As is usually the case with airline mishaps, the first eyewitness accounts turn out to be less than accurate. This seems to be what happened in the SPANAIR MD-82 crash last week in Madrid, Spain. Initially there were numerous reports from people at or near the airport that the left engine of the MD-82 was on fire as the aircraft lifted off the runway. It turns out that a review of an airport video camera showed there were no visible flames coming out of either engine. (Even if one engine was having a serious problem, every commercial aircraft is designed to takeoff and successfully fly with a full load on only one engine.) Instead, the video shows the aircraft wing drop shortly after liftoff, with the aircraft then striking the ground and exploding. As I mentioned in a previous blog post about a wild crosswind landing attempt at Hamburg Airport that was captured on camera, it would be beneficial to have video cameras recording all takeoffs and landings at major airports. Video of the B-2 crash in Guam earlier this year certainly aided that investigation, and the video of the SPANAIR crash has already been used to eliminate one possible cause. However, the mishap video taken at the Madrid airport was apparently from a security camera, and not a dedicated runway camera, so in this case it was more a case of luck that they captured usable video of the MD-82 going down. The data collected by such cameras can provide a wealth of info on the crash, and help find the cause of the mishap sooner. Lets hope the use of airport video in both the B-2 and the SPANAIR crash investigations highlights the need for dedicated runway video cameras at any airport with commercial traffic.