According to a newscast later in the movie:
"Officials believe deterioration of silicon insulation on an electrical connector to the scavenger pump may have leaked combustible fluids. A spark in the fuel switch in the fuselage may have ignited the fuel line and proceeded to the fuel pump which would have set off the catastrophic explosion."
In the films
Alex and his French class board the plane for their trip to Paris. Christa Marsh and Blake Dreyer ask Tod Waggner, Alex's friend, if he can move to Alex's row so they can sit together, but Tod lies and says that he has a medical condition. The girls then decide to ask Alex.
After Alex takes his seat, Blake and Christa ask him to move to Tod's row. Despite Tod's silent protests, Alex gets up and moves to his row. As he sits down, the tray table in front of Alex unfolds. Alex props the tray table back up and attempts to lock it, but accidentally pulls out the pin, allowing the tray table to unfold again.
Moments after taking off, the plane shakes slightly due to turbulence, alarming some of the passengers. A flight attendant assures some of the passengers that everything is okay, when the cabin begins to shake violently which causes things to topple onto a woman sitting next to Ms. Lewton, killing her. The oxygen masks drop down and the passengers struggle to put them on as the pilots attempt to redirect the plane back to the landing strip. A large explosion occurs in rows 17 and 18 on the left side of the cabin, showering passengers with sparks and fire, and killing all three passengers in row 17. The fuselage of row 18 rips away, initially sucking out two of the three students within the row. Ms. Lewton attempts to save the third student by reaching out and trying to grab her hand, but is unable to as the third student is sucked out of the cabin. A ball of fire erupts next to the exposed hole in the fuselage.
The plane begins to nosedive, throwing a passenger from his seat and down the aisle, and a stereo boombox falls and hits the back of Tod's head, killing him. The fuel pump at the front left of the plane explodes and a wall of fire roars throughout the cabin, incinerating Alex and the other passengers.Alex suddenly snaps awake on the plane in his original seat, and realizes what he just experienced was a premonition. Blake and Christa are asking him to switch seats when he panics, running to the seat next to Tod and sees that the tray table is broken. He shouts that the plane is going to explode, prompting Carter Horton to get angry and attempts to assault Alex. This results in Alex, Carter, Terry Chaney (Carter's girlfriend), Billy Hitchcock, Mr. Murnau and Ms. Lewton getting kicked off the plane. Tod later removes himself off the plane when his brother, George Waggner, suggests that he should keep an eye on Alex. Clear Rivers removes herself shortly after Tod.
After they are evacuated to the terminal, a co-pilot tells Ms. Lewton that only one high school faculty member can get back to the plane. Mr. Murnau decides to return to the plane. Before the plane departs, Carter lectures Alex, saying that they "blow a half a day in Paris all because [Alex] Browning had a bad fucking dream". Carter then begins to ridicule Alex, and prompts him to tackle Carter. The two attempt to fight as police officers restrain them.
The plane then explodes in mid-air, and the shockwave from the explosion is so powerful that the glass windows in the terminal shatter. As the officers call for help, the other survivors look at Alex in horror and watch as the burning wreckage fall from the sky.
Final Destination 5After Alex notices his vision, Sam Lawton and Molly Harper arrive on the plane to leave for Paris before they witness him and the other survivors being removed from the plane during a fight. Sam and Molly, unaware of his warning, take their seats before the plane departs. While at cruising altitude, the fasten seat belt sign above them flickers. Sam begins suffering the recurring omens from his premonition, and soon overhears the flight attendant talking to a passenger about Alex and his vision. As he realizes that he and Molly were too late to get off, engine #1 erupts into flames. Sam and Molly hold on to each other as they stare at the burning engine in disbelief. Engine #1 suddenly explodes, sending out shrapnel that tears holes throughout the fuselage.
Inside the cabin, the oxygen masks drop due to partial loss of cabin pressure. The plane tilts downward to the right. As Sam and Molly attempt to grab a hold of their oxygen masks, the fuselage in rows 22 through 24 rips away, sucking two passengers out of the plane. Molly is sucked out, but is temporarily saved when Sam holds on to her. Unfortunately, Sam loses his grip and watches Molly get bisected by the horizontal stabilizer of the plane. The fuel pump at the front left of the plane explodes, separating the cockpit from the rest of the plane. A wall of fire roars into the plane's interior, incinerating Sam and everyone else. The burning plane finally explodes and sends a fiery piece of the landing gear toward the city where it ultimately crashes through the ceiling of a bar and crushes Nathan Sears.
Death toll: 287
Further Analysis of the Explosion of Fight 180
The Seating ChartThe students are seated just at the middle section of the plane where the wings are located. When the students board the plane and begin to make their way to their seats, there is a shot that shows a close-up (or, the POV of Alex) of the row numbers as he makes his way down the aisle toward his assigned seat, Row 25 Seat I. It should be noted that the section where the students sat, according to the seating chart of a Boeing 747, is located where the wings are—in the middle of the plane.
However, in FInal Destination 5, it is shown that the students were located at the back of the plane, where Sam and Molly were seated as well. Where this misconception originated from is unknown, but looking closer reveals that Sam and Molly were seated in Row 23 Seats B and A.
In Final Destination 5, as the plane accident occurs, multiple exterior shots show that the fuselage that had torn away (from Engine #1 exploding) was further back of the plane than the section that the students were actually sitting in; the hole that forms where Sam and Molly are sitting is at the very back of the plane, different from where they’re actually supposed to be sitting.
The Premonition Explosion vs. The Real-Life Explosion
In Final Destination, the plane seems to explode only seconds after takeoff, completely disregarding how long it took for the explosion to occur in the premonition. According to the video below, the side-by-side comparison between the plane exploding in the premonition versus real-life shows that the plane explodes at about the same time. A closer inspection reveals that the reasoning behind this is due to the different circumstances that occur in both the premonition and in real-life.
At the beginning, both scenes start out completely the same, down to the similarity of the timing when Billy tells the flight attendant, “My seat is over there."
However, there is a break in between when the students are thrown off the plane, and when Alex begins to recount his premonition. During this break, Tod calls Alex’s parents to come and pick him up from the airport, and then grabs a wet rag from the café barista to put on the back of Alex’s neck, allowing about 30 seconds to a minute to pass in real-time compared to in the premonition.
According to the news report on the possible cause behind the explosion of Flight 180:
- “Officials believe deterioration of silicon insulation on an electrical connector to the scavenger pump may have leaked combustible fluids. A spark in the fuel switch in the fuselage may have ignited the fuel line and proceeded to the fuel pump which would have set off the catastrophic explosion.”
In the premonition, as the plane takes off and increases in altitude, the deterioration of the silicon insulation is currently occurring. After enough time has passed while they are in the air, the plane malfunctions due to this deterioration and ultimately causes the explosion.
In comparison, during real-time, the plane remains at the gate during the entire duration of when the students are kicked off the plane and until they’re calmed down while waiting in the terminal. The plane doesn’t pull away from the gate until after Alex has calmed down and begins recounting his vision. Whereas in the vision, since everything occurs per usual, the plane has already taken off at the same instant that the students have been kicked off the plane in real-time.
One possible theory is that in real-time, between the moment Alex wakes up from his premonition, and when the plane finally leaves the gate, the silicon insulation was deteriorating during the time that the plane remained on the ground as the students were being escorted off. Once the plane finally took off, much of the insulation had already been corroded, causing the plane to explode just after takeoff, and much sooner/closer to the airport than in the premonition.
Based on this theory, this means that:
- The fuselage does not peel away and suck out the three students
- None of the plane engines catch on fire
- The plane never nosedives before exploding
- There may have never even been a moment where the oxygen masks even dropped from their compartments
- At most, the plane probably shook dramatically before it exploded given the amount of time it was in the air after takeoff (in real-time)
In the edit, the explosions in both real-time and the premonition were purposefully matched up. This allowed up to about a minute of blank space in the real-time scene, which is where, if it were included in the film, we would see Tod calling Alex’s parents and asking the café barista for a wet rag. This observation supports the theory by showing that with the ‘missing scene’ included, the plane explodes at just about the same time in both the premonition and in real-time.
In real-time, the amount of time that passed while the plane remained at the gate allowed enough deterioration of the silicon insulation so that when it departed, it exploded so shortly after takeoff. Whereas in the premonition, the deterioration of the silicon insulation occurs during takeoff, causing a cascade of mechanical failures which ultimately lead to the explosion. In both instances, the plane explodes at the same time it was supposed to, however the explosions would differ in how they occur.
In Final Destination 5, Engine #1 catches fire and eventually explodes, causing debris to puncture the fuselage and peel away. However, the engine should have never caught on fire and exploded.
In the shot to the right, a fire erupts from the outside of the plane. At first glance, one would assume that this explosion forms from one of the plane’s engines (Engine #1 or #2).
However, as mentioned above, the row where these unfortunate students were sat was at the front end of the plane’s left wing, nowhere near where either of the engines are located.
There is a fuel line connector right at the junction of where the front end of the wing and the cabin connect, and at the row in which the three ill-fated students were sat. It is based off of this evidence that the ball of fire explodes from is this particular fuel line connector. It is believed that once the third student is sucked out of the plane and the explosion occurs that this causes the ultimate downfall of Flight 180. This explosion most likely cut off fuel to Engines #1 and #2, causing the plane to nosedive and eventually explode.
To further back up the theory that it wasn’t an exploding engine that initially took Flight 180 down, the debris from the exploding engine that sliced into the fuselage was not the cause of the three students being pulled from the airplane. There was no explosion inside the cabin in Final Destination 5 when the fuselage ripped open, compared to how the fuselage explodes and peels away in the original’s premonition.
The Explosion's Trajectory
Expanding on this part of the accident, during the news report as it shows the simulation of the explosion, at the point in which the news anchor says ‘catastrophic explosion,’ the simulation shows a spray of red, representing the explosion that kills everyone on board. As noted above, the theory that the plane exploded much earlier than in the premonition probably also resulted in a different manner that the explosion occurred.The news report’s simulation shows the explosion blowing at an angle into the cabin (and ultimately killing our group of students who get kicked off—as well as everyone else), different compared to how it had occurred in the premonition when it was a wall of fire coming in straight from the front of the plane where the explosion occurred.
If observed very closely at when the plane explodes in real-life from afar (where the students are fighting in the terminal gate), the explosion originates on the left side, front end of the plane, while the trajectory of the explosion is through the cabin and out the right side of the plane, which creates the noticeable silhouette of the plane (showing that the fire did not travel through the cabin, but instead erupted across it).
The two images on the right is a more detailed look at the explosion's trajectory, using a Boeing 747 seating chart overlaid onto a fuel line map of a Boeing 747. Based on the news report in the film, a main pump had blown up, creating the catastrophic explosion. This main pump is located at just the front of the left wing, where Engine #3 is located. When the pump explodes both in the premonition and in real-time, the trajectory of the explosion differs in both scenes.
In the premonition, the direction of the explosion blows outward and away from the passengers. Evidence is shown when the explosion occurs as it tosses the passengers back into their seats, and the explosion moves toward them as a wall of fire, instead of with a trajectory angled at them, such as what the news report had shown.
In real time, as you recall reading above, when the plane initially explodes from afar, there is a noticeable silhouette of the plane as the explosion fireballs across the cabin and behind the airplane. Evidence in the film during the news report also shows, in the simulation, that the explosion had an angled trajectory at the passengers instead of away from them. This was not seen in the premonition, or the initial moment of the explosion would have looked different in the premonition, and instead of a wall of fire, it would have been a quick explosion blowing into the cabin.
Whose Leg is That?
When Flight 180 finally explodes and kills everyone on-board, there is a shot showing the dismemberment of the unfortunate passengers caught in the fateful eruption of fire that the plane was bound to experience. But all we really see is a leg, and for those who are curious—whose leg is that?
At the beginning of the premonition, once the plane departs from the gate, we see the flight attendants getting ready for take-off. In one shot, we notice that it shows the left side of the plane, and one female flight attendant pulling her seat down getting ready for take-off. Let’s call her Flight Attendant A.
This flight attendant is sitting in the direct line of the explosion in the premonition (reference the section above discussing the trajectory of the explosion), and since the explosion's trajectory is outward and away from the passengers, her body parts could easily be blow across the cabin and into the overhead space, as seen in the gif above.
However, two other flight attendants are sitting on the right side of the plane, one of whom becomes more noticeable moments later in the film as being an attendant who helps kick Alex and the gang off the flight. Let’s call the male one Flight Attendant B, and the female one Flight Attendant C.
Gathering from surrounding clues while watching the scene, one can only assume that they are sitting directly in line with Larry Murnau on the right side of the plane, at the front of the section that the students are in, and right at the point where the blood splatter occurs.
The last guess of whose leg that could be would be someone from First Class, as the force of the explosion blows everything back into the economy cabin. It could even be more than one person being turned inside out from the force of the explosion, which would be good reason for the large amounts of blood to splatter from the front of the plane.
The plan behind the scenes was to create an intriguing visual signature. To serve the subtleties of the script and to help personify death, production designer John Willet developed the concept of "skewing" the sets.
"What I've tried to do with the sets themselves, with their design and with various color choices, is to make things just a little unnatural," Willet explained. "Nothing that calls attention to itself, but instead creates a sense of uneasiness—the unsettling feeling that something's not quite right". To achieve this mystique, Willet designed two versions of virtually every set—one version was used before the crash and the other sets were used for scenes after the jet explodes.
The plane scene during which passengers die in mid-air was created inside a very large sound stage. The three-ton hydraulic gimbal was operated automatically. "We spent two months building this central set piece that weighs about 45,000 pounds and holds 89 people," special effects supervisor Terry Sonderhoff explained.
Used for filming the on-board sequences, it could be shifted on the gimbal to create a pitching movement of up to 45 degrees side-to-side and 60 degrees front-to-back, realistically conveying the horror of airborne engine failure. Sawa said that "the screams of the cast inside the gimbal made it appear more real". Wong said, "You walk into the studio and there's a huge gimbal with a plane on top and you think, 'What have I done?' I was afraid we were gonna have 40 extras vomiting."
A miniature model of the Boeing 747 airplane was created for the explosion scene. The model, one of the most detailed miniature scenes in the film, was about 10 feet long and 7 feet wide, and the landing gear was made from all machined metals. According to visual effects supervisor Ariel Velasco Shaw, the miniature had to be launched about 40 feet up into the air to make it look like a real Boeing 747 exploded into a fireball.
To film the explosion in detail, the crew used three cameras running 120 frames per second and one camera running 300 frames per second (if they had filmed using a real-time camera, the succession of the explosion would not be filmed in a particular order).
Flight 180 was believed to be very loosely based on the real-life disaster of TWA Flight 800 that occurred in 1996. The plane was a 747 en route to Paris, with high school students and had also experienced an in-flight explosion due to a spark igniting the fuel tank. Critic Roger Ebert, who praised the movie, called this allusion "a bit tasteless". Jeffrey Reddick has since debunked this.
It is also loosely based on the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. Many of the passengers were thrown out of the plane and fell to their deaths. Also several people on the ground were also killed due to parts of the plane crashing to the ground.
United Airlines Flight 811 was also an accident similar to this, where there is little maintenance and the right side of the fuselage was ripped of, although Volée 180 didn't land safely.
Alex is seen reading The Downing on Flight 103 in Final Destination.
- A skeleton figurine hanging in a noose is among the toys scattered about Alex's room.
- The book Death of a Salesman is shown on Alex's bookshelf.
- A fan running in Alex's room blows open a book about French history, which has pages covered in illustrations of executions and the supernatural.
- The last page shown in the history book depicts Jim Morrison's grave, with red graffiti on it reading "This Is The End" in red.
- Alex tells his mother not to rip off the tag from a previous flight because it's good luck. She rips it off anyway.
- Alex's father tells him "Live it up, Alex. You got your whole life ahead of you."
- While Alex is asleep, a strong gust of wind blows through his room.
- Alex is briefly woken up by a voice whispering "... Alex... Alex..."
- Alex's alarm clock read 1:00, but briefly flickers and reads 1:80.
- In the airport, a Hare Krishna approaches Alex and tells him, "Death is not the end."
- The flight board malfunctions briefly, causing one of the boards in the column listing departing times to stay blank.
- The ticket a flight attendant attaches to Alex's bag has "Final Destination" printed on it.
- The departure time was the same as Alex's birthday - 9:25. Additionally, Alex's original seat is the either the 2nd or 9th in row 25.
- One of the signs within the flight schedule has a broken wire over the word "Terminal".
- When Clear drops her book in the lobby, Alex picks it up and returns it to her. When Clear looks at the page, it was on an article about Princess Diana's accident.
- In the terminal, Rocky Mountain High is playing, by John Denver, who died in a plane crash.
- The lyric "I've seen it raining fire in the sky" is audible, alluding to the blazing debris of a crashing plane.
- Flight 180 leaves from JFK Airport In New York, John F. Kennedy's son John F. Kennedy Jr. died with his wife and sister-in-law in a plane crash.
- When Alex looks at the plane through a window in the terminal, the window has a large crack in it that aligns over the plane, foreshadowing the plane's destruction.
- Alex's class board the plane through Gate 46. Half of 46 is 23, hinting the Route 23 pile-up in Final Destination 2. Additionally, the airport is JFK Airport, and John F. Kennedy was shot in the back aged 46.
- Before Alex gets on the plane, he sees a van. It's number is 666, which invokes for the anti-Christ or Satan.
- Noticing a crying baby onboard, George says "It'd be a fucked up God to take down this plane." And when he sees a mental patient, "A really fucked-up God."
- The flight attendants don't show how to use safety equipments for emergency situation, although this may be off screen but it didn't show properly.
- When Alex watched the news after the plane crash, the news reporter said, "The plane explodes" and the thunder outside makes an exploding sound.
Final Destination 5
- Alex is shown freaking out and him and his friends are kicked off the plane. When a passenger asks about what happened, the flight attendant stated that the kid claimed he had a "vision" the plane was going to explode.
- Sam and Molly were assigned to sit in Seat 23, hinting the Route 23 pile-up from Final Destination 2.
- An advertisement of the Lasik Center where Olivia dies is shown in Molly's magazine.
- Sam cuts his thumb on the seat, just as he does on the bus on North Bay Bridge.
- As he is listening to the music, Sam hears "Dust in the Wind" playing, just as he did on the bus on the bridge.
- Clear Rivers (deceased)
- Alex Browning (deceased)
- Carter Horton (deceased)
- Billy Hitchcock (deceased)
- Valerie Lewton (deceased)
- Terry Chaney (deceased)
- Tod Waggner (deceased)
- Female flight attendant 1
- Female flight attendant 2
- Female flight attendant 3
- Mr. Smith
- Male flight attendant 1
- Male flight attendant 2
Mt. Abraham High School
- Dave Anderson
- William Burns
- Jody Chow
- Blake Dreyer
- Todd A. Emde
- Kate Elise Heslup
- Wm. Carle Heslup
- Lisa Rose Hudson
- Sally Hudson
- Stephen Jackson
- Lee M. Jenkinson
- Joey Jow
- Marko Lytviak
- Terry Mackay
- Christa Marsh
- Johanna Ingrid Masur
- Brooke Karen McGill
- Derick McLeod
- Pamela McLeod
- William McMahon
- Larry Murnau
- Bryan Pederson
- Julie Anne Slater
- Terry Sonderhoff
- Mary Lou Storey
- Anneke Van Oort
- Kirstie Van Oort
- George Waggner
- Geoffrey Wallace
- Carie Lynn Wallis
- John B. Willett
- Flight 180, Route 23 and the Coral Clipper disasters happened in the same date, May 13.
- In Final Destination 5, Sam's ticket mentions that the year is 2000. Alex's ticket, however, never mentions the year. Also, when it shows Sam's ticket, it says that the boarding gate was H6, but when it showed Alex and the other students boarding the plane, the gate number was 46.
- It serves as the beginning and plot of the first Final Destination movie, and the ending to Final Destination 5.
- This is the only disaster in which the death order wasn't properly shown. However, the radio that presumably knocked out Tod Waggner might also have killed him, and then killed Terry Chaney offscreen a couple rows down.
- "Flight 180" was the original working title of the first film and the franchise.
- Flight 180 ranked #9 on WatchMojo.com's "Top Ten Airplane Crashes in Movies".
- "Volée" is French for "flight". When translated literally, the full title could be "Flight Airlines Flight 180".
- This is the only disaster whose survivors started to be taken by Death more than one month after the catastrophy. It was a shorter time interval in other movies.