Nfld. & Labrador·Video

30 years later: Skeptics still question cause of Arrow Air crash

A Gander plane crash known as the deadliest aviation disaster in Canadian history has sparked its share of debate over the years — especially among those who question the true cause of the crash.

Arrow Air Fight 1285: Unanswered Questions

6 years ago
Duration 14:56
Thirty years ago, Arrow Air Fight 1285 crashed in Gander, Newfoundland, killing the crew and 248 U.S. troops on board. Investigators blamed icing. But many experts think otherwise.

A Gander plane crash known as the deadliest aviation disaster in Canadian history has sparked its share of debate over the years — especially among those who question the true cause.

Thirty years ago this month, Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashed just minutes after stopping to refuel in Gander. The plane was bound for Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

All 256 on board people were killed, including 248 American soldiers who were returning to the United States following a peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The other eight people were crew on the charter aircraft. 

The former Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB) determined that ice on the wings likely caused the disaster, but Les Filotas disagrees. 

Filotas, an aeronautical engineer with the CASB, was one of four who filed a minority report on the crash. He later wrote Improbable Cause, a book which suggests other causes — particularly an explosion — may have been the real reason why the plane went down.

Audrey Caudill, mother of Philip Caudill, runs her finger across her son’s name at the Fort Campbell Gander Memorial in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. (Ireka Sanders/Submitted)

He says the crash pattern was not indicative of a plane that had lost altitude because of icing. 

"Looking at the report, I did a few calculations and verified that there's something wrong here. The acceleration is something like 30 knots in seven seconds, that's something equivalent to turning all the engines off," he said.

He isn't alone in his skepticism. 

To mark the 30th anniversary, Arrow Air Flight 1285: Unanswered Questions aired on CBC's The National Monday. Watch the full story in the video player above.


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