Thoughts on ‘The Plane Crash’, a documentary film shown on Channel 4 (UK), 11 October 2012

Last night Channel 4 in the UK aired a programme called ‘The Plane Crash’, which documented a controlled crash of a Boeing 727 in a dried lakebed in Mexico. This event took over four years of planning and involved many experts across the fields of air accident investigations, biomechanics, and aviation safety. It was fascinating, and offered the casual viewer some practical tips on how to increase their chances of surviving a crash. For aviation professionals it offered a great deal of rich data, from biomechanical impact data on intelligent crash test dummies to watching video from inside the cabin during the crash. It was compelling viewing, and I feel provided a good balance of technical information and populist interest.

One scene I was pleased to see included was video and audio footage of an emergency landing which included flight attendants shouting emergency commands: HEADS DOWN, STAY DOWN, HEADS DOWN, STAY DOWN. Even away from the physical environment of the emergency landing, it was chilling hearing her calmly and firmly shout the commands she had been repeatedly trained to shout. The documentary does not provide information about the outcome of that particular landing; however, we can infer that at least the person who made the video got out safely. It was impressive that the filmmakers included this important, yet rarely seen, emergency-related flight attendant task.

Link to the Channel 4 site for The Plane Crash, where the documentary can be viewed (possibly restricted to UK IP addresses).