E1 Entertainment // 2003 // 312 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 23rd, 2009
Gripping true stories of midair emergencies.
Flying is a very safe way to travel, and big air emergencies aren't necessarily that frequent, but they do occasionally happen and often end in tragedy. Major airplane accidents always attract a lot of attention, and one of the first questions people are interested in is how and why these catastrophes happened. Mayday: Air Disasters closely examines six real-life midair emergencies that have made the news during the past couple of decades, offering viewers detailed accounts of what exactly happened before, during, and after some of these unfortunate incidents.
This two-disc collection features all six episodes from the show's first season. Disc One includes "Unlocking Disaster," which follows what happened to United Airlines Flight 811 after a cargo door opened in-flight; "Racing the Storm," which focuses on two pilots struggling to land American Airlines Flight 1420 in the middle of a severe thunderstorm; and "Fire on Board," which follows the fate of Swissair Flight 111, which crashed after a fire broke out on board.
The second disc includes "Flying Blind," which follows AeroPeru Flight 603 as it crashed because of a technical failure; "Cutting Corners," about Alaska Airlines Fight 261, which crashed because of a maintenance error; and "Flying on Empty," which follows the pilots of Air Transat Flight 236 as they attempt to land after running out of fuel and losing the engines.
Each episode in this collection runs for about 50 minutes, starting off with a brief introduction of the incident before offering viewers a detailed re-enactment on what happened on-board the machine. The focus then shifts to the official investigations following the catastrophes, with aviation experts commenting on the evidence and further explaining how these emergencies came about and how some of them could have easily been prevented.
Mayday: Air Disasters is a conventional television documentary series, but most of these episodes are quite informative and intriguing. Using a large variety of eyewitness accounts, interviews with survivors and aviation experts, photographs, official documents, clear voiceovers, animations, and fast-paced re-enactments, the creators of the show produced an interesting series that is easily accessible to large audiences.
For a documentary series produced for TV, Mayday: Air Disaster boasts a pretty solid picture quality backed by a clean 1.77:1 anamorphic presentation. Recent footage obviously looks a tad better than some of the archival footage featured in the episodes, but overall, I really can't complain how the show looks. The same goes for the audio transfer, which perfectly balances the sound of interviews, voiceover, and other special effects (especially during the re-enactments). This set does not include any special features.
If news coverage of airplane disasters attracts your attention, Mayday: Air Disaster is a series you will enjoy. It's a well-produced show with plenty of compelling information about tragic accidents, telling how some people survived and others didn't.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 312 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated