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The Emmerdale Plane Crash, also known as the Beckindale Air Disaster was a storyline for British soap opera Emmerdale. It occurred on 30 December 1993, and gave Emmerdale its highest-ever viewing figures of 18 million. It revamped the soap, and had been developed to try to pick up higher viewing figures for the programme. It worked, and the storyline has consequently kept Emmerdale as one of the most popular British television soap operas.
Beckindale is demolished, and four villagers are killed, when a plane crashes into the village. The four victims of the plane crash were Mark Hughes (who had been in the show since 1988), Elizabeth Pollard (who had joined in 1990), Archie Brooks (who joined in 1983) and Leonard Kempinski (who had only joined the previous year).
The Plane crash happened on 30 December 1993. The first scene of the plane crash was when Frank Tate was looking at his wife Kim’s stables when suddenly a ball of fire hits the stables. Nick Bates and Archie Brooks were walking home when they are blinded by some fluid and Archie is engulfed in flames. This would be the last we see of Archie, however his body was never recovered and suspicion remains if he actually died, nevertheless he is declared dead. The Woolpack windows explode in and Joe Sugden crashes his car when a wing of the plane collides with the car, Annie and Leonard Kempinski were also in the car. Joe suffered a broken leg and Annie remained in a coma for several months. However, Leonard died. He and Annie were only married for two months. Up at the stables Kim had to be restrained from trying to retrieve her horses, she listened helplessly as her horses screamed for help. People in the Woolpack started to regain consciousness. Eric Pollard started wandering around looking for his wife, Elizabeth. As the hours passed he started to draw attention as many people became suspicious of his behaviour. Elizabeth is eventually found dead and is declared a victim of the plane crash. However, many people, on and off-screen, believe that Eric killed his wife as she was on her way to the police to report him for forging cheques. Outside, Alan Turner picks up a plane ticket with the name Kurshkov on it, he notices more wreckage in the field together with Angharad and Bernard McAllister and it becomes more clear what has happened. The local school is used as a base. Mark Hughes’s arm can be seen sticking out of some rubble. At the school, Jack Sugden notices Mark's watch amongst the personal belongings that have been found, it is the one that Annie gave him at Christmas. Jack has the unfortunate task of identifying his body. Chris Tate is discovered in the wine bar but his legs are trapped under heavy rubble. When he is retrieved from the rubble he is airlifted to hospital. Chris would learn that he has lost the use of his legs for the rest of his life.
Many buildings in the village were left in ruin as a result of the plane crash. Excluding the four dead villagers, many other bodies were found all over the village.
After the dust settled, the plane crash has been mentioned several times since including 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The 2003 mention was in fact a storyline where the villagers were against a group of journalists wanting to do a 10th anniversary documentary after they descended on the village. And in late 2010 Michael Feldmann returned after 16 years away and accused Eric Pollard of murdering his mother Elizabeth that night 17 years previously. Eric had motive as Elizabeth was on to him about cheque fraud and trying to blame Michael for it. Eric later admits to Val that he would have killed her but flames and debris from the burning airliner beat him to it on that dark December night.
The effects of the plane crash can still be felt to this day to villagers who were there on that fateful night.
In 1993, Emmerdale's ratings were so low that ITV was planning to cancel the show. But then, ITV brought Phil Redmond, creator of Brookside, to try to think of a way to attract higher viewing figures to Emmerdale. His solution was the Plane crash storyline which bore much resemblance to later Brookside story lines such as the shooting down of a police helicopter, which landed on a petrol station in 2002. The Plane crash took three weeks to film, and cost over £1 million.
ITV received many complaints as the timing of the storyline was close to the fifth anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster.
In the 5 January 1994 episode of Channel 4 soap Brookside, character Mick Johnson (Louis Emerick) was seen reading a newspaper with the front page headline "AIR DISASTER TOLL RISES - Village Mourns As Many Die", reflecting the events in Emmerdale.