The 3D video of the Andean air disaster: the technical-scientific reconstruction

Many of you will have seen the film “The Snow Society”, nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film, which focuses on the drama and psychological aspects of a tragic event: the Andes disaster, the accident involving flight 571 of the Uruguayan Air Force which crashed into a mountain ridge in Argentina with 45 passengers on board. However, the film leaves some technical details of the story in the shade. So why not explore the disaster from a more technical point of view?

The film follows a Uruguayan rugby team traveling to Chile for a friendly match. En route, the pilot is forced to change course, leading to a tragic accident in the Andes, where the plane crashes onto a glacier. After the accident, 16 of the 45 passengers survived for 72 days in extreme conditions, even resorting to cannibalism.

The Journey to Santiago de Chile

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Fokker F27 Friendship, the Uruguayan plane involved in the Andes disaster


The “Christian Brothers” rugby team departs Montevideo, Uruguay, bound for Santiago, Chile, aboard Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. The plane, a Fairchild F27 with two turboprops and a wingspan of 29 meters, was used for civilian flights given the precarious economic situation of the Uruguayan army.

The true story of the Andes plane crash: here's how the crash of Flight 571 happened

The flight was supposed to be a simple trip over the Andes, but the pilots encounter the El Niño phenomenon, which leads to extreme weather conditions along the Andes due to warming waters and the resulting movement of warm, moist air towards the 'South America.

The Alternative Route


Due to bad weather, pilots have to opt for an alternate route, which has them flying south to Malargüe, Argentina, then crossing the Andes further south and finally turning north to Santiago. This decision will prove fatal.

The Disaster on the peaks of the Andes

On October 13, 1972, the plane departs from Mendoza but encounters bad weather also along the alternative route. Using the VOR navigation system and underestimating the effect of a strong headwind, the pilots believe they have cleared the Andes and begin their descent too early, causing the aircraft to crash into the mountains.

What happened to the survivors?


After the crash, only 16 passengers survive, facing extreme conditions and resorting to cannibalism to survive. After 72 days, two of the survivors find help, leading to the rescue of the others.