I’m always conflicted about watching an episode of Mayday. I’m fascinated by how airplanes work and the unfortunate circumstances that bring them down, but I also love to fly, so seeing a flaming ball of wreckage on a runway sends shivers up my spine. Of course, the point of Mayday‘s real stories isn’t just to focus on the accidents themselves but how such incidents go a long way to improving airplane safety.
Season 15 kicks off Friday at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery with “Fatal Transmission,” the tale of a fiery collision between a United Express commuter flight and a small private plane in Quincy, Ill., that leaves investigators flummoxed. Did the fact the pilot and first mate had been working for 12 hours straight figure into what happened? Did having no flight attendant present during the 20-minute jaunt contribute to the death toll? Have pre-recorded in-cabin safety instructions become merely background noise?
Throughout the course of the episode, the impact multiple takeoffs and landings have on a flight crew, the common practice of letting first mates control the bulk of a flight to acquire hours of experience, and a lack of air traffic control at small airports are all offered as possible reasons for what occurred next: a deadly conflagration that claimed 14 lives.
Mayday‘s strength in storytelling remains the eyewitness accounts, and that continues Friday as flight instructor Paul Walker provides a dramatic and tragic account of what happened. Heartrending news footage continues the story until the National Transportation Safety Board and lead investigator Tom Haueter arrives. It doesn’t take long until the shocking reasons for the accident are revealed.
Mayday airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery.