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NOVA: The Deadliest Plane Crash
NOVA The Deadliest Plane Crash
Genres: Educational, Documentary
NR     2007     0hr 56min

Studio: Wgbh Wholesale Release Date: 01/30/2007 Run time: 56 minutes


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Movie Details

Genres: Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, Documentary
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/30/2007
Original Release Date: 03/03/1974
Theatrical Release Date: 03/03/1974
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 0hr 56min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Has aviation learned anything from this disaster?
Kyle Tolle | Phoenix, Arizona USA | 08/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"On the afternoon of March 27, 1977, the world's worst aircraft disaster occurred at Los Rodeos airport on Tenerife Island in the Spanish territorial Canary Island chain. It involved 2 of the largest passenger airliners in production, a pair of Boeing 747 jumbo jets, and the horrific accident claimed 583 lives.

Beginning from a point about 4 hours preceding the tragedy here, both aircraft were originally destined for Gran Canary Island to the east of Tenerife. A bomb threat and the follow on detonation of a device forced the closure of the airport here causing all aircraft to divert to Tenerife. With only 2 air traffic controllers on duty on Sunday and them not accustomed to handling the high influx of airplanes that were en route to their location, the situation worsened by the minute. Having only one runway and with ramp space and taxiway points getting clogged, it was becoming a veritable traffic jam at the airport.

With all inbound aircraft later parked on the ground, the air traffic controllers had to be creative in devising ways to taxi planes to the runway for departure amidst the clutter that surrounded them. During this time period, low cloud cover encroached upon the airfield causing a thick fog which seriously limited visibility for everyone. Using an alternate but accepted method called `back taxiing', the controllers directed both 747's to enter the runway area to stage for takeoff.

The KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight eventually reached the end of the runway where it turned completely around and waited for clearance to leave in their new direction. The Pan American flight was still traveling down the runway looking for the side taxiway the controllers told them to pull into to await their turn to depart. Both planes were now nose to nose separated only by several hundred yards of dense fog and no possible way of seeing each other.

Devastating events soon unfolded with the KLM captain beginning his take off without clearance from the tower and the Pan American crew, finally finding their exit point from the runway, began to turn off but there just wasn't time to get clear. Traveling too fast to stop or veer, the KLM jet had to attempt a take off and it left the ground but collided with the top of the Pan American aircraft causing massive damage to each plane.

Investigators from the United States, the Netherlands, and Spain worked hard to find the root causes of this tragedy and they eventually reached several conclusions. Although pilot error and low visibility were shown to be leading factors here, additional contributing elements were also examined.

I'd like to say that aviation standards have progressed well in 30 years in learning from this catastrophe but statistics show otherwise. In closing out this program, experts relate that near misses (runway incursions) are still far too common nowadays. Even though technology has been created to improve safety measures in this regard, very few airports in the country actually have it in place for use. Here's hoping for a safer and more conscientious aviation environment in the near future.

NOVA did some really fine work in this documentary in my opinion. The research done here looked very detailed and the presentation was excellent. For those who fly, don't fly, and everyone in-between, I recommend this program to all of you.
"We've Been Lucky Too Long."
Robert I. Hedges | 04/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This episode of "Nova" is a standout for the normally very well made series. Narrated by Stacy Keach, the subject of this show is the deadly collision on the runway of two 747's on the Canary Island of Tenerife which killed 583 people. It is still the deadliest aviation accident in history.

The DVD explores the intricate set of circumstances that came together to cause the accident, and while human error, especially in the KLM crew, was the obvious focus of the episode, other deeper causes are analyzed. The interviews are generally well executed, although there are minor misstatements in places which do not materially detract from the points being made.

I was pleased that the show didn't stop at the Tenerife accident, but discussed the implications of runway incursions going forward. The NTSB and FAA have targeted runway incursions for years, and many (myself included) believe that the relative avoidance of accidents (there are exceptions, certainly) in recent years is more a matter of luck than anything else. Although systems for mitigating incursions are in development, none has yet come to full fruition, and even simple things such as in-ground flashing lights signaling the entry to a runway are uncommon except at very large airports. One gentleman interviewed put it perfectly: "We've been lucky too long." He's right, and this episode of Nova not only explains how it happened, but how it can happen again.

This is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in aviation safety, or safety systems in general. The computer animations, while not up to the CGI effects of a Hollywood production, are quite effective, and the reenactments are much more skillfully staged than in many aviation programs."
Very well made & informative
langleybcguy | Langley, BC, Canada | 10/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In March of 1977, the deadliest plane crash in aviation history took place on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. 2 Boeing 747s - one owned by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the other by Pan Am - collided on a fog-shrouded runway. Almost 600 people perished.

In this DVD, Nova explores the accident itself and the circumstances that led to it - such as the absence of ground radar, communication problems and the fact that the KLM pilot began takeoff without ATC clearance - while the Pan Am was STILL on the runway!
It also examines recent incidents of runway incursions that fortunately did not result in accidents. Most fascinating for anyone interested in civilian aviation."
Accurate account
Grant C. Besley | Taos, NM USA | 07/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As a former airline pilot I am very critical of news reports that tend to be so inaccurate that they are laughable. However, this video was well researched and reenacted. This accident was a key factor in changing the culture in airlines where the captain was god. Cockpit Resource Management or CRM was born from this and a tragic series of other accidents in the 1970's that killed hundreds of people at a time, very publicly. Because of CRM and culture change the U.S. Major Airlines have operated at Six Sigma or "0" deaths per million operations for the last 12 years or so. Read John Nance's book "Why Hospitals Should Fly" to see where this next culture change should take place."