411 votes


Smithsonian Channel 2003

Major real-life air disasters are depicted in this series. Each episode features a detailed dramatized reconstruction of the incident based on cockpit voice recorders and air traffic control transcripts, as well as eyewitnesses recounts and interviews with aviation experts.

Warning: the following content contains spoilers!

The 10 Best Episodes of Mayday

Mayday - S4E2

#1 - Falling from the Sky (British Airways Flight 9) (Season 4 - Episode 2)

Alternate title: "All Engines Failed" British Airways Flight 009, sometimes referred to as the Jakarta incident, was a scheduled British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Auckland, with stops in Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth and Melbourne. On 24 June 1982, the route was being flown by City of Edinburgh, a 747-200 registered G-BDXH, when it flew into a cloud of dust and ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, and all four engines failed. The aircraft was able to glide far enough to exit the ash cloud, and three of the engines were restarted, allowing the flight to divert to Jakarta and perform a safe landing.

The episode was rated 8.34 from 71 votes.

Mayday - S3E11

#2 - Collision Course (Season 3 - Episode 11)

On 26 September 2000, waves push the MS Express Samina off course, causing it to hit a group of rocks off Paros and sink, killing 80 people. The ferry was on autopilot with the crew not monitoring the ship's course. Instead, they were watching an association football match.

The episode was rated 8.32 from 38 votes.

Mayday - S11E6

#3 - Turning Point (Northwest Airlines Flight 85) (Season 11 - Episode 6)

On 9 October 2002, Northwest Airlines Flight 85 is cruising above the Bering Sea before problems develop and pilots must make an emergency landing in Anchorage, Alaska.

The episode was rated 8.19 from 62 votes.

Mayday - S12E7

#4 - Catastrophe at O'Hare (American Airlines, Flight 191) (Season 12 - Episode 7)

On 25 May 1979, American Airlines Flight 191 a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 lost its No.1 engine moments after take-off at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and crashed into a trailer park shortly thereafter. All 271 people on board the plane as well as two other people on the ground were killed making it the worst single-aircraft air disaster in United States history. AKA Catastrophe at O'Hare

The episode was rated 8.15 from 68 votes.

Mayday - S12E12

#5 - 28 Seconds to Survive (Santa Bárbara Airlines, Flight 518) (Season 12 - Episode 12)

On 21 February 2008, Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518 was operating as a scheduled domestic flight from Mérida, Venezuela to Caracas when it crashed into the side of a mountain shortly after takeoff. All 46 passengers and crew aboard the plane died.

The episode was rated 8.14 from 56 votes.

Mayday - S12E13

#6 - Vanished (Air France, Flight 447) (Season 12 - Episode 13)

On 1 June 2009, Air France Flight 447, a scheduled flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France, stalled and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while flying in a thunderstorm, killing all 216 passengers and 12 aircrew on board. The causes of the crash were incorrect airspeed readings due to ice blockage of the aircraft's pitot tubes, inappropriate control inputs and the pilots not taking recovery action until it was too late.

The episode was rated 8.13 from 83 votes.

Mayday - S3E9

#7 - Kid in the Cockpit (Aeroflot Flight 593) (Season 3 - Episode 9)

Aeroflot Flight 593 refers to an accident on March 23, 1994 in which an Aeroflot Airbus A310-304 passenger airliner, registration F-OGQS, crashed into a hillside in Siberia. The cockpit voice recorder revealed that the pilot's 15-year-old son, Eldar Kudrinsky, was initially at the controls when the incident began, and that he had unknowingly activated an automatic feature of the A310's autopilot that many pilots at the time were unfamiliar with. All 75 passengers and crew were killed.

The episode was rated 8.08 from 53 votes.

Mayday - S11E13

#8 - Impossible Landing (United Airlines Flight 232) (Season 11 - Episode 13)

On 19 July 1989, United Airlines Flight 232's DC-10 was crippled when an engine explodes causing serious damage to the vital hydraulics system causing the plane to go out of control. The plane managed to land at Sioux City but the plane erupted into a fireball shortly after.

The episode was rated 8.06 from 65 votes.

Mayday - S13E4

#9 - Disaster on the Potomac (Air Florida, Flight 90) (Season 13 - Episode 4)

Just after taking off, Air Florida Flight 90 plunges into the frozen Potomac River. It takes an ingenious experiment to uncover why it happened.

The episode was rated 8.06 from 86 votes.

Mayday - S18E7

#10 - Free Fall (Qantas Flight 72) (Season 18 - Episode 7)

In 2008, Qantas Flight 72 travelling from Singapore to Perth suddenly nosedives while over the Indian Ocean. With warnings flooding the cockpit and passengers being flung around, it’s up to an experienced fighter pilot to get the plane to safety.

The episode was rated 8.06 from 52 votes.

Mayday - S11E7
#11 - Bad Attitude (Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509)
Season 11 - Episode 7

On 22 December 1999, a cargo flight operating as Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 left London Stansted Airport for Milan, Italy, crashed about 55 seconds after taking off. All 4 crew members died in the disaster.

The episode was rated from 53 votes.
Mayday - S13E10
#12 - Titanic in the Sky (Qantas, Flight 32)
Season 13 - Episode 10

On 4 November 2010, the pilots of Qantas Flight 32 were forced to deal with a series of failures when an explosion tore apart an engine on their A380.

The episode was rated from 110 votes.
Mayday - S18E1
#13 - Nuts and Bolts (Emery Worldwide Flight 17)
Season 18 - Episode 1

Moments after taking off from a California airport, an American cargo plane needs to make an emergency landing. The pilots manage to bring their DC-8 to within sight of the runway, but the crippled plane crashes into an automobile salvage yard one mile east of the airport.

The episode was rated from 61 votes.
Mayday - S11E1
#14 - Deadly Reputation (TAM Airlines Flight 3054)
Season 11 - Episode 1

July 17th, 2007 TAM Airlines Flight #3054 is on its final approach to Sao Paolo's notorious Congonhas Airport. Runway 35-L at Congonhas is one of the busiest and most treacherous airports in the world. It's built on a hilltop, completely surrounded by tall buildings. The crew of Flight #3054 gets a report that the runway is wet and slippery. Captain Henrique Stephanini brings his Airbus A-320 down at the foot of the 1,945 meter long runway, activates the one working reverse thruster and applies the brakes, but his plane doesn't slow down. It hurtles down the runway at top speed, crosses a highway and slams into a building and adjacent gas station. No one on the plane survives. Twelve people on the ground are also killed. This is the worst aviation disaster in South American history. Investigators are under enormous pressure to figure out what went wrong on Brazil's busiest runway, before it claims any more lives.

The episode was rated from 68 votes.
Mayday - S2E1
#15 - Blow Out (Ripped from the Cockpit, British Airways Flight 5390)
Season 2 - Episode 1

British Airways Flight 5390 was a British Airways flight between Birmingham International Airport in Birmingham, England and Málaga, Spain. On June 10, 1990 the airplane suffered an explosive decompression when an improperly installed pane of the windshield blew out; the flight crew managed to perform an emergency landing in Southampton with no loss of life. Flight: British Airways Flight 5390 AKA: Blow Out

The episode was rated from 93 votes.
Mayday - S10E2
#16 - The Heathrow Enigma (British Airways Flight 38)
Season 10 - Episode 2

When an aircraft's engines fail during its approach to Heathrow, the captain's quick thinking enables the flight to avoid nearby buildings. The craft crashes just short of the runway and all aboard miraculously survive. But what caused the engine failure in the first place - could Sherlock Holmes theories lend a hand to investigators? AKA: Heathrow Crash Landing

The episode was rated from 77 votes.
Mayday - S10E5
#17 - Hudson River Runway (US Airways Flight 1549)
Season 10 - Episode 5

On January 15, 2009 an Airbus 320 callsign US Airways Flight 1549 hit birds just 1 and half minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York. The flight just lasted about 5 minutes when the plane hit the Hudson River. This was described as "the most successful ditching of all time". AKA: Hudson Splash Down

The episode was rated from 64 votes.
Mayday - S11E5
#18 - Munich Air Disaster
Season 11 - Episode 5

On 6 February 1958, British European Airways Flight 609, carrying members of the famed Manchester United football team, crashed shortly after taking off from Munich, killing 23 aboard.

The episode was rated from 57 votes.
Mayday - S12E1
#19 - Fight for Control (Reeve Aleutian Airways, Flight 8)
Season 12 - Episode 1

On 8 June 1983, Reeve Aleutian Airways Flight 8's propeller separated from the aircraft over Cold Bay, Alaska causing an explosive decompression and loss of control. The pilot managed to land safely at Anchorage, Alaska. Since the propeller fell into the sea the cause of the separation is undetermined. AKA: Flight for Control

The episode was rated from 72 votes.
Mayday - S3E6
#20 - Mistaken Identity (Iran Air Flight 655)
Season 3 - Episode 6

Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was a commercial flight operated by Iran Air that flew from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai. On Sunday July 3, 1988, the aircraft flying IR655 was shot down by the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes between Bandar Abbas and Dubai, killing all 290 passengers and crew aboard, including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children. The Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters at the time of the shoot-down. According to the U.S. government, the Iranian aircraft was mistakenly identified as an attacking military fighter. The Iranian government, however, maintains that the Vincennes knowingly shot down a civilian aircraft.

The episode was rated from 58 votes.

Last updated: sep 22, 2022



It is an amazing documentary series that gives an insight on airplane accidents. Thoroughly presented offers an opportunity to learn about crashes that took place recently and about the preventative measure taken since to avoid similar tragedies. I recommended for those who can take it but should be avoided by those with a fear of flight...


I don't have anything to add on the comments of the latter two. Watching this show is an eye-opening experience for everyone whether you're interested in aviation or not. Very emotional documentary series; so emotional that few episodes almost made me cry. I will give 10 points to this show - I don't have to hesitate.


One of the best documentary series. The mixture of eye witness accounts, original footage and re-enacment makes this a thrill to watch. Also this is highly informative because of the detailed explanations why those accidents happened.


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