Travel Tips

Plane Crash in Madrid and the Story Behind the Concorde

Locations in this article:  Beijing, China Madrid, Spain Paris, France

Spanair planeLast week was that terrible plane crash in Madrid—the Spanair MD-82 flight where more than 150 people were killed. Miraculously, some people survived, and hopefully we might be able to hear their side of the story eventually.

They have recovered the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, and I’ll be talking about that in the days to come as the investigation continues.

And speaking of airplane crashes, I’ve been working now for over three years on a special project that will air on September 19 on NBC.

We’re going to tell you for the first time in over eight years what really happened when the Concorde crashed just outside of Paris back in July 2000.

So check your local listings: it’ll be a special one-hour edition of Dateline on September 19, hosted by yours truly.

We’re going to talk about the stuff you didn’t know about probably the most celebrated airplane of the 20th century, the supersonic Concorde. As many of you know, it is no longer flying, and some would say it is no longer flying as a direct result of that terrible tragedy.

When you look at just the preliminary information coming from the Spanish authorities about the crash of that Spanair MD-82 plane, that one of the engines failed, you have to wonder, because every plane is certified for takeoff with only one engine. I know for a fact, and most pilots will even tell you, that that particular airplane is over-powered (which is a good thing by the way) except if you become asymmetrical.

If you lose an engine on takeoff and the captain and cockpit crew does not respond quickly and compensate for that, the plane will become asymmetrical and it’s over. I don’t care how well the plane has been certified to fly with one engine. And in this case something became asymmetrical very quickly, and the plane careened off the runway and exploded into flames.

MD83 jet crashedWhat’s interesting about the Madrid airport is that the runway the plane was on is one of the longest in the world. It’s 14,000 feet long, more than double what an MD-82 needs to take off.

So, we’re not going to speculate about what happened—it’s way premature to even get into that—except to say that we’ll be on top of the story as we were on the Concorde story. It took a long time to find out about that one, but I will get back to you as soon as we know more.


The Olympics are now over. You may remember that I mentioned in previous blog postings that China’s authorities sent an email and a memo to 112 officially sanctioned Olympic restaurants in Beijing saying that they had to take dog off the menu for the Olympics.

So attention all dogs in Beijing: RUN! Run! The Olympics are over! And for those of you going to Beijing, whatever you do, don’t order the dog special. Certain traditions are not going to change easily over there.

If you are headed to China, here’s a piece of good news. Believe it or not, they’ve been opening up hotels at the rate of two per week in that country. Holiday Inn alone has been opening up one per week, and you know what that means: Starting next month, hotel rooms are going to be on sale throughout the entire country of China. It will be a buyers’ market, and now is the time to go when all the crowds have left.

The bad news is that the factories have started producing again. The smoke will get in your eyes, and you better wear a Hazmat suit. But other than that, at least the rooms won’t be expensive. And get ready to see deals like you cannot believe.


And speaking of deals that you cannot believe—and I hesitate to say this because I don’t know how long it’s going to stay true—but there are huge airfare sales coming up in the next five days to Europe. They’re starting two weeks earlier than they usually do because the airlines have looked at their advance projections, and guess what they’re seeing for September through November?

Nothing! And you know where else they’re seeing nothing—Hawaii. Go figure.

You’re seeing occupancy rates going from 95 percent down to 35 percent. The kids are back in school, people aren’t vacationing, so if you’ve ever wanted to go out to the islands, between September 15 and November 17 is the time to book. You’re seeing airfare sales left and right.

Even though the airlines have reduced capacity, they still can’t fill the planes, and the hotels still can’t fill the rooms. So that’s a little bit of silver lining to offset the news that airlines are cutting U.S. capacity across the board on September 15 by about 15 percent.

From Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio

Check out Peter’s Travel Detective Blog for more travel news and analysis.