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Air Disasters

Air Disasters

  • Premiered: 
    May 15, 2011
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: Smithsonian
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Docudrama
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter:
  • Tags: airplane

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Plot Synopsis

Using official reports, transcripts and interviews with the pilots, air traffic controllers and lucky survivors, AIR DISASTERS is a one-hour series that chronicles history's most terrifying tragedies of the aviation industry. Widely considered to be the safest form of travel, air transportation is still in its infancy and when midair calamity strikes, the results are often catastrophic. From the cockpit to the cabin, from the control room to the crash scene, this series uncovers what went wrong.

AIR DISASTERS returned for its fourth season on the Smithsonian Channel at 9pm ET/PT, when the cable channel broadcast the "Fight for Control" episode. The Season 4 premiere documents the incredible story of survival on June 8, 1983 after the Reeve Aleutian Airways' Lockheed Electra nearly plunged 19,000 feet into the Pacific Ocean when one of its propellers tore from the aircraft and cut a hole through the cabin.

Smithsonian Channel premiered the eighth season of AIR DISASTERS on Sunday, January 8, 2017 at 8pm ET/PT. In the season opener, "Sideswiped," it's June 1992 and a Boeing 737 departs Panama City for Cali, Colombia, but just minutes after takeoff, the plane vanishes from radar. Eyewitness reports confirm ATC's worst fears, but the bad news is only beginning. The plane has plunged into one of the most remote jungles on Earth and locating and piecing together the wreckage will push investigators to the limits. The pressure is on to find answers; the crash involved aviation's most popular airliner, and the findings could have staggering implications for every 737 in the sky.

Season 9 of AIR DISASTERS premiered on Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel. The season opener, "High Rise Catastrophe," chronicles the crash of El Al Flight 1862. En route to Tel Aviv, El Al Flight 1862 took off from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport laden with a heavy load of cargo. Moments later, a sudden jolt rocked the plane, and it began rolling violently to the right and into a 10-story suburban apartment complex. Investigators combed through the Netherlands' worst ever aviation disaster, discovering a potentially lethal problem threatening every 747 in the sky. Subsequent episodes feature stories about: Garuda Flight 200, which hit the ground in Yogyakarta so hard it bounced violently before careening off the end of the runway; an alarm warned of a fire on board UPS Flight 6, shortly after taking off from Dubai; TAM flight 402, which slammed into a residential neighborhood and burst into flames, killing all 95 people on board and three people on the ground; Spanair Flight 5022, which banked to the right, slammed into a creek and burst into flames almost immediately after taking off from Madrid International Airport; a commuter plane that crashed in Georgia, killing a NASA astronaut, a four-term U.S. senator and 21 others; Atlantic Airways Flight 670, which was shuttling a group of oil company employees to work when the plane careened off the runway and down a steep embankment; and a United Nations DC-6 transport plane, which was flying a top-secret mission over central Africa with U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold on board.

Season 11 of AIR DISASTERS premiered on Sunday, September 30, 2018 at 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel. A 747 explodes in the skies above New York. An Indonesian airliner crashes in the jungle with no survivors. A Taiwanese commuter aircraft clips a highway on takeoff and plunges into a river. In the aftermath of the world's deadliest airplane tragedies, the world is often left to wonder: What happened? Ten all-new episodes of AIR DISASTERS feature exclusive eyewitness accounts, archival footage, dramatic reenactments, state-of-the-art CGI and interviews with survivors, family members and air crash investigators tasked with determining the cause of the tragedy. Whether the result of an on-board fire, malfunctioning flight systems, pilot error, terrorism or manufacturing defects, each incident offers valuable lessons about air travel that aim to make flying safer. The season premiere, "Explosive Proof," chronicles the tragic end of TWA Flight 800, which triggers the longest and most complex investigation in NTSB history. Just 12 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft is ripped apart by a massive explosion in the skies above New York. With a possible terror attack on their hands, the FBI joins the NTSB in an urgent search for answers. Initial wreckage and recovered data provide few clues, leading to the bold decision to rebuild the entire plane. Eventually, experts zero in on an exploding gas tank, prompting questions about how the jet fuel could get hot enough to combust and precisely what sparked the blast. After a two-month break, AIR DISASTERS returned for its Season 11 winter premiere on Sunday, January 6, 2019 at 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel. In the mid-season premiere, "Terror Over Egypt," an Airbus A321 carrying Russian tourists back from Egypt in 2015 suddenly disappears from radar minutes after takeoff. Air Force jets locate the charred wreckage in the Sinai Desert. There are no survivors. How did this modern airplane just fall from the sky? Follow Egyptian investigators and their Russian counterparts as they work through political tensions and wild rumors to discover the truth behind the crash of Metrojet Flight 9268.

On Sunday, January 5, 2020 at 8pm ET/PT, Smithsonian Channel premiered the fourteenth season of AIR DISASTERS. In the season opener, "Communication Breakdown," some of the deadliest air disasters in history have been caused by simple miscommunications. A tiny error in the cockpit brings tragedy to Quincy Airport in Illinois. A moment of confusion turns a routine flight in Sumatra into chaos. And a runway mix-up on the island of Tenerife sends two jumbo jets on a collision course. Watch these disasters unfold and see how safety investigators responded to prevent human misunderstandings from triggering future catastrophes.
Smithsonian Channel premiered the Season 14 finale of AIR DISASTERS on Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 8pm ET/PT. In the season ender, "Fire on Board," a fire breaks out on a plane, and an emergency situation can escalate to a deadly disaster in seconds. In Manchester, a holiday flight bursts into flames before leaving the runway. A joyous return home to Nigeria from Saudi Arabia turns tragic when smoke overtakes the aircraft. And small batteries in the cargo hold create a massive blaze aboard a UPS jet. Revisit the final moments of these tragic flights and see how the crashes led to major changes in the aviation industry to make flying safer.

Other Titles

  • Aired on the Weather Channel with the title: Mayday: Air Disaster

Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Cineflix Productions