|Season 1, Episode 12|
|Original Transmission||December 16, 1965|
|Written by||Martin Crump|
|Directed by||Desmond Saunders|
|Edited by||Harry Ledger|
Vault Of Death
Move - And You're Dead
Vault Of Death
Operation Crash-Dive is the 8th produced episode and the 12th broadcast episode of the first series of Thunderbirds.
Fireflash craft are mysteriously disappearing. International Rescue must hurry to save a desperate crew after their plane nose-dives into the ocean and sinks to the seabed. Flying Thunderbird 2 alongside another Fireflash, will the Tracy brothers uncover a technical fault or another sabotage scheme?
Shortly after crossing the British coast on a flight to San Francisco, the supersonic Fireflash 3 passenger plane begins to shudder violently. In a mayday message to the London Airport Control Tower, the crew give their position and state that the aircraft is losing altitude before radio contact is lost.
A search operation is immediately launched to establish the fate of the flight, but the Fireflash has simply disappeared and the air-sea rescue planes and diverted ships are called off. The International Air Minister orders for all Fireflash craft to be grounded pending an assessment of the aircraft’s design.
On Tracy Island, the International Rescue team watch a TV news report about the disaster. Alan, completing a tour of duty on board Thunderbird 5, informs Jeff that the crew radioed an incorrect position to London Control – Fireflash 3 was 50 miles away from that point as it disappeared. Jeff orders Alan to monitor for further transmissions and places his other sons on high alert.
Patterson, an engineer associated with the Fireflash project, fails to uncover any defects in the design that could have resulted in the loss of Fireflash 3. Commander Norman of London Control briefs a test crew to travel using another Fireflash along the same route in order to investigate the problem. However, during the flight, the elevator power unit (EPU) jams and the radio fails. The controls cease to function and the Fireflash nose-dives into the Atlantic Ocean. As Alan tells Jeff that the crew’s reported position was wide by 180 miles, the aircraft sinks before the pilot and co-pilot are able to open the jammed emergency door. Meanwhile, an unidentified man has parachuted from the undercarriage and waits to be picked up by a helijet.
Jeff resolves to rescue the crew. He orders Scott to fly out in Thunderbird 1 to conduct an electromagnetic search of the area. Virgil, Gordon and Brains blast off in Thunderbird 2 with Pod 4, waiting for Scott’s equipment to provide an approximate position of the Fireflash. Brains theorises that the crew may still be alive and that the craft is lying intact on the seabed. Although this is exactly what has happened, the air supply on board is fast diminishing and the pilots cannot contact the outside world. Virgil deploys the pod so that Gordon can launch Thunderbird 4 and locate the Fireflash based on Scott’s rough position.
Thunderbird 4 is spotted by the pilots who attract Gordon’s attention by flashing warning lights. Acting on Brains’s instructions, he cuts off the craft’s heavy engines using Thunderbird 4’s laser beam to make it float to the surface. However, the Fireflash’s controls burst into flames, the smoke choking the pilots until Gordon is able to mount the craft’s exterior and manually cut a hole through the window. Virgil lowers a lift from Thunderbird 2 and hauls the men to safety. Gordon returns to Thunderbird 4 just in time before the Fireflash is destroyed in a huge explosion.
With air chiefs agreeing that the source of the trouble has been in the starboard wing’s hydraulics system, Jeff contacts Commander Norman, offering to resolve the crisis once and for all by sending Thunderbird 2 to fly alongside a Fireflash to respond to any problems. Norman insists that Captain Hansen, who was saved by International Rescue when the Fireflash’s maiden flight was jeopardised, should be on board.
As Thunderbird 2 lands at London Control carrying Scott, Virgil and Gordon, Jeff commands Alan in Thunderbird 5 to closely monitor the flight. The Fireflash takes off with Scott and Hanson at the controls, flanked by Thunderbird 2. As they cross the coast, Scott gives Alan a false position. As he corrects the aircraft’s course, it is deduced that the locator must be malfunctioning, but once again radio contact is cut off and the Fireflash starts to lose altitude. Ignoring London Control’s advice that Scott and Hansen abort the mission and bail out, Virgil asks Hanson to open the undercarriage hatch. With 15 minutes remaining before impact on the ocean surface, Virgil passes beneath the Fireflash so that Gordon, kitted out with breathing equipment, can fire a clamp through the hatch to climb on board and fix the fault. Preparing to ascend, Gordon is startled by what appears to be a man inside the undercarriage, but thinks that it is just his imagination. Arriving inside and with only three minutes to go, Gordon makes his way to the EPU to find that the wires have been deliberately cut and that this is the reason behind all the flights’ loss of altitude. Before Gordon can radio Scott, the saboteur responsible for the previous crash, who has been stowed away the whole time, shoots at him. After a brief gunfight, the assailant jumps through the hatch despite Gordon’s assurances that his parachute would fail to open in time. Seconds before impact, Gordon brings the sheared wires together. Fireflash pulls out of its dive, gains height and avoids crashing into the ocean.
Back on Tracy Island a few days later, the team are watching a TV newsreader announce the forthcoming revival of Fireflash flights, and that the criminal gang behind the crashes has been exposed, when the set suddenly turns off. When Grandma apologises and says that a fuse has blown, Scott suggests that the electronics expert, Gordon, should fix it.
- Jeff Tracy — Peter Dyneley
- Scott Tracy — Shane Rimmer
- Virgil Tracy — David Holliday
- Alan Tracy — Matt Zimmerman
- Gordon Tracy — David Graham
- John Tracy — Ray Barrett
- Grandma Tracy — Christine Finn
- Brains — David Graham
- Tin-Tin Kyrano — Christine Finn
- Commander Norman — Peter Dyneley
- Captain Hanson — David Graham
- TV Reporter (Unnamed) — Matt Zimmerman
- Lieutenant Burroughs — Ray Barrett
- Fireflash 3 Pilot — David Graham
- Seahawk Pilot — Matt Zimmerman
- International Air Minister — Peter Dyneley
- Engineer Patterson — David Graham
- Fireflash 4 Pilot — David Graham
- Fireflash 4 Co-Pilot Bob — Ray Barrett
- Irish Farmer — David Graham
- Radar Operator — Shane Rimmer
- Saboteur — Ray Barrett
- Television Newsreader— David Holiday
- The working title for this episode was The Test Crew.
- Lieutenant Burroughs, Commander Norman’s assistant, stars as Solarnaut Asher in Sun Probe.
- An insert shot of a collection of newspapers and magazines reporting the loss of the first Fireflash includes editions of The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Life and Mad - showing that they are still being published in 2065.
- The TV reporter who recounts the events of Trapped In The Sky also appears in Sun Probe.
- After the second Fireflash crashes, the saboteur is picked up by a silver EJ2 Helijet, which is later featured as the false Thunderbird 2 in The Impostors after being repainted green and yellow.
- The Fireflash aircrafts losing communication in the same place again and again is similar to real life incidents that happen in the Bermuda Triangle.
- While Gordon searches for the Fireflash on the seabed, his hair parting constantly switches sides.
- When Gordon returns to Thunderbird 4 after notifying the crew of his intention to cut off the Fireflash’s engines, the layout of the puppet-sized Thunderbird 4 does not match the long-shot model.