Dec 2, 2010

[TV] Air Crash Investigation: Season 1

Air Crash Investigation: Season 1Statistically speaking, air travel is one of the safest way to get around, or so the statisticians tell us over and over again. Cars get into accidents all the time. We've had a sad number of train accidents and derailments since they were first created. And so on and so forth.

Regardless, all these accidents and disasters always have their reasons and a lot of documentary shows have capitalized on this fact. Why exactly we like watching shows that are devoted to the tragedies and mishaps of human history, but it's definitely a solid niche of the documentary entertainment field. And I'm definitely one of those kinds who really likes watching shows like this.

While I don't fly as often as I could, one would think that after watching so many shows about airplane accidents and other crashes that I'd avoid the medium entirely. But that's not quite the case and I still generally feel safe on a plane.

But I have to admit this show really scares me sometimes.

The show that I've come to know as Air Crash Investigation has actually gone by many names. It was initially known as Mayday and in some markets it has been branded as Air Emergency or even Air Crash Disasters as reflected in the DVD box art above. Beyond all those, I'll stick to Air Crash Investigation since that works best for me.

United Airlines Flight 811Image via WikipediaThe show is dedicated documenting various airplane-related accidents and mishaps, regardless if they led to a fatal situation for all those onboard. By piecing together various testimonies, new reports and any statements they can get from the NTSB or the airlines themselves, the show is able to recreate the events that led up whatever incident is in focus for that particular episode. The show, as far as I see it, is done very well and it does its best to cover the events in a manner that is as factual as possible. Given highly emotional nature of the situations being covered in the series, I can understand how easy it would be to pass into very slanted discussions of the events.

In this first season, the episode titles sort of act as spoilers for what the ultimate cause of the accident is going to be. But that's not really the point of things as it could be in some highly fictionalized account of things. No, these are honest and generally unbiased recreations of the documented incidents. They don't always have access to all needed information, but I always felt that they did a decent job of limiting their speculations to what was well-within reasonable logical projections.

This first season only lasted for six episodes but each of them were certainly chilling in their own regard. While some resulted in near-misses when the pilots were able to retain control of the plane. But most of them end tragically and the reasons for this are a sad mix of corporate greed, shoddy maintenance and of pilot error.

The think the episodes with the greatest impact were the second one and the fifth. Naturally, they were not directly caused by pilot error but instead by policy changes that led to very tragic ends. The second episode's focal point was the reliability of the cargo door of the Boeing 747-122 that was United Airlines Flight 811. The fifth episode featured the tragic story of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which featured an MD-83 with very poor maintenance due to corporate cost-cutting.

The show is hard to capture into words, but it's definitely better experience directly. Overall, it's a stunning show and one that continues to open the eyes of the public to the dangers of human greed or laziness, which tend to be the common causes of most accidents.

Air Crash Investigation may be morbid as a series but it remains to be one of my favorite documentary shows. This first season gets 4 additional complications leading to disaster out of a possible 5.
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