Pilots must run through hundreds of small steps in order to make a plane fly; forgetting just one of the steps on the checklist could mean disaster.
The loss of life from the 1987 crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 was the second greatest loss in the history of US aviation. Yet there was one survivor, a four-year-old girl. Just as improbable and shocking as her survival is the reason why the plane fell to the earth just seconds after takeoff. Relive the aircraft's tragically brief but deadly flight, and discover, through investigators' painstaking research, the series of events and shocking blunders that claimed 156 lives.
Access even more free Smithsonian Channel full episodes and documentaries online through participating TV providers.
Find out if your television provider carries Smithsonian Channel.
Don't panic! It's simple to upgrade to the latest version of one of these browsers:
Don't panic! To get the best possible experience on smithsonianchannel.com we recommend you upgrade your operating system.
For the best possible site experience, please use Chrome for Android.
Add username "SmithsonianChan" on Snapchat for fun and fascinating facts. We'll be sharing spontaneous photos and videos as inspiration strikes.