tv Why Planes Crash MSNBC August 2, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
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. >> over san diego, a 727 slams into a cessna, and it's caught on film. >> i knew it was big. i knew it was bad. but we didn't know it was a plane crash. >> outside los angeles, a small plane crashes into a dc-9, decimating several homes below. >> it just smelled like death, like smoke and death. >> eyewitnesses and survivors tell their harrowing stories, and dramatic animations put you right there with the troubled aircraft. that big sky just got a lot smaller. "why planes crash: collision course." >> a new concept in air transportation, the travail has
been taken out of travel. >> when this short film about air travel was released by pan-am in 1958, flying was a special occasion. people got dressed up, meals were served on white linen. >> delicious food adds to the enjoyment. >> we all know that's changed. but an even more significant change is the increase in air traffic. flying over the u.s. in 1960, there would have been about 1,400 planes in the sky at any given time. today that number is more like 7,000. >> in 2011, we flew almost 3 billion people. we would fly about the population of the earth every 24 months or so, and it's expected to grow. >> with such increase in volume worldwide, it seemed there would be a greater risk of planes
colliding in the sky. but technology is more sophisticated than ever. so these types of accidents are actually less frequent than in the earlier days of passenger jet travel. that doesn't mean midair collisions don't happen any more, because sometimes technology fails, and it's nearly impossible to eliminate human factors. in 2006, this plays out with catastrophic consequences for two planes flying over the amazon -- a boeing 737 and a private corporate jet. >> i had gone to brazil on an assignment for a magazine called "business jet traveler" to write about embraer, which is a big aircraft manufacturer near sao paulo.
and when i was there, i ran into some guys from a long island charter company who had just bought a brand new, $25 million airplane, a legacy 600, a real beauty, a midsize corporate jet. and they said, why don't you fly back with us? the plane has 13 seats and there were 6 empty seats. sure, okay, i'm in. and that turned out to be certainly the most fateful decision of my life. >> september 29th, 2006. 2:52 p.m. the legacy, tail number 600 x-ray lima takes off from san jose dos campos. destination, the city of manaus, nearly four hours to the northwest. air traffic control instructs the "legacy" to fly at 37,000 feet, where it levels off by 3:33 p.m. meanwhile, two minutes later, gol airlines flight 1907 departs manaus for the country's capital
of brasilia in the south. within a half hour, the boeing 737 reaches its cruising altitude, 37,000 feet. the 737 is heading southeast. the legacy is heading northwest. the two aircraft should be at different altitudes. instead, they're on a collision course. >> it was a beautiful day, puffy white clouds in the sky, nothing obscuring our view. we took off for what was to be a routine flight. we were flying with very competent pilots in a brand new airplane. what could be bad about that? >> both sets of pilots are in contact with air traffic control, operated by the brazilian air force. but starting at 4:02 p.m., northwest of brasilia, there's a problem.
"the legacy's" radar data is no longer being received by air traffic control. >> at some point during the flight, the transponder, which provides altitude information to the controller, inadvertently disappeared. >> a transponder is critical, not only to relay key information to air traffic control and nearby planes but also in order to enable tcas, the traffic alert and collision avoidance system, which warns pilots when another plane is too close. >> traffic, traffic. >> and advises preventive action. >> climb, climb. >> in addition to the missing transponder signal, which is preventing the "legacy" from sending its data, there's another problem, well-documented radio dead zones over the amazon. beginning at 4:26 p.m., air traffic control and the "legacy" pilots make several attempts to
verbally communicate, all unsuccessful. under normal circumstances, they would acknowledge each other's calls. >> brazilian air traffic control system in its overall shoddy performance had misprogrammed its own consoles, so it had given five radio frequents for the areas the pilots were in, four of which were in complete error, had nothing to do with that sector. unbelievable, right? but that's the way it was. >> even though they are cleared to fly at 37,000 feet, when one controller hands it off to another at end of his shift, he tells him incorrectly the plane's at 36,000 feet. in reality, the legacy and the 737 are at the same altitude, traveling at about 500 miles an hour apiece. that adds up to a closure or combined speed of about 1,000 miles per hour. >> you're talking a lot of energy with aircraft that weigh hundreds of thousands of pounds.
so, when they do collide at that high velocity, there is total, typically total destruction of the aircraft. >> by the time radio contact is made at 4:53 p.m., the connection is so bad, the "legacy" pilot and controller can't understand each other. the planes are closing in. >> everybody was sort of dosing or working by hear and feel. bang! the loudest noise i ever heard. i was in vietnam and i've heard bombs, but just, bang! and every atom in my body i felt kind of implode. >> i've flown as a passenger a lot, and you go through all kinds of weather and all kinds of turbulence, and i've never felt an impact like this before. >> because of the angle at which the planes collide, the 737, though much larger, takes a far worse hit than "the legacy." >> one of the wings, which has a winglet on it, actually sliced
through the 737 wing. there's a lot of flight control systems that are damaged. it rendered the airplane incapacitated and uncontrollable. and if it went out of control, the aerodynamic forces have caused it to actually start to break up in flight. >> everyone on board the "legacy" knows something bad has happened, but they don't know they've collided with another aircraft. they don't even know their plane is damaged until joe sharkey looks out his window. >> i opened my window and i look out and this is the sight i will simply never forget, because i'm looking at the wing and part of it is missing. and it's a jagged bit of metal. >> they need on the ground and they need on the ground in a hurry. they need the first available airport. coming up, 35 heart-stopping minutes in the air and a landing seared into this passenger's memory. >> it was just this moment of
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september 29th, 2006, seven miles above the brazilian amazon, a 737 collides with an embraer legacy. it's a devastating accident. the 737 is rendered uncontrollable and plummets toward the ground. but the "legacy" is still in flight. its left winglet down and stabilizer damaged. as the pilots struggle to fly the plane, no one on board knows there's been a midair collision. what they do know is they're in trouble. >> to think that you may not see your family or that they're
going to read about you and see about your death on tv and on the newspaper was, it was a horrible thought. >> i wrote a note to my wife and figured, well, maybe they'll find it. i said "i love you," "our time together has been golden," you know, i'm sorry i'm going to die. but you know, i said it in a way that was nice. >> like most plane crashes, a series of events, not just one, led to the collision over brazil. two planes fly straight toward each other after air traffic control put them at the same altitude. radio black holes over the amazon limit communication between controllers and the legacy pilots. and for nearly one hour before the collision, "the legacy's" transponder doesn't transmit. so, two controllers working back-to-back shifts don't receive its signals. >> a competent controller would spot that within two or three sweeps. there's a sweep every ten
seconds. within 20 or 30 seconds. this plane disappeared in that sense for 50 minutes, not 20 or 30 seconds. >> within three minutes of the impact, the transponder is reactivated. but the legacy is now compromised. it needs to land soon. >> it's the longest 35 minutes i've ever spent in my life, you know, wondering, were we going to make it down safely, wondering with every turn, would they lose control of the airplane. >> the closest runway is an air space, literally a military airstrip in the middle of the jungle. as the pilots desperately try to get their plane there, it's a white-knuckle moment for everybody on board. >> we were within five minutes of not flying anymore. it was clear, i mean, the trees were coming closer and closer, and i thought, well, here we go. >> once safely on the ground, the passengers, still unaware how they got into this
situation, are happy to be alive. but hours later, they learn they've been involved in a midair collision with a 737, that the jet crashed in the jungle, and 154 people perished, and the mood quickly turns. >> i just sense the change in the environment, and i knew that we were now being treated like criminal suspects. >> following the crash, there are protests in brazil with relatives of victims demanding more information about the crash. writer joe sharkey says much of the anger turns toward the american survivors. >> crazy rumors were starting to fly in brazil. among them was that at the time of the accident, because i, the reporter, was on board, it was a brand new plane, the two american pilots were flying loop de loops to show the plane off
over the central amazon, causing the disaster. now, that's crazy. >> of course, when the plane's instruments were studied, it was clear that the plane had been steady as a rock at 37,000 feet. >> joe sharkey is held in brazil for two days. the pilots, joe lapore and jan paladino, are held for more than two months. when they are finally allowed to leave the country on december 9th, 2006, they receive a warm welcome back at their company headquarters in long island, new york. but the pilots' problems are far from over. nine months after the accident, the brazilian government indict the american pilots as well as four of its own air traffic controllers for exposing an aircraft to danger. the international aviation community has come out strongly against criminalizing accidents. >> we have to know what they were thinking, what decisions they were making, why they acted
the way they did. and if there's a fear of going to jail and that punitive action against them, then that's going to inhibit the information that we as investigators get. >> the criminalization of aircraft accident investigations is an impediment to safety. when you have situations where there is not a deliberate act, the key focus needs to be let's not have a reoccurrence of it. >> in may 2011, a federal judge in brazil acquits the "legacy" pilots of all charges but one, negative for not monitoring their transponder. the final terms of the sentence are pending, but it seems unlikely the pilots will serve jail time. joel weiss, attorney for the pilots, says they were never at fault because the transponder was on. but then, without warning, his clients say, it went off or into standby mode. >> we have all kinds of
anecdotal evidence that mull over the world, particularly in europe, of this transponder unit failing without any indication whatsoever in the cockpit that it had failed. >> components do fail. so, it's not that it's necessarily been turned to standby. it's a failure. >> in brazil, one air traffic controller described by the judge as unqualified and incompetent is acquitted. another controller is convicted of negligence. in its final report, brazil's ntsb equivalent acknowledges the failures of the brazilian controllers as well as the "legacy" pilots, stating that both parties should have become aware of the loss of radio communication far sooner than they did. in an e-mail, cenipa's press office states their investigation does not establish responsibility or guilt, but identifies the contributing factors with a primary objective
being prevention. if there's a lesson to be learned from this tragedy, it's that there will always be human factors that lead to accidents. >> but the lack of transponder information for a period of time from the embraer airplane, that created human factors issues with regard to situational and positional awareness for the air traffic controller. whether you're military or civilian, it's the human involvement, and it's the human error that starts these sequence of events. when we come back, more midair collisions over two of america's biggest cities. >> i jumped up and i ran and i never looked back. a new season brings a new look. a chance to try something different. this summer, challenge your preconceptions and experience a cadillac for yourself.
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what's called visual flight rules, otherwise known as see and be seen. >> think of it as driving your car. you avoid traffic by seeing it and not putting your car where there's another car. the airplane works in visual flight rules the same way. >> see and be seen is a catastrophic failure in two deadly collisions between the same two airlines, twa and united. the first crash is over the grand canyon on june 30th, 1956. >> these two pilots were having to deviate around thunderstorms, build-ups that were occurring. you can't fly through them. so, they were deviating around them. they actually didn't know that when they came back around the back side of the clouds, the other aircraft was there. >> the united dc-7 and twa lockheed constellation or super connie collide at 21,000 feet. at the time, it's the deadliest
accident in aviation history. >> tragic aftermath of saturday's twa/united airlines crash, which claimed 128 lives. >> it was a watershed event. it was one of those accidents that we as a society said we're not going to have that anymore. >> the collision prompts the federal aviation act of 1958, which creates the faa, whose mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. unfortunately, change doesn't happen quickly enough. >> the wreckage went into the church, into the street and into the surrounding buildings, but i imagine that was about the first contact with the ground, the top of that garage. >> the pillar of fire church. >> yes. isn't that ironically named? >> it's a dreary december morning in 1960 when twa and
united have another catastrophic incident, this time over new york city. 10:25 a.m. air traffic control alters the route of united flight a-26, a dc-8, shaving 11 miles off its path to new york's laguardia airport. -- jfk airport. 10:30 a.m., united is at 14,000 feet and clear to descend to 5,000. at the same moment, twa flight 266, a super connie like the one that crashed over the grand canyon, is heading toward laguardia airport. it's coming through 8,000 feet. united is told to head to a specific navigational fix or intersection, where it's to enter a holding pattern and
await further instructions, but there are problems. the plane has two navigational instruments used at the time to determine position. one of them isn't working. and the plane is also traveling more than 500 miles per hour, a speed later determined to be excessive, and the dc-8 flies past its clearance. the united crew lost its bearings. >> i would equate it to driving down a street. if you know where you are and you know the second left turn is the turn you need to make, that's great. but if you didn't see the first road to the left, you would drive beyond it because you didn't recognize the first cue. >> at 10:33 a.m., laguardia tower advises twa of traffic off to its right. no one realizes it, but the united dc-8 is heading straight for them. then, seven seconds later, as both planes approach 5,000, there's a brutal collision.
one of the dc-8's engines tears through the fuselage of the super connie. the twa plane breaks into pieces and goes down on the spot, crashing in staten island's miller airfield. but the united jet manages to stay aloft for 8 1/2 more miles until it's over park slope, brooklyn, where tom regan, then 20 years old, is standing on the street. >> i crossed the street at 7th avenue and sterling place, just stepping on the corner, when i heard a loud, loud whine. and when i turned around, the wing of the plane, united airlines, was catching into the roof of the building that i had just left. and there was a tremendous explosion. immediately i dropped to the ground. and then moments after that, there was a second explosion. bang!
just everything exploded. and now the whole place was on fire. i stayed on the ground for what i thought seemed to be a long time, but i believe it was only several seconds. and i jumped up and i ran and i never looked back. >> on the street in brooklyn, people are astounded to learn there's a single survivor. 11-year-old steven balce of illinois, who's thrown from the united plane into a snow bank. >> he had been given a christmas gift to fly alone from chicago to new york. and that's what happened. >> at the time, barbara lewnes is a recent nursing school graduate, working at methodist hospital, a few blocks from the crash site. she's assigned to care for steven overnight. he's badly burned. >> i couldn't tell if he was white or black. he was just charcoal. i think they said it was 85% of
his body. >> within hours, the boy's father arrives in new york and speaks to the press. >> how do you and your wife feel about your son being the sole survivor? >> we have great heartfelt sympathy for all of the people who were not as fortunate. >> the country rallies behind steven, but his injuries are too grave. >> if i had been in nursing longer, i would have known there was no chance, but that's why i think they put me there. >> steven, the sorry little 11-year-old boy, lone survivor of the plane crash in brooklyn, expired at 1:00 p.m., just a few minutes ago. the little boy closed his eyes and went to sleep. >> with a final death toll at 134, including 6 on the ground,
the 1960 crash over park slope replaces the grand canyon collision as the deadliest u.s. commercial aviation disaster to that point. to investigate the accident, the civil aeronautics board, the forerunner to the ntsb, uses flight data recorder, or black box technology, for the first time ever. the conclusion, united flight 826 proceeded beyond its clearance limit, or the place it was told to go into a holding pattern. its high rate of speed and the change of clearance or shortcut it was given by air traffic control are contributing factors. within three months, president kennedy establishes "project beacon." the task force is mandated to review the country's aviation facilities and put together a long-range plan for the future of air traffic in the u.s. but there are more midair
problems on the horizon. when we come back -- >> look at that! >> deadly accidents between large planes and small. >> all of a sudden, you know, we hear this big, this tremendous thud. unbelievable! toenail fungus? seriously? smash it with jublia! jublia is a prescription medicine proven to treat toenail fungus. use jublia as instructed by your doctor. look at the footwork! most common side effects include ingrown toenail, application site redness, itching, swelling, burning or stinging, blisters, and pain. smash it! make the call and ask your doctor if jublia is right for you. new larger size now available. and you want to earn an advanced degree. at capella university, we'll help you find the most direct path. and now, new scholarships can help save you money toward earning your degree. discover the path to your potential
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i'm page hopkins with the hour's top stories. the international olympic committee said today it will begin testing the waters around rio, where athletes will complete in the 2016 summer games. an investigation revealed potential disease-causing viruses in the sewage-polluted waters. mission impossible took in $56 million. vacation came in second with $21 million. now, back to "why planes crash."
like building blocks, each midair collision has helped make the skies safer, so much safer, in fact, that according to an m.i.t. study, technology has advanced to the point where we can expect only one midair collision every 100 million flight hours. the last time two commercial jets collided over the u.s. was the 1960 accident above new york city. since then, there have been three more midair collisions, all involving one large aircraft and one small. in 1967, mary schulte's father is at the helm of a boeing 727 which collides with a twin cessna over north carolina, killing 82 people. >> two pilots show up at the front door, ring the doorbell and inform my mother that my
father's plane had crashed. and i told him, that couldn't be true, because he was the best pilot. >> the outgrowth of it was a very strong commitment by piedmont airlines to be involved in to the traffic collision avoidance system. and some years later, they were one of the first, if not the first airline to fly with an active tks system on board. >> six years later, betty barron is aboard a charter jet that collides with a dc-9 over france. all 68 on the dc-9 perish. everyone on betty's plane survives. >> my father was sitting in the aisle seat and i was sitting on the right-hand side, and i turned around, and he's very british and very stoic. and i said, "daddy, do you think we're going to make it?" and he said, "i rather doubt it, darling," and pointed to the other wing. somebody sent me this picture of when we landed of the plane. and as you can see, the tires
are all blown out, and this is the broken wing here. you can see all this. and i was told that afterwards, if we had lost one more meter of our wing -- in other words, it ends here -- then we would have blown up as well. i keep this always in my room to remind me that if you survive this, you can survive anything. >> then, in 1978 and 1986, there are two more midair collisions in the u.s. building on the accidents that preceded them, they force major change in the aviation industry. there are eerie similarities. both occur in broad daylight on picture-perfect days in southern california. the first on september 25th, 1978, is caught on camera. >> we heard a loud crash overhead and looked up to see
part of a cessna airplane spinning to the ground. then suddenly, we heard a thunderous crash that sounded like a bomb hitting. >> no one knows it yet, but 17 seconds earlier, half a mile above them, the private plane has collided with a boeing 727. pacific southwest airlines, psa flight 182. >> come on, get in the car! come on, just take this! >> at the moment of impact, nbc channel 39 reporter john briton and his cameraman steven howell are covering a press conference just a few blocks away in the residential san diego neighborhood. >> john and i were on a standard news story. and i'm shooting shots of gas station pumps. >> i was standing about right here. steve, the cameraman, was right behind me, and county supervisor lucile moore was standing about right here. and i was interviewing lucile standing here, and all of a sudden, you know, we hear this big --
>> something started falling out of the sky. people started just going, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh. >> what is that? >> and i just clicked the camera on right away and just moved out to the left side, and i'm looking up, and something like a comet was coming down from the sky. >> the photographer for the county is standing over here on this side. so, when the collision happened, hans looks up this way and hans got off two shots of the psa-182 before it crashed. >> when i looked up, all i saw was the airliner with the engine on fire, and it was starting to bank to the right, and a big chunk of the leading edge of the wing was torn off. so, i knew that the plane, you know, had to crash. it couldn't possibly survive. and everything happened very fast. i just got off one shot, sort of by instinct, and the second picture was almost the
silhouette. >> cameraman steve howell and i rushed to the scene two blocks away. there were several homes involved in a raging fire. it was thick, black smoke shooting 300 to 400 feet into the air. >> it was just a wall of flames. i'm going, it must have been a gas main or something, you know. i mean, how could this be? >> this was the largest thing that had ever happened to me in my news career to that point, and i knew it was big, i knew it was bad, but we didn't know it was a plane crash. when we come back, how an assumption leads to tragedy. >> they're required to tell air traffic control that they no longer have the cessna in sight. that didn't happen. orn online. which means fewer costs, which saves money. their customer experience is virtually paperless, which saves paper, which saves money. they have smart online tools, so you only pay for what's right for you, which saves money. they settle claims quickly, which saves time, which saves money.
san diego, september 25th, 1978. an nbc news crew captures a small plane spiraling to the ground after it has collided half a mile up with a much larger 727. >> behind us we heard a tremendous explosion. we knew at that point it was a lot more than just a single plane. and of course, we found out later it was an airliner. >> both pilots in the cessna are killed along with all 135 aboard the jet and 7 people in the residential neighborhood below. police set up a makeshift morgue at a nearby high school, and immediately, the questions begin. who's at fault? what caused this tragic accident? how could it have been avoided? to understand what happened, it's critical to know what transpired between air traffic control and the psa crew in the two minutes leading up to the
collision. >> as the boeing 727 was approaching san diego, they were told about a small general aviation airplane. >> it's a cessna. do you see him? and the psa flight crew said, yes, we see them. at that point, the psa crew became responsible for maintaining separation. >> the crew initially saw the airplane, but then at some point lost sight of it. they talked about it amongst the three pilots that were in the airplane. yeah, do you know where that cessna 172 is? i think it passed off the right side. >> they're required to tell air traffic control that they no longer have the cessna in sight. that didn't happen. >> the cessna 172 actually deviated without clearance from its assigned heading. >> unfortunately, it was in a position that was directly in front of but below the 727. the crew couldn't see just looking out the window where the
airplane was because it was below their field of view. >> start to lift. >> start to lift. >> the 172 struck the leading edge of the right wing about halfway across the span, and that is the famous picture. you see smoke and fire trailing from the right wing of the boeing 727. >> as a result, it pulled the nose further and further down and they couldn't stop it, and they lost control. they did not have control of the jet, and it tragically went into the ground. >> in its final report, the ntsb faults the psa crew for failing to maintain visual separation from the cessna and for failing to inform the controller when they no longer had the other aircraft in sight.
contributing to the accident, says the report, air traffic control procedures, authorizing controllers to use visual separation when radar was available. the report notes that flight crews exercise a lower degree of vigilance in areas where they receive radar assistance. and it says controllers seem to similarly relax vigilance. this controller may have believed that the flight crew had a better grasp on the situation than he did. >> it could be days before the cleanup is complete. and in the words of one policeman, it will be years before this neighborhood is ever the same. >> after the psa crash, the faa stepped up efforts to improve separation of aircraft around the nation's busiest airports and to modernize collision avoidance technology. but again, change simply doesn't happen fast enough. eight years later, 1986, another sunny day over southern california, another jet, another
small aircraft and another catastrophic midair collision. >> it was a sunday. it was in august. and my brother and i were playing on the driveway. my father was sitting on the lawn. and we were on our bikes. and i remember my brother just very casually said, look, there's a plane on fire, and it's coming down on our house. >> 6,500 feet above cerritos, california, a suburb east of los angeles, a privately owned piper archer has strayed into the path of aeromexico flight 498, a dc-9 with 64 people on board. at the time, corrine kingsbury is 5 years old. >> my father came and swooped us and brought us in the garage. and our garage door was obviously open.
and he said to us, "we're going to die." i remember it shook the ground and it just exploded. >> eight homes destroyed, five more severely damaged. more severely damaged, 24 dead on the ground and that number may go higher. >> i also remember seeing body parts and seats and people still in seats. it just smelled like death, like smoke and death. >> corrine's house is spared but many other homes in the neighborhood are not. when we come back, after the second mid-air collision in eight years, a public outcry for change amid heart breaking loss. >> i mean, who thinks your family is going to die in a plane crash. really? car accidents, not a plane crash. wait, i can freeze my account. [touch tone]
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good morning. the news from cerritos, california, keeps getting worse. there are officials searching through the ruins of sunday's mid-air crash and found 15 more people dead on the ground. >> labor day weekend 1986 more than a mile above cerritos, a suburb of los angeles, a piper archer smashes into aeromexico flight 498, a dc-9. the top of the piper is sheered off, instantly killing all three passengers aboard, a middle-aged couple and their adult daughter. in the crash over san diego a -- eight years earlier, the larger plane, psa flight 182, loses sight of a much smaller cessna, and slams into it from behind. over cerritos, the piper pilot doesn't realize he has strayed into controlled airspace surrounding lax, los angeles international airport.
>> when you're flying in unknown -- uncontrolled airspace, you don't necessarily have to talk to an air traffic controller. you don't necessarily have to have a transponder, but if you're going to operate anywhere within a controlled airspace, you have to have permission to operate in that airspace. you can't just fly into it without permission. >> the dc-9 crew believed correctly that they were in protected areas and they were. but unbeknownst to them, the piper had strayed in their airspace. >> the general aviation airplane struck the tail of the dc-9, taking off the vertical and horizontal stabilizer and rendered the dc-9 inverted. the back end of the airplane, and there's a picture of it as it descended upside down before it crashes into a neighborhood. >> counting passengers and those on the ground, the total number of people killed now stands at
85, and that could go even higher as the search continues for victims on tuesday, september 2, 1986. >> in some way the mid-air collisions in san diego and cerritos are so similar, there's a public outcry about how little has been done in the intervening years. >> after the first one, the recommendations they made were never implemented. so now this is the second time this has happened so that's why we tried to make a difference. but it's hard to fight government agencies, you know. >> denise guzman's family is particularly hard hit by the cerritos tragedy. her father-in-law, uncle, two nephews and a family friend are on flight 498, returning from a fishing trip in mexico. her husband is supposed to be with them but misses the trip to attend a funeral. when the plane crashes, part of the family is already waiting at the airport to pick them up. instead they head to the crash site. >> i mean, it was an inferno and you knew nobody -- there was
nobody going to survive that. i think my husband might have had a little hope, you know, are there any survivors? no. but i knew immediately that this was not going to have a good ending. >> in the neighborhood struck by disaster, the search for the missing goes on. >> i mean, who thinks your family is going to die in a plane crash. really? car accidents, not a plane crash. it's just like unheard of. how could that happen? and in our own neighborhood. that's what's ironic, our own neighborhood. >> probable cause as stated in the final ntsb report, limitations of the air traffic control system to provide collision protection and the inadvertent and unauthorized entry of the private plane into
los angeles terminal control area. with the knowledge gained from each mid-air collision, change has been on the horizon for decades but the aeromexico crash over cerritos brings it all home. by 1989 all aircraft operating up to 10,000 feet within 30 miles of terminal control areas must be equipped with transponders that convey altitude information. by 1993 all commercial carrier aircraft with ten seats or more operating within u.s. airspace are equipped with traffic alert and collision avoidance systems, tcas. >> the culmination beginning back with piedmont flight 22 going through the psa accident and then finally through the cerritos accident were all building blocks to promote this technology, which evolved into the modern system of tcas, which is a great predictive tool. >> the faa really had to take the bull by the horn, if you will, and do something to try and prevent these accidents from occurring. we increased or enhanced radar coverage. we enhanced air traffic control communication with flight crews.
they changed the airspace. they actually created a system of controlled airspace, trying to avoid or at least mitigate the risk that you were going to have these transient pilots just flying through these high density areas in close proximity to major airports. >> all the lessons learned have made flying so safe and mid-air collisions so rare, according to an mit study you'd have to fly continuously for 11,000 years in order to experience one. unfortunately, many people had to lose their lives to arrive at
what is surely the safest moment yet in aviation history. all of a sudden, i heard a big explosion. >> a mysterious flaw brings down a boeing 737. >> there's something going on that left no marks, no calling card. >> shortly after takeoff, a powerful explosion rips apart twa flight 800, igniting controversy about what really happened. >> if anybody thinks that this chairman is involved in any kind of cover-up, they're damn wrong. >> conflicting commands put two jets on a collision course. >> descend, descend. >> and the devastation provokes a violent act.