The Best Episodes of Mayday

Last Updated: Dec 9, 2018

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.

Killer in the Cockpit?

#1 - Killer in the Cockpit?

Season 18 - Episode 16

This special looked at pilots' carefully planned strategies in deliberately crashing aircraft.

star 8.67
3 votes
Falling from the Sky (British Airways Flight 9)

#2 - Falling from the Sky (British Airways Flight 9)

Season 4 - Episode 2

Alternate title: "All Engines Failed" British Airways Flight 009, sometimes referred to as the Jakarta incident, was a scheduled British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Auckland, with stops in Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth and Melbourne. On 24 June 1982, the route was being flown by City of Edinburgh, a 747-200 registered G-BDXH, when it flew into a cloud of dust and ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, and all four engines failed. The aircraft was able to glide far enough to exit the ash cloud, and three of the engines were restarted, allowing the flight to divert to Jakarta and perform a safe landing.

star 8.64
47 votes
Directors: Mike Douglas
Writers:
Hanging by a Thread (Aloha Airlines Flight 243)

#3 - Hanging by a Thread (Aloha Airlines Flight 243)

Season 3 - Episode 11

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.

star 8.55
33 votes
Directors: Andy Webb
Writers: Andy Webb
Plane vs. Pilot

#4 - Plane vs. Pilot

Season 18 - Episode 14

This special looked at how automation in the cockpit causes deadly misunderstandings.

star 8.50
2 votes
Free Fall (Qantas Flight 72)

#5 - Free Fall (Qantas Flight 72)

Season 18 - Episode 7

In 2008, Qantas Flight 72 travelling from Singapore to Perth suddenly nosedives while over the Indian Ocean. With warnings flooding the cockpit and passengers being flung around, it’s up to an experienced fighter pilot to get the plane to safety.

star 8.44
9 votes
Turning Point (Northwest Airlines Flight 85)

#6 - Turning Point (Northwest Airlines Flight 85)

Season 11 - Episode 6

On 9 October 2002, Northwest Airlines Flight 85 is cruising above the Bering Sea before problems develop and pilots must make an emergency landing in Anchorage, Alaska.

star 8.37
49 votes
Hero Pilots

#7 - Hero Pilots

Season 18 - Episode 13

This special looked at how pilots safely land their aircraft in emergency situations.

star 8.33
3 votes
Mixed Signals (Birgenair Flight 301)

#8 - Mixed Signals (Birgenair Flight 301)

Season 5 - Episode 8

Alternative title: "The Plane That Wouldn't Talk" Birgenair Flight 301 is scheduled to fly from Puerto Plata to Frankfurt. On takeoff, the captain finds that his air speed indicator (ASI) is not reading properly, though the co-pilot's ASI is showing the correct speed. Both pilots become confused and believe that both ASIs are malfunctioning. They lose control of the aircraft and it crashes in the Caribbean Sea. All 13 crew members and 176 passengers die.

star 8.32
37 votes
Writers: Dave Bene
Southern Storm (Southern Airways Flight 242)

#9 - Southern Storm (Southern Airways Flight 242)

Season 5 - Episode 6

In 1977, a plane was caught in a storm so severe that it cracked the cockpit windscreen. The crew decided to try and land on a nearby highway, but the jet clipped a tree and burst into flames. Together with the cockpit crew, 72 passengers and 8 people on the ground were killed in the inferno but miraculously, 5 people on board survived.

star 8.29
31 votes
Directors: Ian Robertson
Writers: Christopher Blow
Impossible Landing (United Airlines Flight 232)

#10 - Impossible Landing (United Airlines Flight 232)

Season 11 - Episode 13

On 19 July 1989, United Airlines Flight 232's DC-10 was crippled when an engine explodes causing serious damage to the vital hydraulics system causing the plane to go out of control. The plane managed to land at Sioux City but the plane erupted into a fireball shortly after.

star 8.25
53 votes
Catastrophe at O'Hare (American Airlines, Flight 191)

#11 - Catastrophe at O'Hare (American Airlines, Flight 191)

Season 12 - Episode 7

On 25 May 1979, American Airlines Flight 191 a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 lost its No.1 engine moments after take-off at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and crashed into a trailer park shortly thereafter. All 271 people on board the plane as well as two other people on the ground were killed making it the worst single-aircraft air disaster in United States history. AKA Catastrophe at O'Hare

star 8.21
62 votes
Gimli Glider (Air Canada Flight 143)

#12 - Gimli Glider (Air Canada Flight 143)

Season 5 - Episode 2

Alternative titles: "Miracle Flight" and "Deadly Glide". A Boeing 767-200 jet, Air Canada Flight 143, ran completely out of fuel at 41,000 feet (12,000m) altitude, about halfway through its flight from Montreal to Edmonton. The crew was able to glide the aircraft safely to an emergency landing at Gimli Industrial Park Airport, a former airbase at Gimli, Manitoba.

star 8.21
54 votes
Directors: Karl Jason
Writers: Dave Bene
Sight Unseen (1996 Charki Dadri mid-air collision)

#13 - Sight Unseen (1996 Charki Dadri mid-air collision)

Season 7 - Episode 5

Alternate title: Head on Collision/Crash Course/Collision Course Find out what went wrong when a Kazakhstan Airlines jet and a Saudi Airways plane collided in the worst mid-air crash in aviation history, killing 349 people on November 12, 1996.

star 8.20
45 votes
Ocean Landing (Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961)

#14 - Ocean Landing (Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961)

Season 3 - Episode 6

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.

star 8.20
45 votes
Directors: Karl Jason
Writers: Leo Singer
28 Seconds to Survive (Santa Bárbara Airlines, Flight 518)

#15 - 28 Seconds to Survive (Santa Bárbara Airlines, Flight 518)

Season 12 - Episode 12

On 21 February 2008, Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518 was operating as a scheduled domestic flight from Mérida, Venezuela to Caracas when it crashed into the side of a mountain shortly after takeoff. All 46 passengers and crew aboard the plane died.

star 8.19
52 votes
Bomb on Board (Philippine Airlines Flight 434)

#16 - Bomb on Board (Philippine Airlines Flight 434)

Season 3 - Episode 13

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.

star 8.18
33 votes
Directors: Michael Barnes
Writers: Mike Sheehan
Bad Attitude (Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509)

#17 - Bad Attitude (Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509)

Season 11 - Episode 7

On 22 December 1999, a cargo flight operating as Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 left London Stansted Airport for Milan, Italy, crashed about 55 seconds after taking off. All 4 crew members died in the disaster.

star 8.17
41 votes
Nowhere to Land (TACA Flight 110)

#18 - Nowhere to Land (TACA Flight 110)

Season 11 - Episode 11

On 24 May 1988, TACA Airlines Flight 110, a Boeing 737 flew through a thunderstorm and suffered a dual engine flameout. The pilots amazingly managed to land on a grass levee close to a nearby stream at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in the Michoud area of eastern New Orleans, USA. All onboard survived.

star 8.16
49 votes
Deadly Crossroads: Überlingen Crash (Mid-Air Collision)

#19 - Deadly Crossroads: Überlingen Crash (Mid-Air Collision)

Season 2 - Episode 6

Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937, registration RA-85816, was a Tupolev 154M passenger jet en route from Moscow, Russia to Barcelona, Spain. DHL Flight 611, registration A9C-DHL, was a Boeing 757-200 cargo jet flying from Bergamo, Italy to Brussels, Belgium. The two aircraft collided in mid-air on July 1, 2002 at 21:35 (UTC) over Überlingen, Germany (near Lake Constance), killing all 71 aboard both aircraft. German investigators determined that the accident had been caused by problems within the air traffic control system; and the controller who was on duty at the time, Peter Nielsen, was later stabbed to death by an architect who lost his wife and both of his children in the accident. Flight: Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937; DHL Flight 611 AKA: Mid-Air Collision AKA: A Father's Revenge

star 8.16
59 votes
Directors: Phil Comeau
Writers: Phil Comeau
Queens Catastrophe (American Airlines, Flight 587)

#20 - Queens Catastrophe (American Airlines, Flight 587)

Season 13 - Episode 4

When American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Queens, New York after 9/11, it was considered an act of terror - until evidence proved otherwise.

star 8.16
77 votes
Kid in the Cockpit (Aeroflot Flight 593)

#21 - Kid in the Cockpit (Aeroflot Flight 593)

Season 3 - Episode 7

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.

star 8.14
42 votes
Directors: Jim Donovan
Writers: Tim Conrad, Greg Gransden
Fight For Your Life (Suicide Attack)

#22 - Fight For Your Life (Suicide Attack)

Season 3 - Episode 9

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.

star 8.14
44 votes
Directors: KARL JASON
Writers: DAVID P. BEDARD
Operation Babylift (C-5 Galaxy 68-0218 )

#23 - Operation Babylift (C-5 Galaxy 68-0218 )

Season 7 - Episode 4

An attempt to rescue orphans from the chaos of war-torn Vietnam ended in tragedy when a US plane crashed on April 4, 1975, killing more than 150 people.

star 8.14
37 votes
Qantas 32: Titanic In The Sky (Qantas, Flight 32)

#24 - Qantas 32: Titanic In The Sky (Qantas, Flight 32)

Season 13 - Episode 10

On 4 November 2010, the pilots of Qantas Flight 32 were forced to deal with a series of failures when an explosion tore apart an engine on their A380.

star 8.13
95 votes
Blind Spot (PSA Flight 182)

#25 - Blind Spot (PSA Flight 182)

Season 11 - Episode 8

Just minutes from landing in San Diego, PSA Flight # 182 collides with a Cessna and both planes crash in a residential area; investigators must determine what went wrong in the biggest airline disaster in American history.

star 8.12
34 votes
Directors: Gary Lang
Writers: Carl Knutson