NTSB: The Crash of Flight 323 (2004)

TV Movie   |    |  Drama

A team of federal investigators have to comb through the wreckage of a crashed airplane to find the cause of the fatal downing. Was it terrorism? Negligence? Human failure? Or just a tragic accident?


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3 November 2004 | roald-1
| An insult to «planespotters»
This movie is the culmination of the film industry's low-budget use of random sets for passenger planes and cheap footage. The actors enter one type of aircraft on the outside and suddenly appear in a totally different make and model on the inside, while they fly away in a third or land in a fourth. It is especially sad in a story about the expert investigators from the N.T.S.B. and their serious work. The title will probably attract many viewers who actually know something about planes, and the producers should have paid for a consultant who can tell one type of aircraft from another.

From the outside, the accident plane appears to be from the Boeing 737-series. These are wider-bodied planes with 6 seats abreast, 3 on each side of the aisle. They have 2 engines, one under each wing. Maximum seat capacity is 189. Yet, the interior shots in the film show 5 seats abreast, 3 to the right and 2 to the left of the aisle. This is typical of the DC9 or MD-80 series which are slim-bodied planes with two engines at the back of the fuselage. Maximum seat capacity is 172.

The seating chart set up to identify passengers during the investigation also appears to be of the DC9-type. The number of extras shown in the plane is much less than 100.

Yet, the story tells us that there were 236 passengers on board, and that the plane was 20 years old. The only planes made with such a seating capacity would be the «Jumbo» Boeing 747, the DC-10 or the Lockheed TriStar. All would have two aisles and 7 or more seats abreast, and a fuselage twice as high as the wreckage shown on the set in this film.

It does not help that the story invents a non-existent name for the plane and its maker, because it would still have to be much larger with such a seating capacity.

To appoint the owner of the airline as the «bad guy» is not realistic in this case, either. A malfunctioning rudder valve would be the responsibility of the manufacturer, not the airline, and a minor one to correct as for costs. The rudder mechanism was actually under suspicion after several real accidents with Boeing 737s in heavy turbulence around 1990, and the problem was solved by Boeing (not the airlines).

The conflict between air safety and the profits of an airline is more often whether the airline fulfills its safety requirements and schedules for maintenance and service of the aircraft. These detailed schedules are specified by the manufacturer and the F.A.A. as suggested by the N.T.S.B., and are constantly revised.

There have been so many real air disasters worthy of filming, that the makers of this film could have chosen a better story.

Free Fall (1999) is a better movie as for technical details and investigation experts, although it also has its discrepancies.

The extensive reports of the real N.T.S.B. are open to the public on the net.

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