Survival in the Sky
Survival in the Sky (United States title, known as Black Box in the United Kingdom) is a British series of six one-hour episodes produced by Darlow Smithson Productions for The Learning Channel and Channel 4. Narrated by Will Lyman (US) or Sean Barrett (UK), the series primarily concentrated on commercial aviation accidents and the investigations related to them. They were first aired as a series of only four episodes in late 1996. Two additional episodes were produced and premiered in 1998.
The series is notable for being produced with the cooperation of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), and interviews many of the investigators and survivors of air crashes.
A book also entitled Black Box (ISBN 0760304009) was published in 1996 as a companion to the series.
Episode 1 - Blaming the Pilot (1996)
As aviation technology improves, pilot error is determined to be the cause of two out of every three crashes.
- a. Birgenair Flight 301 on February 6, 1996; a Boeing 757 which stalls due to pilot error.
- b. British European Airways Flight 548 on June 18, 1972; a Hawker Siddeley Trident jetliner crashes shortly after takeoff from London's Heathrow Airport.
- c. Tenerife disaster on March 27, 1977; two Boeing 747s collide and the worst loss-of-life aviation accident in world history takes place.
- d. Air France Flight 296 on June 26, 1988; an Airbus A320 crashes shortly after takeoff, potentially due to computer error.
- e. Air Inter Flight 148 on January 20, 1992; an Airbus A320 slams into a mountainside at Mont Sainte-Odile in France, killing 87 of the 96 persons aboard the airplane.
Episode 2 - Deadly Weather (1996)
Worldwide, weather contributes to one-third of all plane crashes.
- a. "Palm 90", or Air Florida Flight 90 on January 13, 1982; a Boeing 737-200 crashes into the Potomac River.
- b. American Eagle Flight 4184 on October 31, 1994; an ATR-72 crashes near the town of Roselawn, Indiana.
- c. Delta Air Lines Flight 191 on August 2, 1985; a Lockheed L-1011 crashes in Dallas, Texas due to wind shear.
- d. United Airlines Flight 585 on March 3, 1991; a Boeing 737 rudder incident.
- e. USAir Flight 427 on September 8, 1994; another Boeing 737 rudder incident.
Episode 3 - A Wing and a Prayer (1996)
Improper maintenance, undiscovered design flaws and other structural failures.
- a. Aloha Airlines Flight 243 on April 28, 1988; a Boeing 737 loses part of its roof while in flight.
- b. Japan Air Lines Flight 123 on August 12, 1985; a Boeing 747 crash resulting in the worst single-plane aviation disaster.
- c. United Airlines Flight 232 on July 19, 1989; a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 loses hydraulic control and crashes during landing at Sioux City, Iowa.
Episode 4 - Crash Detectives (1996)
Presents original footage of NTSB investigators filmed at the crash site of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Everglades.
- a. TACA Flight 510 on April 6, 1993; involving a Boeing 767-200 at Guatemala City.
- b. ValuJet Flight 592 on May 11, 1996; a Douglas DC-9 crashes in the Florida Everglades. This NTSB go-team was headed by Greg Feith.
- c. British Midland Flight 92 on January 8, 1989; at Kegworth.
- d. de Havilland Comet - The first commercial jet aircraft, the "Comet", built by England's de Havilland Aircraft Company suffered several mid-air explosions due to metal fatigue. These events set back de Havilland and paved the way for Boeing's dominance in the manufacture of commercial jet airliners.
- e. Turkish Airlines Flight 981 on March 3, 1974 and American Airlines Flight 96 on June 12, 1972 - both DC-10s
- f. British Airtours Flight 28M, involving a Boeing 737-200 on August 22, 1985
Episode 5 - TWA 800: The Investigation (1998)
A special episode produced after the official findings of the TWA 800 investigation were released.
Episode 6 - Sky Crimes (1998)
The final episode, produced over two years after the original run of the series, examines incidents involving either international terrorism or disgruntled airline employees.
- a. PSA Flight 1771 on Dec 7, 1987; a disgruntled employee uses a handgun to kill the pilots and crash the aircraft.
- b. Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec 21, 1988; a terrorist bomb explodes and destroys a Boeing 747 aircraft over Lockerbie in Scotland.
- c. FedEx Flight 705 on April 7, 1994; a disgruntled FedEx employee attempts to hijack and fly the aircraft into FedEx headquarters.