While plane crashes aren’t necessarily crimes (although lots definitely are), they fall under the category of creepy and morbidly fascinating; the topic we discuss on Wednesdays (and any other day we want) here at Slow News Day. At the request of my friend (and rock star) Colin Daly, today we’re going to discuss airplane crashes, and the YouTube videos that feature them. Also, this is my way of jinxing three flights I have tomorrow (and will thus be on vacation. Eve is at the helm, as if she ever wasn’t.)
First, just to get it over with and to answer Colin’s initial question, which is the scariest fictional airplane crash? That one is easy: Flight.
As someone who is 1. afraid to fly and 2. a grateful recovering alcoholic, this movie is TERRIFYING! (Denzel is the drunk pilot who struggled with his sobriety.) The crash scene is particularly remarkable because it lasts so long. I regard this as truer to life than the usual movie crash scenes which are mercifully quick. Actually, many real life airplane crashes are preceded by minutes of horrific turbulence and panic. And now, let’s discuss THOSE:
If you just start searching for airplane crashes on YouTube, you will be bombarded by TONS of footage, as well as dozens of full length TV documentaries on specific crashes. One of the scariest, and one that is startlingly similar to the movie Flight is Alaska 261, which flew INVERTED (a la Top Gun) and then crashed. Here is the actual cockpit recording, but if you want to see the 50-minute documentary, click here. It’s called “Cutting Corners” and is a scary reminder that one little rusty lug nut can be the difference between life and death.
The movie “Alive” is an account of the 1972 Andes airplane crash that resulted in the survivors having to eat the dead. You’ll remember Ethan Hawke eating weird-looking beef jerky. I should point out that the original book about the crash, also titled “Alive” and by Piers Paul Read is significantly more graphic than the movie. While I read it, I had lots of dreams about airplane crashes in the snow. Anyway, the crash scene from the movie is pretty solid. The documentary (available on Netflix) called “Stranded: I’ve Come From A Plane That Fell In The Mountains” has the actual survivors telling their story and it is brilliantly-done.
One of history’s most famous airplane crashes was when two jumbo jets collided at the Tenerife Airport on the Canary Islands in 1977, all due to HUMAN ERROR. Some over-confident pilot screwed everything up, and 583 people were killed. I once won a round of cruise ship Jeopardy because I guessed “Canary Islands” which I only really knew about because of this horrible airplane crash, which was, for a long time, the worst plane crash in history.
The plane crash that kicked off my obsession was probably “Lockerbie”, PanAm Flight 103 which exploded midair in 1988. A bomb was checked on board and exploded near Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 263 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 people on the ground. I didn’t even need to look up how many people were killed. I know this one by heart. Libyan terrorists were to blame, although it took years and years to bring them to justice. What is particularly terrifying about this crash is that many of the passengers survived the initial explosion and were probably alive as the airplane fell out of the sky. For MINUTES. Much disputed lore has it that one body, that of a flight attendant, was found gripping grass, implying that she died only after hitting the ground.
Which famous (or not so famous) airplane crashes have stuck with you? Discuss!
This has been your True Crime Wednesday. Save travels, frequent fliers.