Air Crash Investigation Review: High-flying Disaster

AIR CRASH INVESTIGATION: Monday 7th March, National Geographic, 9pm

Amongst the phobias of heights, spiders and Simon Cowell, the fear of flying is possibly one of the highest ranked terrors people experience, (so says our official fear chart at OTB). So it is not that far of a stretch to say that the creators of a programme entitled Air Crash Investigation are all sadists, beckoning us to tune into our worst nightmare. When you turn on the TV the last thing you think is; let’s watch the possible failures that could afflict an aircraft so that next time we’re sat in economy class, instead of nonchalantly sipping our tenth coffee and browsing the duty free magazine – we are crapping ourselves.

ACI looks into the trouble Heathrow found itself in a Boeing 777 (which is kitted out with two Rolls-Royce engines), crash landed during its flight from Beijing to London in 2008, resulting in Heathrow’s most serious accident in 30 years. While bringing us the memories of the crew, passengers and investigators with a stream of lukewarm interviews, ACI’s package is completed with hilariously wooden reconstructions which come across as a poor man’s version of CSI, minus all the fun with the corpses. Cameras zoom into speaking mouths (because when in doubt of how to add to the drama, always zoom into a mouth), drums beat in the background and quick-fire editing makes shots of places like Farnborough appear as if they are introducing Washington DC in a particularly droll episode of 24.

These interviews and reconstructions reveal that the Boeing 777 in question decided to shut itself down mid-flight (and being a plane that is controlled by computers which are fed information by pilots – it was assumed that the cause was a frozen computer). The first issue with this problem is; did we learn nothing from Terminator? Never trust the machines. And secondly; the data retained from the computer revealed that it was not a technical fault.

After much atmospherically-shot investigating, it is discovered that while we can currently still trust the machines, we cannot trust Mother Nature, and the failure of power was caused by a build up of ice from water in the fuel tank. Fascinating, no? Well no, not really. And believe it or not it takes 45 minutes to get to this unimpressive conclusion.

If you have an interest in flying, piloting, or general disaster stories, then by all means kick back and revel in the endless facts and statistics of this recent air crash, no doubt you’ll be drawn in by phrases such as ‘FOHE, the fuel-oil heat exchanger’, or ‘100% fatalities’ (don’t worry everyone involved survived..) If not, then there is nothing particularly intriguing or interesting within Air Craft Investigation to really dig your teeth into. And I don’t think I even need to say, but if you do have a fear of flying, steer clear. Flick on an episode of LOST and console yourself with the fact that if your plane does crash, there’s always the possibility you’ll end up on a time-travelling island.