, as they say, is history.
  • Ghost Ship: Or rather, a ghost plane: Helios Airways Flight 522 lost contact with air-traffic controllers and was intercepted by Greek fighter jets, which found that everyone on the plane except the male flight attendant was unconscious. The plane ran out of fuel and crashed. It was determined that an incorrect setting on the cabin pressurization panel caused the pilots and passengers to succumb to hypoxia.
  • Ghost Story: What follows the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401.
  • Gorn:
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: In "Hidden Danger," the captain of USAir Flight 427 yells "Shoot!" when his plane's rudder suddenly deflects to the left.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Captain of TACA Flight 110 was missing an eye but still managed to land his crippled plane. On a levee no less.
  • Heroic Bystander: Lenny Skutnik, an employee at the Congressional Budget Office, who dove into icy cold water to rescue one of the survivors of Air Florida 90, and was honored by President Ronald Reagan at the State of the Union address, seen in "Disaster on the Potomac"..
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Arland D. Williams Jr., one of the most famous Real Life examples of the trope, survived the initial crash of Air Florida Flight 90 but insisted on passing over the rescue line to other passengers. His body being entangled with the wreckage, he sinks below the icy Potomac and drowns.
    • The actions and death of Ed Gannaway, the captain of Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 529, is regarded as this.
    • Famous photojournalist Mohamed Amin spent his last moments trying to rally passengers against the hijackers of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961. He is killed when the plane is ditched in the Indian Ocean.
    • Folk music legend Stan Rogers was last seen alive trying to help other passengers out of Air Canada Flight 797 while fire engulfed the cabin, as recounted in the episode "Fire Flight".
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten, the KLM captain in the Tenerife disaster, is described as an arrogant, egotistical jerk who terrorized his flight crew. In real life, as both his co-pilots and investigators state, he was much more mellower and much less intimidating. (One has to take into account how different the cockpit culture was in the 1970s - the captain didn't have to be intimidating, he was the ultimate decision-maker anyway.)
  • Hope Spot: Air Canada Flight 797 managed to safely land after a severe on-board fire, and it seemed that the passengers would all make it off the plane... until the plane's doors were opened and a flashover occurred, which incinerated the interior and killed 23 people
  • Idiot Ball: Exemplified in some of the pilot error cases.
    • The crew of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 become so distracted by a minor problem with the landing gear that they fail to check where and how low they are flying. United Airlines Flight 173 suffers the same fate, and for the same reason, though the latter actually ran out of fuel.
    • The captain of Aeroflot Flight 593 decides to show off the brand new Airbus A310 by letting his teenaged son take the controls of an aircraft that neither he nor his crew are familar with themselves.
    • The pilots and the ground crew in the "Gimli Glider" incident both fail to double-check whether the plane's fuel supply has been measured by pounds or kilograms.
    • The hijackers of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 read in the in-flight magazine that the plane can fly to Australia, and do not believe the captain when he says the plane does not have enough fuel to get there. When the plane has to be ditched, not only do the hijackers not sit and fasten their seatbelts, but one of them takes the co-pilot's seat and wrestles with the controls while the captain is trying to ditch without loss of life. Not surprisingly, none of the hijackers survive.
  • Identical-Looking Asians: The captains of Japan Airlines Flight 123, Korean Air Flight 007 and Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 are all portrayed by Japanese-Canadian actor Denis Akiyama.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: The crew of FedEx Flight 705 in "Fight For Your Life", and how they kept Auburn Calloway from succeeding in his goals. Let us count the ways:
    • James Tucker, an ex-Navy pilot who not only flew the plane with a hole in his skull and half of his body suffering paralysis, but did extreme aerial maneuvers with said jumbo cargo plane (including insane barrel rolls, sharp turns, and a dive so steep that the plane nearly went supersonic) to throw the attempted hijacker off-balance as the man fought with the two other crew members in the galley, eventually trading places with David Sanders to restrain Calloway. With half of his body paralyzed and a hole in his skull.
    • David Sanders, who was also an ex-Navy pilot, was also hit in the head with a hammer and suffered gashes to his head (requiring doctors to sew his right ear back into place), and not only managed to land the extremely weighed-down aircraft successfully, but pulled off sharp turns normally near-impossible with said plane to land it...with his glasses missing and blood flowing into his eyes...manually.
    • Andrew Peterson, the crew's flight engineer, who also got hit in the head multiple times with a hammer and had his temporal artery severed, but managed to fight back despite massive blood loss, eventually helping to beat the shit out of and restrain the would-be hijacker. Also, he was thorough enough in his pre-flight check that he noticed that the cockpit recorder had been shut off by the hijacker in an attempt to cover his tracks beforehand.
  • Infant Immortality: True for Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in "Alarming Silence", but inevitably averted in certain episodes.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The root cause of some of the disasters caused by pilot error. "Kid in the Cockpit" concerned a famous Russian case where a senior airline pilot allowed his teenaged son to take the controls of a brand new Airbus A310. The teen inadvertently disabled the plane's autopilot and the flight crew, unfamiliar with the state-of-the-art aircraft, failed to bring it back under control. Tragic hilarity ensued. An especially needless tragedy given that the investigators found that everything would have been fine if they had just let go of the control column.
  • Jerk Ass:
    • Captain Van Zanten, leading him to trigger the Tenerife disaster.
    • The captain of the Air Inter plane is worryingly angry with his copilot and ATC.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Several examples, surprisingly enough:
    • One example is in the episode Bomb on Board, which recycles the same clip for taking off and landing with the thrust reversers deployed.
    • Crash of the Century: Another episode about the Tenerife disaster, which involved a collision between two 747s, Pan Am and KLM, introduces the KLM plane with a shot of it in flight...with winglets, identifying it as a 747-400, which at the time of the disaster (1977) would not be put into production for another 11 years. It's possible that they may not have been able to find a Boeing 747-200 that could be re-dressed as a KLM plane.
    • In one episode, it is clear that the people making the show believe that any twinjet in an American Airlines livery must be an A300. Averted in the episode about the crash of American Airlines Flight 587, which actually was an A300.
    • In "Fire on Board," which was about Swissair Flight 111, when the narrator mentions the first officer shutting down the number two engine, a shot of the right-wing engine shutting down is shown. In reality, on the MD-11 and other trijets, the tail-mounted engine is designated as number two.
  • Loophole Abuse: How David Burke smuggled a gun on board PSA Flight 1771 to take revenge on the boss who fired him and the airline. At the time airline cabin crew could circumvent the X-ray machines as nobody thought to consider that the airline's own employees could be a security risk. Burke was actually an ex-employee but the airline hadn't removed his credentials when he was fired. Not surprisingly ever since the incident cabin crew and pilots go through the same security checks as passengers do and all ID badges are immediately removed when an employee leaves or is fired.
  • Mid Air Collision: There's also runway collisions (e.g. "Crash of the Century").
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • The air traffic controller in "Deadly Crossroads" has this reaction when he realizes he's just caused two planes to collide.
    • After landing British Airways Flight 9, the crew pores over the flight records thinking they made a near-catastrophic mistake. Fortunately for them, they are not at fault.
  • No One Could Survive That:
    • "Gimli Glider" was about a Boeing 767 that ran out of fuel over Canada because of improper calculations involving pounds vs kilograms. The pilot managed to miraculously pull off a dead stick landing that couldn't be replicated by any subsequent pilot that attempted the scenario in a simulator. The pilots in the simulated flight always ended up crashing the plane.
    • "Falling from the Sky" concerns a British jumbo jet that saw all four of its engines fail after accidentally flying into a cloud of volcanic ash over Indonesia. After managing to restart the engines, the flight crew managed to land the plane despite the windscreen having been sandblasted opaque, relying entirely on instruments.
    • "Blow Out" concerns a captain who was partially sucked out of his own cockpit thanks to faulty maintenance of the windscreen, his body subsequently subjected to a freezing 500mph slipstream over 17,000 feet above England. Despite overwhelming physical odds, the captain survived the ordeal with only frostbite and a few bone fractures. And he continues to fly.
    • Japan Airlines 123 lost its vertical stabilizer and the hydraulic systems that powered its flight controls, and the flight crew managed to keep it flying for a whopping 32 minutes afterwards. Four passengers from the rear of the plane survived the crashnote  although tragically the flight crew didn't survive. When recreating the accident in simulators, not only was it impossible to produce an outcome where the plane could've landed safely, but no one kept it in the air as long as the real crew did.
    • In an event similar to the Japan Air 123 incident, United Airlines Flight 232 also loses all flight controls due to an engine explosion, but both pilots and a flight instructor who just happened to be on board managed to bring the plane in for a crash landing in which a majority of the passengers and crew survived.
  • Oh, Crap: Expressed by various pilots, passengers, and/or air traffic controllers just before the bad stuff goes down.
    • Perhaps seen most effectively in Crash of the Century, which covers the Tenerife disaster. The First Officer of the Pan-Am flight is positively horrified as he sees the KLM jumbo barreling down the runway towards his plane, as is the Dutch captain seeing the Pan-Am plane directly in front of him.
    • In "Head On Collision", a rail passenger with a view of the track in front of him realized that his passenger train is about to collide with a freight train head-on.
    • In "Air France 447: Vanished", the captain has this reaction when he realizes that his co-pilots' diverging inputs to the side-stick controls are leading the plane into a stall.
  • Outside Ride: The captain of British Airways Flight 5390 went through this when a blown-out windshield got him sucked out of the cockpit and pinned to the fuselage.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In "Deadly Delay" miscommunications about Avianca Flight 52's fuel status led to it being kept in a holding pattern instead of given immediate clearance to land.
  • Pop Culture Osmosis: The episode "Massacre Over the Mediterranean" ultimately agrees with the conclusion of the third and final technical investigation, which determined that a bomb brought down Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870. However, conspiracy theories about a NATO missile had become so widespread in Italy that the government and the public refused to consider these findings.
  • Power Walk: The crew of Reeve Aleutian Flight 8 after successfully landing the plane.
  • Retirony:
    • The pilots of Partnair Flight 394 were both a few months from retirement.
    • Subverted with David Cronin of United Airlines 811, who was also close to retirement, but survived.
  • Senseless Violins: Auburn Calloway used a guitar case to get his weapons onto FedEx Flight 705.
  • Sentimental Music Cue: It usually plays this trope straight at emotional scenes (victim funerals, photos of the plane wreckages, the last few seconds when there's no hope, the first few seconds after the crash, etc).
  • Shown Their Work: In "Deadly Crossroads", the Bashkirian pilots are shown looking toward their right side for the DHL, which is actually approaching from the left. In the uncensored version (you can see it in the censored version too, it's just less clear), it is clearly seen that all the heads in the cockpit turn when a flight crew member yells "There on the left!" The reason for this (which wasn't said in the episode) was that Peter Nielsen (the controller) had actually reported the position of the DHL mistakenly at the Bashkirian's 2 o'clock position when in reality it was at their 10 o'clock. It was probably omitted to keep the sympathy level for Nielsen higher among the viewers, as if him getting murdered by Vitaly Kaloyev, who was hailed as a hero in his hometown, wasn't enough.
  • Sound Effect Bleep: Noticeable in Flying On Empty.
  • Stupid Crooks: The hijackers of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 in "Ocean Landing," who thought their aircraft could make the trip to Australia since they read it in the in-flight magazines, and refused to believe the captain when he said they didn't have enough fuel.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In "Alarming Silence," documenting Northwest Airlines Flight 255, one pilot demonstrated how to disable the MD-80's takeoff warning system by pulling a circuit breaker, without looking, though he claimed he'd never done it himself.
  • The Unreveal: In some cases:
    • It is known that South African Airways Flight 295, the subject of "Fanning the Flames", was brought down by an on-board fire. But whether it was accidential or the result of Apartheid Era espionage remains unknown.
    • Subverted with "Death and Denial", about Egypt-Air Flight 990. The episode presents the case that the plane was deliberately brought down by the First Officer, and that the Egyptian government's official explanation of mechanical failure was made because of suicide being extremely taboo in Arab culture. Therefore, the cause of the crash is known, yet cannot be officially determined because of the differing politics and social mores between the U.S. and Egypt.
    • And then again with "Pushed to the Limit", about SilkAir Flight 185. Like in "Death and Denial", this episode presents the case that the plane was deliberately brought down by a crew member (this time, the Captain), and that the Indonesian government's official explanation of mechanical failure was made because the entire Boeing 737 line, at the time of the incident, had been dealing with a mechanical issue with the rudder's control unit that had previously caused the crash of two other 737s (which themselves were profiled in the episode "Hidden Dangers"). Again, known cause of crash, no official determination. This explanation was offered because of a similar suicide taboo due to Indonesia's large Muslim population.
    • "Massacre Over The Mediterranean"; the original report concludes that Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 was shot down by a missile fired from an unknown second plane. Soon after, two of the investigators withdraw their names from the report. A few years later, another inquiry produces a second report which determines that the first conclusion was wrongly based on an assumption that there was a hole in the side of the plane near the front. The third and more complete investigation shows compelling forensic evidence for a bomb placed under the wash basin in the rear toilet, however the report is ignored by Italian authorities still pursuing the missile theory. The episode seems to side with the bomb theory, ending with the conclusion that the Italian legal system is not the best system for investigating crashes.
  • This Cannot Be!: Said by the captain of Aeromexico 498 after the collision with the Piper Cherokee.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The hijackers in "Ocean Landing". Not only do they demand a destination based solely on information found in the airline's in-flight magazine, they repeatedly overrule the captain's warnings that they'll run out of fuel, and when they do one of them gets in the copilot's seat when they're seconds from a crash landing and starts wrestling with the controls while the captain's trying to get them down in one piece. None of the hijackers survived.
  • Translation Convention: In-cockpit discussion and passenger dialog is in English, even when it's not the persons' first language. Lampshaded in Season 12 episode "Death of the President". The cockpit crew has to use Russian in radio communication with the military airport (in civilian airline communication, English is the defualt language), and the first words are spoken in Russian. Then there's a moment of radio static and the language changes to English.
  • Turbine Blender: In the episode on United Airlines Flight 811, it's mentioned that human remains were found in the right inboard engine.
  • You Can Panic Now: The deadly fire on British Airtours Flight 28M showed how aircraft cabins and flight crew need to facilitate an evacuation in under 90 seconds even in the face of "complete dysfunction" on the part of the passengers. To replicate the effects of a fire in evacuation studies passengers were offered money if they were the first ones off.
  • You Look Familiar:
    • The same actor who plays the captain of JAL Flight 123 played the captain of Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509.
    • The very attractive stewardess from American Airlines Flight 4184 "Frozen in Flight" reappears as the Air Canada check in desk girl in "Explosive Evidence" who fatefully booked "M Singh"'s bag onto Air India Flight 182.
    • The pilot of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 is also the pilot of United 173.
    • The captain of American Airlines Flight 965 is the lead investigator in PSA 182 case.
    • The captain of American Airlines Flight 1420 is the lead investigator in Chalk 101 case, while his first officer is the captain of the TWA aircraft in the Grand Canyon Collision episode.
    • The AA 1420 First Officer/TWA Captain is also the show's narrator in the Canadian broadcast.
    • Peter Nielsen, the ill-fated ATC controller in the Uberlingen mid-air collision, is the captain of Scandinavian Airlines Flight 751.
    • The Kazakh captain from the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision is the lead investigator in the Aeroflot 593 crash.
    • The actor for Ramzi Yousef in the Philippine Airlines Flight 434 episode was also the pilot of Turkish Airlines Flight 981 from 'Behind Closed Doors'.

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alternative title(s): Mayday; Air Emergency
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