Air Emergency (2003– )
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Grand Canyon Disaster 

A mid-air collision of two passenger planes over the Grand Canyon shocks 1956 America. Conclusions reached by investigators of this accident will change aviation forever.


Trevor Cornish


Andre Barro (series created by), Richard O'Regan | 1 more credit »




Episode credited cast:
Stephen Bogaert ... Captain Jack Gandy
James Downing ... Captain Robert Shirley
Curtis Caravaggio ... First Officer Robert Harms
Tony Nappo ... Flight Engineer Gerald Fiore
Diana Bentley ... Flight Attendant
Michael Copeman ... Jack Parshall
Byron Rouse Byron Rouse ... CAB Investigator
James Gangl ... LAX Tower Controller
Chris Gibbs ... GAA Controller
Benjamin Clost Benjamin Clost ... TWA Dispatcher
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jonathan Aris ... Narrator (voice)
Clay Lacy Clay Lacy ... Self - Former United Airlines Pilot
Bob Macintosh Bob Macintosh ... Self - Former Investigator, NTSB
John Nance ... Self - Aviation Analyst
Bill Ratner ... Narrator (voice)


A mid-air collision of two passenger planes over the Grand Canyon shocks 1956 America. Conclusions reached by investigators of this accident will change aviation forever.

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TV-14 | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


In the collision scene, the TWA Constellation violently swings backwards before the United DC-7 makes any contact with it. See more »

User Reviews

Folks, If You Look Out Your Window, You'll See Another Airplane.
7 September 2016 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

This show continues to impress me. A United DC7 takes off from Los Angeles and has a mid-air collision with another airliner over the Grand Canyon, a sensational event that I can still remember reading about in the newspapers.

It's 1956. The sky is largely empty because people are still getting used to the idea that they can fly rather than drive or take the train. There are only 117 commercial aircraft registered in the entire state of California.

There is the usual array of talking heads, newsreel footage, judiciously used computer-generated images, and reenactments. I really AM impressed. The producers have gone to the trouble of replicating the uniforms of the Stewardesses on the flights. And contemporary 1956 film clips are shown, those infomercials of the period, praising the comfort, the food, and the convenience of air travel. The narrator's "guy next door" voice assures us of the safety of flight.

The United flight fails to report its position at the appointed time. Similarly there is no message from a TWA Constellation that took off from L.A. at the same time, headed for Kansas City.

In the absence of radar or any beacons from the two airplanes a visual search is made and the wreckage found in the Grand Canyon. It's a tough spot for an investigation. The Grand Canyon is very deep. There are seven climactic zones from top to bottom. And the surface is corrugated, filled with rocky outcroppings and niches. And in 1956 there was nothing resembling the advanced technology of today, no black boxes. The investigatory techniques were rudimentary.

Both airplanes were assigned to fly different routes at different altitudes, but the TWA flight reported it was climbing from its assigned 19,000 feet to 21,000 to avoid clouds. That put both flights at the same altitude. But how did they come to the same spot in the sky? It was common in 1956 for pilots to fly over spectacular landscapes to give the passengers a show. "Wonderful sights down below," says the reassuring narration from the 1956 aviation commercial. "That's the Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world." The pilots didn't see each other because one had just emerged from a cloud and of course neither had onboard radar.

The usual question is "whose fault was it?" But it's inappropriate There are dysfunctions that are no one's fault. If you sit down at a computer and you find the keyboard is too high to reach comfortably, it is your fault? The computer's? The chair's? In this case both pilots followed the rules, as did the air traffic controller. Given the circumstances the collision was unavoidable.

It was the system -- the set of rules and the technology -- that needed changing. This disaster was such a shock that the necessary improvement followed promptly. Accidents of course will continue to happen. The sky is now more crowded than ever. But the technology has changed apace.

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Release Date:

24 January 2013 (Canada) See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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