History Essay on Canadian Gander Air Crash

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Middlebury College
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The DC-8 Jetliner that crashed on December 12, 1985, is considered to be the largest and most catastrophic airplane crash in the Canadian history. The flight was ferrying the United States troops back home from Cairo, Egypt, where they had gone for six months peacekeeping mission in Sinai. The crash killed a total of 248 passengers as well as eight airplane crew members who were onboard the plane CITATION Uns16 \l 1033 (Unsolved Mysteries, 2016). Also, the crash occurred approximately half a mile away from the runway. Over the years, numerous theories of the primary reasons that led to the crash have been developed. Nevertheless, most of such theories have been controversies aimed at justifying that the plane crash was staged. This essay is a comprehensive research of the Canadian Air Gander air crash that occurred in 1985 and killed over 250 persons.

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Description and Explanation of the Gander Crash

The cause of the crash can be deemed to be both natural and human-made factors. This is because according to the Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB) after the airplane had departed from the airport, climatic precipitation occurred (Stich, 2010). Consequently, the precipitation resulted in the development of ice on the aircrafts wings. This natural phenomenon was considered to be the primary reasons that caused the crash. In addition, the catastrophic event could also have been triggered by human-made factors. This is because the CASB asserted that prior to its departure, the plane had not been de-iced CITATION Rod10 \l 1033 (Stich, 2010).

Evaluation of the Emergency Plan in Place at the Time of the Disaster

After the occurrence of the airplane crash, there was a special team of military forces that had been trained to manage emergency scenarios involving airplanes. Such forces include the Military Police and the Canadian Forces who were all stationed at the renowned Canadian Forces Base situated in Gander, Newfoundland CITATION Ska01 \l 1033 (Skaarup, 2001). At the time, there were approximately 500 service members who had been positioned at the base CITATION Uns16 \l 1033 (Unsolved Mysteries, 2016). In addition, there was an estimated 30 U.S. Navy sailors at the base who been on attachment at the base CITATION Uns16 \l 1033 (Unsolved Mysteries, 2016).

Discussion of What Did Not Work

During the search and rescue mission, the team involved in the search could not contain the fire that had engulfed part of the airplanes cargo. This was accredited to reason that the military airplane was carrying explosives, which could have escalated the fire after the crash CITATION Fen12 \l 1033 (Fenelon, 2012). In addition, the fire firefighters involved in the rescue could not contain parts of fire at the crash site with water. Also, the team searched for any survivors of the airplane crash for a radius of half a mile, but they could not find any survivors.

Discussion of Whether the Event Could have been Prevented

Arguably, the catastrophic event that led to the death of more than 250 persons could have been prevented. First, the airplane control center at the airport could not have allowed the plane to departure during the unfavorable climatic conditions. According to the CASB, precipitation was the primary cause of the airplane crash. As such, if the plane had left a few hours after the precipitation had settled, the tragedy could not have occurred. In addition, the CASB also stated that prior to its departure, the plane had not been de-iced. De-icing the plane would have also prevented the tragedy from taking place.

Risks to the People and Emergency Rescue Personnel During and After the Crisis

Quantitatively, it cannot be validly computed, on the specific number of persons who were affected by the plane crash. Nevertheless, according to a post published on the Unsolved Mysteries website (2016), a rescuer who was a member of the rescue team during the crash reported that himself and 30 others were diagnosed with various sicknesses after the crash. Such sicknesses ranged from liver complications to general illnesses. This occurrence was attributed to the radiation poisoning that occurred after the military equipment that was on the plane exploded and caught fire after the crash CITATION Uns16 \l 1033 (Unsolved Mysteries, 2016).

Ripple Effects That This Event May Have Had On Other Industries and Society

The aftermath of the Gander airplane tragedy enforced the need for all industries, institutions, and society to enact emergency planning interventions as well as communication programs. Such programs would be effective in combating emergency situations such as a plane crash. In addition, the need to acquire such preparedness measures can be attributed to the reason that after the crash, there was poor emergency planning and communication among the rescue teams. As a result, they could not save the crash victims.

Beneficial Lessons Gained From the 1985 Gander Plane Crash Disaster

There are several benefits that could be attributed to the lessons learned from the 1985 Gander aircraft crash catastrophe. First, the emergency preparedness measures by various governments and aircraft services corporations have been developed. Such measures have been aimed at managing any instances of airplane emergency cases that may occur at any point in time. In addition, an improved communication programs aimed at ensuring good communication between the pilots and the flight control team at the airport control center have been developed.

This is in almost all airports situated in different parts of the world. Such features have ensured that distressed pilots or airplanes can send their distress signals to the rescue team on the ground in preparation for any emergency landing that could take place. For instance, the Canadian forces have provisioned abundant search and rescue resources for the squadrons of the SAR aircraft personnel in the nation. In addition, the government has employed 750 personnel in the Canadian SAR team. Such personnel included the aircrew, the ground crew, rescue technicians as well as 150 search party personnel CITATION Uns16 \l 1033 (Unsolved Mysteries, 2016).

What Could Have Been Done to Eliminate the Effects of the Crash

The primary effect of the crash was the radiation exposure that was contributed by the military equipment that was on board the flight during the crash. Such radiation caused respiratory system complications among the search and rescue team members involved in the crash. As such, to eliminate such unfavorable effects, the crash site would have been sealed off from the public. Instead, only a qualified search and rescue personnel team could have entered the crash site for the rescue mission. Ultimately, this could have averted the numerous health-related complications that affected numerous persons after the event.

Roles as a Public Safety Communications Officer Involved in the Crash

As a public safety communications officer, I would have been involved in dispatching radio calls and other forms of communication between the search parties involved in the rescue mission. I would also have been involved in coordinating the public safety responses in regard to accessing the complexity and severity of the incident. This is so as to develop strategic measures of containing the situation and as a result attain the best rescue mission results. A public safety communications officer could also coordinate the task force mandated to restrict the untrained public members from accessing the accident site CITATION Por16 \l 1033 (Portland Community College, 2016). This is so as to avoid exposing them to more danger from the accident.

Discussion of Whether the Communication System Performed as Expected

It is plausible to state that the communication system set in place to manage emergency situations involving airplanes did not work as expected. For instance, it could not be stated why the pilot, after he had realized the plane was in danger, did not communicate with the command center at the nearest airport. In addition, there was poor coordination of the search and rescue party personnel involved in the crash. This can be accredited to the reason that the team did not arrive at the crash site in time to rescue the crash victims.


In conclusion, the Canadian Gander air crash that took place in 1985 has been the most catastrophic airplane tragedy in the Canadian history. A total of 256 persons perished in the crash. According to the CASB, the crash occurred due to climatic precipitation that caused ice to develop on the aircrafts wings. It is evident that there was poor emergency preparedness plan at the time of the disaster. As a result, no survivors were rescued from the crash. Also, the tragedy could have been averted if the plane had not been allowed to depart during the unfavorable climatic conditions. In addition, the plane had not been de-iced prior to its departure. Ultimately, to avoid such catastrophes in the future, it would be essential for institutions, industries, and society to develop effective emergency rescue preparedness plans to prepare for any emergency event in the future.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Fenelon, H. S. (2012). That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America. Bloomington: iUniverse.

Portland Community College. (2016, September). Public Safety Communications Officer. Retrieved from Portland Community College: https://www.pcc.edu/hr/employment/classified-jobs/commoff.html

Skaarup, H. A. (2001). Canadian Warbird Survivors 2002: A Handbook on Where to Find Them. Bloomington: iUniverse.

Stich, R. (2010). History of U.S. Aviation Disasters: 1950 to 9/11. Alamo: Silverpeak Enterprises.

Unsolved Mysteries. (2016). Airliner Crash at Gander. Retrieved from Unsolved Mysteries: http://unsolved.com/archives/airliner-crash-gander

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