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NOVA: The Deadliest Plane Crash

Airs Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Photo of the crash of two Boeing 747 airliners that collided in thick fog on the runway at a tiny airport in the Canary Islands, killing 583 passengers and crew.

Accident-Proof Runways?

Find out how new airport radar systems could help prevent crashes on the runway.

In "The Deadliest Plane Crash," NOVA presents a gripping investigation of what went wrong when two Boeing 747 airliners collided in thick fog on the runway at a tiny airport in the Canary Islands, killing 583 passengers and crew — the worst loss of life in any air disaster.

With heart-breaking survivor interviews, re-enactments and a detective-story approach, NOVA pieces together the clues that led to a fatal take-off decision by the highly experienced captain of the KLM 747, who couldn’t see the Pan Am 747 still parked on the runway, lost in the fog ahead of him. The disaster led to fundamental improvements in air safety, but experts worry that a repeat of the Tenerife disaster could still happen.

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Video Excerpt: NOVA: The Deadliest Plane Crash

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Above: In "The Deadliest Crash," NOVA presents a gripping investigation of what went wrong when two Boeing 747 airliners collided in thick fog on the runway at a tiny airport in the Canary Islands, killing 583 passengers and crew.