CONTROL FREAK: The Dating of the Death of Flight 503

When exactly did the crash happen?

In the VR sequence when Sydney first takes Jarvis into VR, there is a calendar on the desk. We don't see the whole of it, just "1990" clearly, because his hand is in the way, but there is one frame where we see the end of the month-name, and it is "EMBER". That means it could be September, November, or December. However, the calendar itself is actually not an accurate calendar for any of those months, since it gives the first of the month as a Sunday, and the only months in 1990 that started on a Sunday were April and July. September and December in 1990 started on a Saturday, and November started on a Thursday. Oh well, the props department fluffed it.

Going on further in the episode, what do I see? The report that Oliver is looking at, entitled "Kyle Jarvis Investigation". It's pretty blurry, and parts of it are obscured, but this is what I could make out on the freeze-frame...


This report makes official the findings resulting from the collision
of two... at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), flight
numbers 503 ... on September 13, 1990 at 14:03.  The controller ... in
this ... Jarvis at fault, having consumed alcohol previous to his
shift as controller... the code of traffic controllers ... 885B.  The
final fatality ... is 232.  The following pages list the facts and
c... which ... case numbered 1755 LAX (C).

So the crash occurred on September 13, 1990! That was a Thursday, if anyone's interested.

And there were two planes involved, according to this! The other flight doesn't get mentioned at all in the episode (and I couldn't make out the flight number, it was too blurry). Maybe that was part of the fiction. Or maybe the other flight got hit by some of the debry.

Oh, it also seems that Oliver has two copies of this report on his desk. One that he's looking at, and another which we see the corner of, and it looks like the same report. How's that for trivia?

More obsessive detail about Control Freak

I talked to a friend of mine (a guy I work with, he's got more than twenty years experience in the airline industry) trying to figure out what kind of an aircraft flight 503 could have be with the evidence of the capacity, 232 fatalities, and the one aisle (rather than two) and that it was in 1990.

If there were two aircraft involved then a couple of 737-300 series would fit - capacity of about 116 each.

If it was one aircraft, it might have been a 707 or a DC8, since both have 200+ capacity and one aisle, and would have been used around that era. It wouldn't be necessary that the aircraft was full to capacity, after all. There could well have been other empty seats besides Oliver's.

Also, it seems unlikely that 25D was a window seat in a large aircraft. The way they number their seats, if 25D were a window seat, then there would not be any rows wider than four across down the length of the whole aircraft. This is because they number the seats so that the same kind of seat gets the same kind of number, like so: If the widest row in the aircraft is six seats wide (say, three on one side, three on the other) then the seats in that row would be labelled A-B-C-D-E-F. If the rows in first class only had four seats per row, they would not be labelled A-B-C-D but rather A-B-E-F, missing out the middle letters, not the end letters. That way, if one got 2F or 25F, you would have a window seat either way.

But of course that is such a fiddly detail that most people wouldn't be aware of it. On the other hand, it could be that that airline got the seats reconfigured in a non-standard way, but I don't see why they would.