TV Highlights

Why Planes Crash

Yesterday - 10pm

Who's in it?

A captain who beat hijackers by ploughing his plane into the ocean was one of the frankly miraculous aviators featured in this scary but incredible documentary.

In a nutshell

Remember the "Miracle on the Hudson"? That was when a jet had to make an emergency landing in New York after colliding with geese during take off. The captain didn't have time to glide over to an airport, so he did the only feasible thing: land on the Hudson River. His co-pilot told the story of those nerve-jangling minutes, assisted by some pretty dodgy CGI reconstructions. Still, we knew it had a happy ending so it wasn't too traumatic to watch.

The same couldn't be said of the other stories of "ditching", or landing on water, featured in this documentary. One, recounted by the actual pilot more than 40 years after the event, involved a plane which ran out of fuel on its way to a holiday island, and dived into the lapping ocean, killing many passengers in the process. And even more dramatic was the Ethiopian Airlines plane which was crazily diverted to Australia by hijackers, and ended up slamming into the sea and breaking apart. We saw the actual video footage of the plane skidding over the waves and obliterating – the fact that merely most, rather than all, the passengers died was a miracle in itself.

What's the verdict?

Definitely not recommended for anyone with the slightest apprehension about flying, this was a show which deftly balanced tragedy with a celebration of human ingenuity against the odds. Flying the unfriendly skies, these pilots achieved the impossible, and it was amazing to learn how they did it.

Star rating: 3/5

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07-07-2011