The WORST episodes of Air Disasters

Every episode of Air Disasters ever, ranked from worst to best by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The worst episodes of Air Disasters!

Harrowing stories of tragedy and triumph are brought to life through official reports, transcripts and interviews with the pilots, air traffic controllers and lucky survivors of history's most terrifying crashes. 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, we uncover just what went wrong.

Last Updated: 4/11/2024Network: Smithsonian ChannelStatus: Continuing
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Playing Catch Up
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#1 - Playing Catch Up

Season 16 - Episode 2 - Aired 5/2/2021

Witness the final moments of ExecuFlight Flight 1526 and discover why it crashed into a residential neighborhood.

Controversial Crashes
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#2 - Controversial Crashes

Season 14 - Episode 8 - Aired 3/1/2020

When planes crash, the pressure is on investigators to uncover what happened. That pressure increases dramatically when the case involves high-profile victims or when examiners disagree about the cause of the accident. Witness three controversial air disasters: a 1958 failed takeoff that wiped out the Manchester United soccer team; the 1985 tragedy of Arrow Air Flight 1285, which killed 248 U.S. soldiers heading home for the holidays; and the 2010 crash that claimed the life of Lech Kaczynski, the president of Poland.

Deadly Disturbance
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#3 - Deadly Disturbance

Season 14 - Episode 9 - Aired 3/8/2020

From takeoff to landing, pilots face countless tasks, each one of vital importance. Any distraction, no matter how minor, can turn a routine flight into a disaster. Revisit three tragedies caused by diversions in the cockpit, including a casual conversation that led to a fiery accident in Dallas-Fort Worth, an attempt to fix a failed indicator light that sent a plane into the Florida Everglades, and a demonstration that led a brand new Russian Sukhoi Superjet into a mountain south of Jakarta.

Fire on Board
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#4 - Fire on Board

Season 14 - Episode 10 - Aired 3/15/2020

When a fire breaks out on a plane, 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.

Kathmandu Descent
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#5 - Kathmandu Descent

Season 15 - Episode 1 - Aired 9/6/2020

Witness the final minutes of PIA Flight 268 and discover why it crashed into a mountain just minutes from landing.

Impossible Pitch
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#6 - Impossible Pitch

Season 15 - Episode 2 - Aired 9/13/2020

Witness the doomed flight of a West Air Sweden jet and see how the failure of a single instrument led to catastrophe.

Explosive Touchdown
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#7 - Explosive Touchdown

Season 15 - Episode 3 - Aired 9/20/2020

Most passengers relax after their plane touches down, but when Uni Air Flight 873 landed, that's when the terror began.

Taxiway Turmoil
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#8 - Taxiway Turmoil

Season 15 - Episode 4 - Aired 9/27/2020

Follow the investigation to see how a DC-9 ended up on the wrong runway and in the path of an oncoming 727.

Runway Breakup
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#9 - Runway Breakup

Season 15 - Episode 5 - Aired 10/4/2020

Landing on a Caribbean island in a severe tropical storm, a Colombian airliner crashes short of the runway. Investigators need to find out why.

Icy Descent
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#10 - Icy Descent

Season 15 - Episode 6 - Aired 10/11/2020

Investigators are stumped when a turboprop slams into an Argentine desert, and it's a microscopic filament that provides the first tangible clue.

Atlantic Ditching
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#11 - Atlantic Ditching

Season 15 - Episode 7 - Aired 10/18/2020

A helicopter carrying offshore oil workers crashes into the ocean off the coast of Newfoundland and a far-reaching investigation reveals a fatal flaw.

No Warning
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#12 - No Warning

Season 15 - Episode 8 - Aired 10/25/2020

Investigators are stumped when a turboprop crashes into an Indonesian mountaintop.

Cockpit Killer
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#13 - Cockpit Killer

Season 15 - Episode 9 - Aired 11/1/2020

When an African airliner mysteriously crashes, Namibian investigators rule out a host of possible causes before reaching a chilling conclusion.

Stormy Cockpit
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#14 - Stormy Cockpit

Season 15 - Episode 10 - Aired 11/8/2020

A brand-new 737 falls from the sky over West Africa during a major storm, but investigators eventually discover weather had nothing to do with it.

North Sea Nightmare
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#15 - North Sea Nightmare

Season 16 - Episode 1 - Aired 4/25/2021

Enter the cockpit of a high-tech turboprop as its pilots battle to keep their plane from slamming into the North Sea.

Missing Pieces
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#16 - Missing Pieces

Season 14 - Episode 7 - Aired 2/23/2020

When a flight ends in disaster, investigators must determine what, and sometimes who, caused the accident. Some cases are easy to solve, but others require unrelenting diligence and Sherlock Holmes-level powers of deduction. See what it took to solve three plane crashes that stumped examiners, one in the Florida Everglades, another in the small Scottish village of Lockerbie, and a miracle emergency landing at London's Heathrow Airport.

Tragic Takeoff
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#17 - Tragic Takeoff

Season 16 - Episode 3 - Aired 5/9/2021

Discover how out-of-date taxi charts and a casual conversation conspired to doom the takeoff of Comair Flight 5191.

Grounded: Boeing Max 8
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#18 - Grounded: Boeing Max 8

Season 16 - Episode 4 - Aired 5/16/2021

Follow investigators as they race to find out why a best-selling, new plane crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff.

Cabin Catastrophe
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#19 - Cabin Catastrophe

Season 16 - Episode 5 - Aired 5/23/2021

Relive the 2018 disaster of Southwest Airlines 1380, in which a passenger was nearly sucked from the plane mid-flight.

Meltdown Over Kathmandu
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#20 - Meltdown Over Kathmandu

Season 16 - Episode 6 - Aired 5/30/2021

Witness the Kathmandu crash of US-Bangla 211 and follow detectives as they investigate both the plane and the pilots.

Mission Disaster
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#21 - Mission Disaster

Season 16 - Episode 7 - Aired 6/6/2021

A plane loses control during a Gulf War refueling mission and investigators must determine if enemy fire was the cause.

Caught in a Jam
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#22 - Caught in a Jam

Season 16 - Episode 8 - Aired 6/13/2021

A commuter flight in New Zealand turns horrific for plane crash survivors, who may freeze to death before help arrives.

Seconds from Touchdown
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#23 - Seconds from Touchdown

Season 16 - Episode 9 - Aired 6/20/2021

Just 12 minutes after takeoff, a twin turboprop loses hydraulics, an engine, and then catches fire. Find out why.

Deadly Delivery
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#24 - Deadly Delivery

Season 16 - Episode 10 - Aired 6/27/2021

A last-minute repair may have played a key role in the crash of a plane leaving Madrid International Airport.

Holding Pattern
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#25 - Holding Pattern

Season 17 - Episode 1 - Aired 2/27/2022

A bumpy flight from Dubai to Russia's Rostov-on-Don Airport ends in disaster when the plane nosedives into the runway two hours after entering a holding pattern. With grieving families and the world demanding answers, the Interstate Aviation Committee and a team from the United Arab Emirates investigate why the pilots of Flydubai Flight 981 completed one successful go-around but crashed during the second. They suspect a problem endemic to the aircraft, but soon uncover the most lethal trap in aviation.