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NOVA: The Deadliest Plane Crash (1974)

 NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: January 30, 2007
  • Run Time: 56 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000JJ5F5M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,892 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "NOVA: The Deadliest Plane Crash" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Printable materials for educators
  • DVD-ROM access to the Nova website
  • Video descriptions for the visually impaired

Editorial Reviews

On March 27, 1977, on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, two fully loaded 747 jumbo jets collided on a fogbound runway, killing 583 people in what is still the deadliest crash in aviation history. NOVA looks back at the crucial final hours before the disaster. Despite new technology to improve runway safety, near-misses on the ground are still the leading cause of deadly aviation accidents.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has aviation learned anything from this disaster? August 2, 2007
On the afternoon of March 27, 1977, the world's worst aircraft disaster occurred at Los Rodeos airport on Tenerife Island in the Spanish territorial Canary Island chain. It involved 2 of the largest passenger airliners in production, a pair of Boeing 747 jumbo jets, and the horrific accident claimed 583 lives.

Beginning from a point about 4 hours preceding the tragedy here, both aircraft were originally destined for Gran Canary Island to the east of Tenerife. A bomb threat and the follow on detonation of a device forced the closure of the airport here causing all aircraft to divert to Tenerife. With only 2 air traffic controllers on duty on Sunday and them not accustomed to handling the high influx of airplanes that were en route to their location, the situation worsened by the minute. Having only one runway and with ramp space and taxiway points getting clogged, it was becoming a veritable traffic jam at the airport.

With all inbound aircraft later parked on the ground, the air traffic controllers had to be creative in devising ways to taxi planes to the runway for departure amidst the clutter that surrounded them. During this time period, low cloud cover encroached upon the airfield causing a thick fog which seriously limited visibility for everyone. Using an alternate but accepted method called `back taxiing', the controllers directed both 747's to enter the runway area to stage for takeoff.

The KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight eventually reached the end of the runway where it turned completely around and waited for clearance to leave in their new direction. The Pan American flight was still traveling down the runway looking for the side taxiway the controllers told them to pull into to await their turn to depart.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We've Been Lucky Too Long." April 3, 2007
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This episode of "Nova" is a standout for the normally very well made series. Narrated by Stacy Keach, the subject of this show is the deadly collision on the runway of two 747's on the Canary Island of Tenerife which killed 583 people. It is still the deadliest aviation accident in history.

The DVD explores the intricate set of circumstances that came together to cause the accident, and while human error, especially in the KLM crew, was the obvious focus of the episode, other deeper causes are analyzed. The interviews are generally well executed, although there are minor misstatements in places which do not materially detract from the points being made.

I was pleased that the show didn't stop at the Tenerife accident, but discussed the implications of runway incursions going forward. The NTSB and FAA have targeted runway incursions for years, and many (myself included) believe that the relative avoidance of accidents (there are exceptions, certainly) in recent years is more a matter of luck than anything else. Although systems for mitigating incursions are in development, none has yet come to full fruition, and even simple things such as in-ground flashing lights signaling the entry to a runway are uncommon except at very large airports. One gentleman interviewed put it perfectly: "We've been lucky too long." He's right, and this episode of Nova not only explains how it happened, but how it can happen again.

This is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in aviation safety, or safety systems in general. The computer animations, while not up to the CGI effects of a Hollywood production, are quite effective, and the reenactments are much more skillfully staged than in many aviation programs.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well made & informative October 21, 2007
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In March of 1977, the deadliest plane crash in aviation history took place on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. 2 Boeing 747s - one owned by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the other by Pan Am - collided on a fog-shrouded runway. Almost 600 people perished.

In this DVD, Nova explores the accident itself and the circumstances that led to it - such as the absence of ground radar, communication problems and the fact that the KLM pilot began takeoff without ATC clearance - while the Pan Am was STILL on the runway!
It also examines recent incidents of runway incursions that fortunately did not result in accidents. Most fascinating for anyone interested in civilian aviation.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate account July 26, 2009
As a former airline pilot I am very critical of news reports that tend to be so inaccurate that they are laughable. However, this video was well researched and reenacted. This accident was a key factor in changing the culture in airlines where the captain was god. Cockpit Resource Management or CRM was born from this and a tragic series of other accidents in the 1970's that killed hundreds of people at a time, very publicly. Because of CRM and culture change the U.S. Major Airlines have operated at Six Sigma or "0" deaths per million operations for the last 12 years or so. Read John Nance's book "Why Hospitals Should Fly" to see where this next culture change should take place.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A shadow of the original September 24, 2011
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The Noval presentation is a watered down version of the British release: The Deadliest Plane Crash.
Although it uses the same reenactment, much is cut from the original such as:

1) The imperiousity of the KLM captain shows why the crew was intimidated from stopping him on take-off. They show him yell at one of the flight attendants when two children were missing from the flight prior to departure from Tenerif and his threats to her.
2) How the one survivor off KLM had to sneak off of the plane in order to go with her boyfriend. They would not allow her off.
3) The cruise that the Pan Am passengers were booked on and how one survivor said that he returned to the airport at a later date to see the crash site before proceeding to take the cruise that he had missed.
4) There was more dialogue in the tower showing their distraction and annoyance at the situation.

These are just a few that gave a more rounded picture of this disaster. The entire British release can be found on YouTube but it's broken up in about 8 segments since they only allow a maximum of 10 minutes per segment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great coverage of a horrible accident...
I've watched clips of this one for years, and must say that it is extremely well done. They not only cover what happened, but the why, including the terrorist attack at the other... Read more
Published 29 days ago by R. L. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
It is a good read, very interesting, very truthful and explained everything. I am very pleased with it. Thank you
Published 4 months ago by Linda Hoare
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious and insightful report
Because of the exceptional recreation of the accident.
And the interesting interviews.
An exception of the documental style.
Right duration.
Published 5 months ago by josep serra tarragon
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great one.
How could the chief of safety at KLM Airlines ignore proper procedure and take off without proper clearance, in dense fog, causing the worst aircraft disaster to that date? Read more
Published 10 months ago by Keeska
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting!
This was a tough one to watch only because it did not have to happen but was doomed because of pilot decision on the part of the experienced Dutch pilot. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Bonnie Pates
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative
This historic accident was tragic in every way, but was re-created and documented in this DVD. The interviews with survivors was an excellent touch, along with expert analysis from... Read more
Published 14 months ago by B767Captain
4.0 out of 5 stars Well compiled, but missing an important theory
I enjoy documentaries on engineering and natural disasters. The scicence of accident investigation is very amusing and I enjoy puzzles and mysteries. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jeremy D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary
This is a great documentary featuring actual photos and film of the aftermath of what still is today the world's worst air accident. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Dave
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Summary of The Worst Aviation Accident
This is a very good DVD, about 60 minutes long, with a mix of actual photos, computer graphics, interviews with actual passengers and crew and with FAA, NTSB investigators, etc. Read more
Published on December 3, 2011 by Bronwen Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Deadliest Plane Crash reveiew
DVD was in excellent condition, brand new. The Film is very good, well made, very good visuals to go with the story telling, however, this is a short version of the original film,... Read more
Published on January 20, 2011 by Alexander O. Vasolla
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