Air Emergency (2003– )
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Blown Apart 

On 8 September 1989, Partnair Flight 394 drove into the sea between Norway and Denmark, killing 55 people.


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Episode credited cast:
Peter Friedman Peter Friedman ... Himself
Terry Heaslip Terry Heaslip ... Himself
Finn Heimdal Finn Heimdal ... Himself
Jan Ovind Jan Ovind ... Himself
Greg Phillips Greg Phillips ... Himself
Mary Schiavo Mary Schiavo ... Herself


On 8 September 1989, Partnair Flight 394 drove into the sea between Norway and Denmark, killing 55 people.

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Release Date:

25 November 2009 (Canada) See more »

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The sound dubbed over the images of the Convair plane are consistently mismatched throughout. They are clearly the sounds of a combustion engined plane while the specific Convair in question was a turboprop conversion (as is stated by the commentary.) See more »

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User Reviews

Extreme Carelessness
29 October 2016 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

This episode is a Doozie. A 36 year-old twin-engined Convair falls apart in mid-air and plunges into the North Sea. Fifty people die. The usual suspects are examined and ruled out. No bomb. (Lockerbie was only a year earlier.) No explosion, no collision. Yet the airplane was in pieces before it hit the ocean.

And, oh, what a tangled web the Norwegian investigators run into. The airline -- Partnair -- was in such profound financial trouble that the co-pilot had to take money out of his own wallet and pay off the caterers providing in-flight food before the airplane was permitted to leave the ground. The Convair was old to begin with. I could have flown in the same airplane from Newark to Phoenix.

But a review of the wreckage reveals a long history of mistakes and errors, all of which, collectively, vibrated in such a way as to remove the airplane's vertical fin. I'll give one example. A year earlier, vibrations had been reported and the Convair was overhauled in Canada. There are only four bolts holding the fin on to the fuselage.

One bolt was replaced in Canada and the vibrations ceased for a while, then returned. The other three bolts, actually holding the tail together, had been mis-manufactured (if that's a word) during heat treatment and were tested out as only 60 per cent as strong as they should have been. The ultimate cause was three fake bolts that had been marketed and bought as something they weren't.

It sent a shock wave through the air transport industry by highlighting the substandard parts problem. The world-wide supply of parts was contaminated. There are six million moving parts on a 747 alone. At the time, the spare parts industry was largely unregulated. How many of those parts are fraudulent?

The results of the study were fascunating. The Federal Aviation Administration began by examining its own bins of spare parts. Thirty-nine percent were found to be not authentic. Bogus parts were found built into Air Force One. Parts had been taken from junkyards or manufactured in the black market. (Fakes cost 30 percent of authentic parts.) Each authentic part required a certificate and signature of inspection but these too were counterfeited routinely. The FBI arrested more than 100 bogus parts dealers.

There's a good deal of other information about the structural failure, all of it technical but all of it presented in an intelligible manner, as usual.

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