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tv   Why Planes Crash  MSNBC  May 22, 2016 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT

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an air bus 330 enters thunderstorms more than six miles above the atlantic. then van identificatiishes into. a boeing 737 shaters as ters as slams. g forces tear at an out of control boeing 747. nosediving toward the pacific. >> everybody face was pulled back. there's no way we are going to survive this. >> when pilots are too reliant on automation. dramatic animations reveal the critical moments that lead to disaster.
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flying through turbulent weather, this flight disappears into the night. what happens is a mystery that will span years and the very depths of the atlantic ocean. may 31, 2009. air france flight 447 takes off at night from rio, brazil. the air bus 330 carrying 228 passengers and crew is scheduled to arrive the next morning in
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paris, france. planes flying this route traverse an enormous distance across the atlantic ocean. >> there's a point where during this trans-ocean flight, radar coverage is non-existent. and it's incumbent upon the pilots to perform at certain checkpoints. >> about three hours into the flight, the pilots check in. it will be the last verbal contact made by flight 447. the plane hits moderate turbulence as it passes through an area known as the intertropical convergence zone. here winds from the northern and southern hemispheres collide and can produce severe storms. about 30 minutes later, the flight is expected to show up in senegal's airspace. but the crew doesn't check in
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with senegal's air traffic controllers. air france 447 is missing. in the light of day, an aerial search team is deployed. they scour miles around the plane's last known position. >> is this plane on top of the water somewhere. are people alive? >> by early afternoon, officials are air france and the french government presume that the airplane is lost to the sea. >> this is a catastrophe. and we have lost an aircraft with 228 people on board. >> if there is any doubt about the fate of flight 447, five days later, grim discoveries confirm it. bodies, boarding passes and small pieces of the plane are found floating on the surface of the ocean. the next day, the first major piece of wreckage is found, the vertical stabilizer. but there are still more
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questions than answers about what downed the airbus 330. >> evidence of an in-flight breakup. did it all start with a lightning strike? >> investigates will need to locate the main fuselage and along with it the flight recorders. they are commonly known as black boxes. they are equipped with water activated acoustic locator beacons or pingers that remain active for 30 days. >> this is a pinger. this is what we are looking for. in the middle of the atlantic ocean. >> but 30 days come and go and the flight recorders haven't been found. without the information they contain, the investigation into the cause of the crash is at a standstill. after nearly a year of searching under water, french investigators turn to the world leaders in ocean exploration for help, the massachusetts-based woods hole oceanographic
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institution. the scientists there, this isn't the first time they have searched the bottom of the atlantic for an ill-fated passenger vessel. >> we're the people that found the titanic. and it was through a collaboration with the french. here we are again. in many ways, it is history repeating itself. >> finding air france 447 is daunting. it's believed to be lost in one of the most hard to reach places on earth. >> in the middle of the ocean there's a mountain range. it's the greatest mountain range on earth. it's the mid ocean ridge. it's 50,000 miles long. it winds around the earth like the seams of a baseball, mostly unexplored. some of the most incredible topography on earth. >> the average depth of the ocean stretches for two miles. >> fit's aakin to looking for se boxes in the rocky mountains.
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it's like finding a needle in the hay stack. sglt sear >> the search area was a 40 mile radius circle around the last known position. that's a very big area. if you draw that in the middle of new england. >> we needed to narrow that down. what we asked the modelers to do, the people that understood wind and waves and floating things, was get us in the right haystack and we will take it from there. >> the team launches three aton mouse underwater vehicles to comb the ocean floor. >> looking at the remis 6000 vehicle. one of our primary sensors of side scan sonar. you will swim almost ten miles in one direction and the vehicle every second will be sending out a ping and tie all the pings together. we get a pretty good map of
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what's on the sea floor. >> in a heart beat, you could miss a plane on the bottom. that would have been less than a minute's worth of data. >> after finishing a month-long expedition at sea, the team comes up empty-handed. >> it was the wrong haystack. we're confident given enough time, and resources, that we would find the plane. >> nearly a year later, and with a new haystack identified, they set out for their second expedition. within the first week, a promising lead. they find something on sonar two 1/2 miles down. >> a smudge on the sea floor that didn't look like it belonged there. it's about 200 meters wide, 600 meters long. >> we got the vehicles back on board. we reprograms one to go back to that site. and use our cameras to take pictures over the site. >> there was no doubt when those first images came back that that was the aircraft.
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there were landing gear, engines and other bits of the aircraft. there were bodies still on the sea floor which was not something we were prepared for. it's not something that we thought could ever happen, that years afterwards there would be human remains on the sea floor. the whole emotional part of this expedition just brought us to a place we had never been to before. >> 104 bodies are recovered along with the wreckage. a few weeks later, and nearly two years since the crash, french investigators locate what they have been desperately hoping to find, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. coming up -- will the information in the black boxes be enough to uncover what happened to air france flight 447? there's no one road out there.
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air france 447 disappears over the atlantic outside the reach of radar. no witnesses, no may day. it takes nearly two years for the wreckage to be found at the bottom of the ocean. after downloading the information on the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, investigators begin to unravel just what happened on board the airbus 330. >> 447 was in normal cruise at 35,000 feet. autopilot was engaged. auto throttle engaged. routine event. >> about 3 1/2 hours into the flight the captain leaves the cockpit to take a break trading places with one of the two co-pilots. the plane sis experiencing some light turbulence as the flies through the intertropical
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convergence zone. warm humid air forms into large cloud formations. >> they encountered a weather system that blossomed up over 50,000 feet. the airplane isn't capable to fly over the top of the weather. so now the pilots use weather radar to try and pick their way through these dynamic weather systems. >> still, the weather is nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year. but what the pilots could not know is that ice is building up inside critical sensors called the peto tubes. >> they are a long utilized well established device to measure air speed. in the a-330 they are located below the flight deck. they can be susceptible to icing. and as a result, they are heated. >> but the icing is overwhelming the heating capabilities and the peto tubes freeze up. >> in a highly automated airplane, if you ice over that
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tube, you no longer have that pressure which all of these computers are dependent upon. >> with no valid air speed to work with, the autopilot and other automated systems disconnect. the co-pilots must manually fly the plane without the ability to monitor their air speed. >> the big thing is to not make any major changes with the airplane. in all likelihood, it's going to recover shortly. if you start making large inputs, things can get worse. >> with the captain still away from the flight deck, the co-pilot in the right seat, the youngest and least experienced, attempts to level the plane that's being jostled by turbulence. but he overcorrects on the side stick controller, pitching the airplane up at a steep angle. >> those inputs were massive, both in magnitude and in duratio duration. >> the airplane is going to react more violently than at
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lower altitude. >> they are approaching a stall. >> the stall warning sounds twice in the cockpit. >> stall, stall. >> the air speed indications have been invalid for less than 30 seconds and now they are coming back online. but in that time, the flight has destabilized and the aircraft is rapidly climbing at a rate of 7,000 feet per minute. >> things get confusing quickly. you look, look at all this air speed i have. but you have air speed but you have no lift. >> airflow over the wing is ultimately critical for generating lift and supporting the weight of the airplane. you can pitch the nose of the airplane up, but the airplane will fall out of the sky because the wings are incapable of generating enough lift. the pilot wasn't monitoring his altitude, really didn't know he was at 38,000 feet.
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as the airplane reached maximum altitude, it can't climb any higher. >> if they stall it, there's not a lot of air to work with at that kind of altitude. >> the wings lose lift and the airplane stalls. it begins to free fall, descending steeply at 10,000 feet per minute. the pilots don't realize the plane has stalled. >> low eering the nose is the oy appropriate action that a pilot must take. reattachment of airflow over the wings, get the wings producing lift, and then fly out of the stalled condition. >> the co-pilot in the right seat does the opposite, continuing to pull up. >> this is the last thing that you would want to do. this is very counter to the training received. why this occurred, it's one of the great mysteries of 447. >> the co-pilots have been trying to reach the captain since the autopilot disconnected. it takes 90 seconds before he returns to the flight deck.
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>> they didn't brief the captain and tell him, this is what's happening, we don't have control of the airplane. they lacked then the capability of that entire team to problem solve it together. >> the captain also fails to recognize that the plane is in a stall. it has been plummeting for nearly three minutes. >> in a normal condition where the airplane was stalled, recovery should be easily attained within 10 to 15 seconds. so the idea of it being three minutes in a stalled condition is extremely long. >> in the final minute, the cockpit voice recorder may reveal the captain realizing that the co-pilot has been pitching up causing the plane to stall. >> in an aircraft with a side stick controller, you may not notice the slight motion. it doesn't take a lot. so it is possible you could have a full aft stick input and the other crew members don't noti.
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>> the airplane is seconds from hitting the ocean. >> the passengers probably didn't understand what the gravity of the situation was. they only knew possibly that they were entering an area of turbulence. >> air france 447 smashes down belly first into the atlantic, killing everyone on board. autopsies of the victims reveal compression fractures of the spinal column and pelvis, injuries compatible with a seated person hitting the surface of the water at high vertical speeds. it's still unclear why the pilots did not recognize the plane had stalled, despite the audible stall warning that at one point sounded for 54 continuous seconds. >> it may have been that it became a nuisance warning, because they had heard it intermittently before. they didn't know if it was valid or not. they decided to disregard it but
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we will never know. they never discussed it. >> the official french investigation states a phenomenon called the startle affect may have played a role. >> it's similar to walking into a room that's dark and somebody jumping out and saying boo. it's that instant scare, if you will. okay, the autopilot is off. why is it off? what do i need to do? now you have to process all this information in a compressed time line. >> human beings, when they are very, very, very focused on one task, things will drop out. oral inputs are one of the first to go. so this is consistent with this pilot not hearing, therefore not responding to the stall warning. >> prior to the crash of flight 447, airbus and air france had recognized the potential problems with peto tubes freezing over and had begun modifications just two days prior to it the accident.
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the official report maintains that improving pilot training including exercises dedicated to manual aircraft handling is the key lesson of flight 447. >> you had professional pilots who had gone through professional pilot training. but none of the pilots had ever been trained to fly the airplane manually at high altitude with these levels of sensitivity. coming up, an out of control passenger jet plummets toward the ocean. >> the confusion on the flight deck on that airplane was extreme. what's it like to be in good hands? like finding new ways to be taken care of. home, car, life insurance obviously, ohhh... but with added touches you can't get everywhere else, like claim free rewards... or safe driving bonus checks. even a claim satisfaction guaranteeeeeeeeeee!
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ask about humira, the #1 prescribed biologic by dermatologists. clearer skin is possible. a boeing 747 is in a nosedive toward the ocean. powerful g forces are building up and the plane is on the verge of being ripped apart. february 19, 1985.
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china airlines flight 006 is cruising at 41,000 feet above the pacific ocean. 274 passengers and crew are on board. traveling from taipei, taiwan, to los angeles. >> it was my birthday. my friend told them that his birthday. so let's have celebration in the air. so that's what we did. and we just kept drinking, bringing champagne, singing happy birthday. >> ten hours into the journey, the crew notices a sudden lost of thrust in the boeing 747's number four engine. >> the normal procedure is you have to come down if you lose an engine. >> the crew must descend to 30,000 feet where the air is denser so they can try to restart the engine. instead, the captain asks the flight engineer to try to restart engine number four while they are still at 41,000 feet.
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the restart attempt fails and the continued loss of thrust begins to slow the airplane down. but that's not the only problem. >> if you have the failure of one engine, you now have an asim medic asymmetrical power. the plane will want to roll toward the failed engine because there's more power being produced on other wing. >> the airplane is rolling to the right. >> the first corrective action is to apply rudder to balance it, switch the autopilot off, make the corrections and you can re-engage the autopilot. >> the autopilot doesn't use the rudder. it uses the flaps on the ends of the wings. so it tries to roll the airplane to the opposite direction, in this case to the left. >> but they aren't enough to correct the roll. the captain is preoccupied with the problem in engine four and continues to keep the autopilot
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engaged. >> it's similar to your car. you can only turn your steering wheel so much and then you come to a stop. that's what happens in an airplane. the autopilot can only roll that in so much and then it comes to a stop and says, i can't do this anymore because i can't move this anymore. you need to do something else to stop this roll. >> it's been more than 3 1/2 minutes since the failure in engine four. the captain disengaged the autopilot. the crew knows the plane is banking right. but they don't realize just how much it is already rolled. >> when they disconnected autopilot, they were already in a very difficult flying situation that they needed to correct immediately. >> the confusion on flight deck on that airplane was extreme. they were in clouds. so they didn't have a way to look out and see a natural horizon. they were dependent on the instruments. >> and in this particular instance, the pilots would have
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been looking at their adi, which is their artificial horizon, that shows the level of the wings compared to the horizon. when the crew -- the captain looked at his adi and saw an attitude on the indicator that was not what he expected, he thought that the instrument had failed. >> when they decided not to believe their instruments, then they are left without any ability to tell which way up they are. there was nothing wrong with eir instruments. their instrupt struments were s what the airplane was doing. >> the airplane rolled more than 60 degrees to the right. the nose pitches down and the plane enters a nosedive. >> i heard a very loud noise from airplane. so due to our training, and my instinct, i just immediately backed down and grabbed the nearest chair arm. >> the airplane with a nose down
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in a roll essentially went through a complete 360 degree turn descending through the clouds at about 20,000 feet per minute. >> eventually, the airplane is almost vertical as it descends very rapidly and at very, very high speeds towards the pacific. coming up -- >> they are over speed a lot. this is a condition that you can actually physically pull an airplane apart. the e-class has 11 intelligent driver-assist systems. it recognizes pedestrians and alerts you. warns you about coming cross-traffic. cameras and radar detect dangers you don't. and it can even stop by itself. so in this crash test, one thing's missing: a crash. the 2016 e-class. lease the e350 for $499 a month at your local mercedes-benz dealer.
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i'm richard lui. massachusetts police say a suspect who murdered a police officer is dead after a standoff with police. authorities saying the man gunned down an officer early this morning during a traffic stop. iraq's prime minister said operations are under way to retake fallujah from isis. he says iraqi forces are approaching a great victory after nonstop efforts to defeat the terror group's control of
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cities in the north and west. now back to "why planes crash." china airlines flight 006 is crossing the pacific when it loses thrust in one of its engines causing the airplane to roll to the right. the crew is preoccupied with restarting the engine and fails to disengage the autopilot and manually straighten out the plane. when they finally disengage it, the airplane is in a dangerous position having rolled much more than the crew realizes. the boeing 747 begins plummeting toward the ocean. former flight attendant angie wang has just finished serving breakfast to the passengers. >> suddenly, i feel my legs are
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heavy. i just feel as if i was about to be thrown to the ceiling. >> all the people who were serving us, they were just rolling down the aisle. all the tray, the noodles, cup, everything was just flying through the front of the plane. i thought, we are gone. there's no way we're going to survive this. >> in 30 seconds, the plane has fallen more than 10,000 feet. >> they are over speed a lot. this is a condition that you can actually physically pull an airplane apart. >> for pilot, he had to get himself oriented, what was the airplane doing. was it right side up? was it upside down? >> the g forces bearing down on the passengers and crew are enormous. exceeding five times the force of gravity. this means that a 200 pound person would feel like 1,000 pounds. >> your brain was going to
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explode. everybody face was just kind of pulled back, like been stretches. >> you couldn't open your mouth. you couldn't move your arms. you couldn't move anything. it was complete silence because you can't make a sound. >> when they were trying to figure out what was going on, the crew found themselves with their faces pressed down on to the control column because the g forces were so strong. >> the forces of the air and g load are so powerful that it the doors covering parts of the main landing gear are ripped off. >> big boom. i thought the plane just blew up. you know? and i opened my eyes. i'm still here. still falling. >> at the back of the airplane, the tips of the who sdan thoriz stabilizer separate from the tail. they have fallen another 20,000
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feet in less than two minutes. the airplane breaks through the cloud layer and by chance it's oriented right side up. >> now they had a natural horizon to work with. they could look out the windshield and see which way was up, which way was down and which way was wings level. >> but there's only 11,000 feet left between the airplane and the ocean. >> i can see the water, the waves break. it's getting bigger and bigger and bigger like you have a magnifying glass. >> i just scream for my mind. i say, god help me. >> the crew pulls up hard on the control column and using the horizon, they try to level out the airplane. but they are still losing altitude. >> it felt like forever. but then it just stopped. >> right after the sound stopped and the pressure dropped down.
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>> after fouling 30,000 feet, the nose begins to pitch up. the airplane levels out at 9,500 feet. sg >> the captain used very artful flying to recover the airplane from the situation. unfortunately, it was that same pilot that put it into that situation. >> flight 006 is no longer in a nosedive but they are not out of danger. they realize with drag from the landing gear, they won't have enough fuel to make it to los angeles. instead, they will try to make it to san francisco. >> they didn't know how much damage was done certainly in the back of their mind is are the flight controls going to work on approach into san francisco? questions like that which would unfold as they got closer. >> are we going to make it? still an hour and a half away.
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it's a long way to go. >> now at a lower altitude with denser air, the crew is able to restart engine four. inside the cabin, the g forces have taken a toll on the passengers. many have sustained injuries. >> my back went out as a result of being pushed inside a plane. >> people was throwing up, going to the bathroom in their clothes in their seat. it's a horrible smell. >> the crew prepares to make an approach into san francisco international airport. the airplane is damaged and the crew doesn't know if it's capable of landing safely. >> the people on top of the tower with binoculars they are checking the landing gear. if anything was missing or anything is broken. >> i looked out the window and there were ambulances and fire trucks and everything on each side of the landing strip. >> it touches down on the runway and the landing gear holds the
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massive weight of the boeing 747. >> i was excited. i'm still alive. you know? especially on my birthday. you know? when we got out of the plane, that's when i look out. the stabilizers were gone about 10 feet off each side. wire hanging. big hole underneath the landing gear. >> the plane's wings are also bent up two inches from the aerodynamic forces. >> they are very fortunate that the airplane was so well built, so well designed, that even during this extreme maneuver, the airplane stayed together. >> when we met the captain, he told us, you barely escaped dieing. >> i was in a fog of just being grateful that i'm here. you have another opportunity. i hug my kids and my wife.
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>> if the crew hadn't recovered flight 006 from its nosedive, given their rate of fall, they would have collided with the ocean. >> he is fortunate he had 30,000 plus feet to recover. had this happened at 20,000 feet, he may not have had enough altitude before the aircraft struck to affect a full recovery. >> the ntsb investigation determined that the captain's decision making abilities could have been impaired by boredom and fatigue. >> jet lag pilots go across lots of time zones. their sleep patterns are disrupted. there are studies that equate it to a blood alcohol level as far as impairment. so with a very fatigued pilot, you are going to have a performance degradation. the question is not if the question is only in severity. >> investigators believe that despite the malfunction of
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engine number four, the cause of the accident was the captain's preoccupation with the engine problem. his failure to monitor flight instruments and his overreliance on the autopilot. >> on a four engine aircraft with the loss of one engine, that is not a catastrophic event or even an emergency event if it is controlled properly and it is handled by all the crew members. >> automation is a great tool for pilots. but then it reaches its limit like anything else. now it's up to you, huthe human to fix this problem. coming up -- >> i saw it drop like a brick falling out of the sky. >> landing through fog, a 737 slams down short of the runway. >> i was like, i have no idea what happened. there is something wrong and we need to get out.
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february 25, 2009. 135 passengers and crew are on board turkish airlines flight 1951, traveling from istanbul to amsterdam. sisters are seated in an emergency exit row. >> when they said that we are approaching amsterdam, we kind of woke up, we fastened our seat belts. >> i remember taking my glasses, putting them on my nose and looking outside. i saw the ground coming towards us very fast. i said, whoa. i looked at her. this is weird. i never feel this. >> the boeing 737 is falling rapidly through fog. the airplane is less than a mile
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from the runway when suddenly, disaster. >> it's like we were hanging in the air and then we dropped. everything was shaking. >> out of the corner of my eye i saw it drop like a brick falling out of the sky. >> the airplane crashes down into a field, tail first. this man is driving nearby when he witnesses the can a at that time trophy. >> stopped the car, came over the highway and then down the side here across the water and to the field over there behind us. where the plane was. i saw one man, he was lying on the ground who was passed away and had a towel over his head. business class had been crushed together. so the seats sort of went downwards into that mangled area. >> from a crash dynamic standpoint, a soft field is very
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difficult. the aircraft stops a lot quicker than if it's on a harder field. >> when the aircraft impacted the ground, it broke up into several pieces. the tail broke off and went at an angle. the cockpit broke off both in a lateral standpoint but also had a lot of impact damage from the floor and below. >> the way in which the plane drops from the sky fuels early speculation that a weather phenomenon call eed a microburs may be to blame. >> it's created by thunderstorms usually where you have a column of air that is rushing downward. and it can be very, very intense. and has in the past shoved airplanes literally into it the ground. visibility was restricted in fog, which is not uncommon in the low countries. but there were no thunderstorms. so the conditions necessary for
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a microburst didn't exist. >> inside the cabin, many of the passengers don't yet comprehend what's happened. >> i didn't realize. i thought that the pilots has make very hard landing. it was silent for about 20 seconds, half a minute. then a lot of noise. all screaming people had a lot of pain. it was terrible to hear that. >> videos uploaded to the internet capture the aftermath. >> i sat in my chair waiting for the sign that we can take our seat belts off and that we can get out. so i waited and waited. but i stared in front of me. i don't know if it was like a shock. >> i looked up and looked around me. and it was very dusty.
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and it smelled as if you left the iron on for quite a long time. so it was a sort of burning smell. and i was like, i have no idea what happened. there is something wrong and we need to get out. i looked on my right side and saw her staring in front of her. i looked at her and shook her. i said, wake up, wake up, something happened, we need to get out. she looked at me and i said open the door. she was trying to get the door. she had her seat belt on. could you see she was struggling to get up. i really didn't understand. she had this panic in her voice. i thought, okay, something is wrong. because she's acting very weird. she knows things that i don't know. then she screamed again. what is wrong with you? stand up. get out. get out. >> disoriented the sisters and other passengers climb through the emergency exit and on the wing of the airplane. >> i stood on the wing.
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when i stood up, i felt pain in my belly. it was very painful. and i thought, what is this? i was just grabbing my hand because i had an injury. i said, i don't dare to look. as we were walking down the wing and the moment we had to jump, we were like, is quite high. we jumped. and then i said to her, we need to go. we need to run. because if something happens, if it explodes, we need to run, we need to be safe. >> she said, run, run. can you run? i said -- i talked strange. i noticed myself talking like this. i couldn't breathe. i said, yes, i can run. she said, then run. >> coming up -- >> so she said, you know what? i'm going back. i said what? no, no. >> investigators uncover the dangerous chain of events that lead to disaster. there's no one road out there. no one surface... no one speed...
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turkish airlines flight 1951 is approaching amsterdam when suddenly it smashes down into the field below. videos uploaded to the internet capture the devastation. after evacuating the airplane, the sisters are gripped by shock. >> my sister said, we need to call our relatives. where is the phone? in the airplane. she said, you know what, i'm going back. i said, what? no, no. i couldn't really speak. i thought how stupid can she be? we still smell kerosene. >> i got on the wing and walked slowly towards the emergency exit. i got in again. i looked around. i was going into the cabins to get all my stuff. then i heard a voice again. i looked at her, she was
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standing on the wing. she said, i have all our stuff, all our stuff. i thought, she's really gone crazy. >> i think i was in shock because i was saying things that didn't make any sense. if an airplane crashed, would you go back? no, of course not. but i did something that i shouldn't have done. >> the sisters are treated for minor cuts and bruises. nine people are killed and nearly everyone on board suffers injuries. many are serious. >> all three flight crew members were fatally injured. the five passengers were all in the forward part of the aircraft in the first class section. there was one other fatality of a flight taattendant in it the t part of the aircraft where it broke apart. >> most of the injuries were either broken legs or broken backs. the surprising thing was that the people with broken backs could walk out of the plane but
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then could no longer walk after the first shock wore off. >> the plane is destroyed. the scattered pieces give investigators the first clues as to what happens. >> the engines were forward of the main wreckage. they traveled further than the rest of the wreckage. to us, it could indicate the engines were producing power. sg . >> the engines appear to have been functioning. trying to decipher what did happen, the locate the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. when they download the information, it reveals a dangerous chain of events on board turkish airlines flight 1951. >> as the aircraft was coming in, air traffic control positioned the aircraft in a manner that caused them to be high. so once they did that, it required them to do a steep rate
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of descent. >> they were faster than they should have been. they were higher than they should have been. air traffic control turned the airplane in close to the runway. so they were descending quickly. they started configuring the plane to land knowing they needed to slow down. >> but an indicator called the radio altimeter, used to measure the plane's height above the ground, has malfunctioned. it is showing the plane is on the ground when it's actually still 2,000 feet in the air. the crew recognizes the problem. but what they don't realize is that the faulty altimeter reading will have a dangerous affect on the auto throttle system. this controls the speed of the airplane by adjusting engine thrust. >> the radar altimeter was sensing the airplane was on the ground. it was telling the throttles to be in idle. pilots expected them to be in idle but only for the disseesce.
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the airplane starts to slow down. the power does not come up as the pilots expected it to. because the auto throttle system thinks it's on the ground. the airplane continues to slow. >> another problem, the plane is nearing the runway but the crew isn't finished prepping for landing. >> they didn't have the final flap selections made. they were still running the before landing checklist. consequently, the go around was required by their operations manual. yet they didn't do that. >> all those things that they were doing at that time was taking them away from actually monitoring their air speed and altitude. >> inside the cockpit, the stick shaker warning activates telling the pilots that the airplane is about to stall. >> i think the stick shaker caught them by surprise. the training first officer did exactly what he was trained to do. push the power up, lowered the nose. the captain understandably said, i don't know what's going on
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here. i want control of the airplane. because i've got so much more experience. neither the training first officer nor the captain disengaged the auto throttle system. the result of not following that disengagement was that the auto throttle system drove the power back to idle. >> with no thrust to the engine, the airplane is losing too much air speed. it takes nine seconds from the stick shaker warning for the captain to realize that the throttles are in idle. when he does, he pushes them to full thrust. but it's too late. >> by the time they realized what was occurring, the airplane went into an aerodynamic stalled condition and literally fell out of the sky a mile short of the airplane. >> the plane shatters on impact into three pieces. the accident leads to changes in the industry. >> the recommendation was made to improve the reliability of the radio altimeter system.
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boeing had been working many years to fix the system. however, they put extra emphasis on finding out what was wrong with the radio altimeter system to ensure that that would give reliable data. >> one of the lessons learned was the need to switch off automated systems during stall recoveries. certainly for the 737s. that stall recovery needs to be no autopilot and no auto throttle. >> unfortunately, we gained a lot of reliance or put in a lot of reliance on the automation to keep us out of trouble. we have an expectation that as long as the automation is engaged, it will fly the airplane safely. we know that like anything else, a system can fail, an instrument can fail.
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it's a big sky, until two planes end up in the same place. >> climb, climb. >> at the same time. 37,000 feet above the amazon, a corporate jet collides with a 737. >> every atom in my body i felt kind of implode. >> one mile above new york city, a dc-8 tears into the fuselage of a lockheed constellation. >> bang! i jumped up and i ran and i never looked back.

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