Engineering Failure Episodes

Ep 83 SPECIAL Seismic Design

This week's engineering episode is about earthquakes (4:50). Seismic engineering has progressed over time to make sure we’re prepared (13:40) for earthquakes and the tsunamis (21:25) they cause.

Ep 82 PFOA and Sudbury Effect

This week's engineering failures are from our mini failure library. We’re talking about PFOA and Sudbury Effect.

PFOA - PFOA has been poisoning living creatures in the Ohio river basin for decades. One brave lawyer took on a huge corporation in this real life David and Goliath story. 

Sudbury Effect - Undoing a century of damage, little by little and what went from green and lush, to black and barren, back to green again. Sudbury is now said to have the cleanest air of any city in Ontario. 

Ep 81 Bhopal Disaster and Asbestos

This week's engineering failures are from our mini failure library. We’re talking about the Bhopal Disaster and Asbestos

Bhopal - Due to malfunctioning safety systems and a lack of safety culture, many people were poisoned and their lives impacted forever. 

Asbestos - Deadly little fibers that are in seemingly everything and can lay dormant for decades before wreaking havoc. 

Ep 80 Love Canal and Minamata

This week's engineering failures are from our mini failure library. We’re talking about the Love Canal and the Minamata.

Love Canal - After a decade of dumping toxic waste, the location was a bad spot to put a school. Even the chemical company knew it, but it would take years for the school board to understand the consequences of their decision. 

Minamata - Factory wastewater was dumped into Minamata Bay for decades, and poisoned the town of Minamata Japan.

Ep 79 Lac Megantic Rail Disaster

10 years ago, a train traveling from Montreal derailed in downtown Lac Megantic and changed the town forever. 

Ep 78 Surfside Condo Collage

We get into the construction of the tower and all the factors that led to the collapse.

Ep 77 Motorsport Safety Pt 2

There was so much great engineering failure content that we’ve split this episode up into two parts. In this second part, we discuss pitlane safety and the HANS device.

Ep 76 Motorsport Safety Pt 1

 In the first episode of this two part series, we discuss early motorsport safety and some significant safety upgrades that have been implemented over the years. 

Ep 75 US Interstate Highways

 After receiving a funding and design boost through the US Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, the interstate system was born with a more deliberate layout than may seem. Despite it’s success, the interstate system is not without issue. 

More Info - Ep 75 US Interstates 

Ep 74 SwissAir Flight 111

 A crash off the coast of Peggy’s Cove is believed to be caused by a fire in the ceiling at the front of the plane. As an outcome of the crash investigation, a number of additional safety risks were identified and corrected

Ep 73 2021 Texas Power Outage

 Deregulation, amongst many other issues led to blackouts throughout Texas during winter storm Uri; having a huge impact on residents. Despite experiencing similar storms in 1989 & 2011, Texas did not learn its lesson. 

Ep 72 Mount Polley Tailings Pond Breach

After years of ad hoc embankment expansion, the tailing pond breached on August 4, 2014. Following an independent investigation panel review geoscientists and engineers were found liable for the failure. 

Ep 71 Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

Designed by some of the same engineers as the Golden Gate Bridge we talked about last episode, this bridge only stood for 3 months before collapsing. A full inquiry discovered flaws in the lightweight design and a new, stronger bridge was built that’s still standing today. 

Ep 70 SPECIAL Golden Gate Bridge

After decades of design considerations the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937. 86 years later, San Francisco is working hard to maintain the iconic bridge.

Ep 69 Fernie Arean Ammonia Accident

After ignoring warning signs for years that the plant was failing in October 2017, a tragic accident occurred sparking an investigation into what went wrong in Fernie. 

Ep 68 Sayano-Sushenskaya Hydroelectric Power Plant

The power plant dam had significant water pressure and other issues, which ultimately led to the failure of turbine 2 in 2009. 

Ep 67 Algo Centre Mall Collapse

In 2012 the mall’s rooftop parking deck collapsed, revealing decades of neglectful maintenance. 

Ep 66 Johnstown Flood

After heavy rainfall, the poorly maintained South Fork Dam failed, greatly impacting the unsuspecting residents downstream.  

More Info - Ep 66 Johnstown Flood 

Ep 65 OIQ Loss of Self Regulation

After covering a brief history of engineering in Canada, and Alberta, we talk about how and why the OIQ lost their ability to self regulate the engineering profession in 2016. 

Ep 64 Station Nightclub Fire

There were many contributing factors that led to the tragic fire. In the aftermath, the band manager and building owners pled guilty to their part in the fire and regulators made significant and necessary changes to rules around upgrading life safety systems in existing buildings. 

Ep 63 Boeing 737 Max

A poorly executed flight stabilization software called MCAS caused two catastrophic crashes putting Boeing in hot water.

More Info - Ep 63 Boeing 737 Max 

Ep 62 Wind Turbine Failures Pt 2

There was so much great engineering failure content that we’ve split this episode up into two parts. In this second part, we talk about other common causes of wind turbine failures; generator failure, gearbox failure, and foundation/structure failure. 

Ep 61 Wind Turbine Failures Pt 1

There was so much great engineering failure content that we’ve split this episode up into two parts. In this first part, we talk about the most common cause of wind turbine failure, blade failure. 

Ep 60 SPECIAL Kicking Horse Spiral Tunnels

After looking at multiple locations for the railway across the Canadian Rockies, engineers landed on a path across the Big Hill. Due to the steep grade, accidents were unavoidable and the tunnels were built to make the route less steep 

Ep 59 FedEx Express Flight 80

A fatal crash in 2009 was not an isolated incident with the MD-11 aircraft. 

Ep 58 Chalk River Nuclear Accidents

The Chalk River Nuclear Facility north of Ottawa suffered two nuclear accidents in the 1950s. The first with the NRX reactor in 1952 and the second with the NRU reactor in 1958. 

Ep 57 I-35W Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis

Designed and constructed in the 60s, the bridge had been inspected regularly over the years. But unfortunately, after 40 years it collapsed and the City of Minneapolis rushed to replace the bridge. 

Ep 56 Boston Molasses & London Beer Floods

Boston Molasses Flood - Over 100 years ago, A wave of molasses flooded the streets of North End in Boston and took out everything in its path. 

London Beer Flood - A failed vat sent a huge wave of beer down London streets. 

Ep 55 Breast Implant Recalls

Our first medical engineering failure. In an effort to cut costs, PIP cut corners on the silicone in their breast implants that led to severe problems for recipients starting in 2003. 

Ep 54 Big Bayou Canot Rail Accident

Big Bayou Canot became the second worst US rail disaster after a towboat hit a bridge resulting in extensive damage. The ensuing investigation offered a number of important lessons learned and recommendations. 

Ep 53 Gimli Glider

This week we're taking a much needed break and featuring one of our mini failure episodes from last fall; the Gimli Glider. Unit are hard, but important. An incorrect conversion led to the plane taking off with only 45% of its required fuel. 

More Info - Ep 53 Gimli Glider

Ep 52 Luna Park Ghost Train Fire

43 years ago, the Luna Park Ghost Train suffered a catastrophic fire. Even though it was inspected two years earlier, in 1977, the recommended upgrades weren’t complete and the fire investigation found many other safety flaws. 

Ep 51 Teton Dam Failure

The dam catastrophically failed during its initial fill leading to assessments of other similar dams.

Ep 50 SPECIAL James Webb Space Telescope

The telescope took decades to build, but it was worth it because it has a lot of really interesting features.

Ep 49 Florida Pedestrian Bridge Collapse

The bridge collapsed during construction with traffic on the roadway underneath. The collapse led to investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board and the US Department of Labor. 

Ep 48 L'Ambiance Plaza

L'Ambiance Plaza collapsed during construction while the slabs were being lifted into place. There is not a consensus on the probable cause of this failure; some think that the failure was related to the method of construction and others think there were flaws with the engineered design.

More Info - Ep 48 L'Ambiance Plaza

Ep 47 Piper Alpha

A deep sea oil rig that exploded and sank in the North Sea.

More Info - Ep 47 Piper Alpha

Ep 46 Second Narrows Bridge

The cantilever bridge collapsed during construction, with an unexpected cause.

More Info - Ep 46 Second Narrows Bridge

Ep 45 Kowloon Walled City

A city within a city, Kowloon had a deep history in Hong Kong until it was demolished in 1994. 

More Info - Ep 45 Kowloon Walled City

Ep 44 Challenger Space Shuttle 

73 seconds after take off, the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded on live TV. 

More Info - Ep 44 Challenger Space Shuttle

Ep 43 Harbor Cay Condo Construction Failure

During the concrete pour of the roof slab, the Harbor Cay Condo building collapsed in a pancaking fashion. While there was a main cause of failure, there were several contributing factors. 

More Info - Ep 43 Harbor Cay Condo Construction Failure

Ep 42 United Flight 232

After catastrophic failure of the plane's tail engine, United Flight 232 made an emergency landing two hours after take off. 

More Info - Ep 42 United Flight 232

Ep 41 Three Mile Island

Three Mile Island Unit 2 suffered a partial meltdown after running for only three months. This accident changed the fate of nuclear energy in North America for decades.

More Info - Ep 41 Three Mile Island

Ep 40 SPECIAL CN Tower

The CN Tower opened 46 years ago after overcoming some pretty interesting engineering and construction issues. We get into all of the challenges and how they tackled them on this episode. 

More Info - Ep 40 SPECIAL CN Tower

Ep 39 Lake Peigneur and Cantara Loop

This week's episode features a sneak peek at two of our favourite bonus mini failure episodes.

The first mini failure we are sharing with you is Lake Peignuer in Louisiana (1:55). The entire lake drained into an underground salt mine in a matter of minutes. 

And the second Mini Failure is about the Cantara Loop rail disaster (9:40). In the '90s a train derailed into the Sacramento River on a very challenging section of track.

Check out our new Patreon page for more Mini Failure bonus episodes - 

More Info - Ep 39 Bonus Mini Failures

Ep 38 Charles de Gaulle Airport Collapse

On May 23, 2004 an 11 month old section of the brand new airport terminal collapsed and left a 50m by 30m hole in the building. The official investigation found problems with the process and structural engineering; the collapse was inevitable. 

More Info - Ep 38 Charles de Gaulle Airport Collapse

Ep 37 2003 NE Blackout

It was a really hot day in August 2003. With lots of air conditioners running, some overgrown trees and a software bug, power was knocked out to a large portion of the NE United States and Ontario.

More Info - Ep 37 2003 NE Blackout

Ep 36 A Year In Review

This week Nicole and Brian are celebrating the 1 year anniversary of Failurology! They are talking about all of the things they've learned over the last year, how the show has changed, and some of their favourite episodes.

More Info - Ep 36 A Year In Review

Ep 35 Leaning Tower of Pisa

What started out as just a bell tower, is now known worldwide for its iconic lean. The tower taught us a lot about geotechnical, civil and structural engineering and has been a tourist attraction to millions of people every year. Even though they straightened the tower, the people of Pisa are happy it still leans. 

More Info - Ep 35 Leaning Tower Of Pisa

Ep 34 Apollo 1

A fire broke out on Apollo 1 during a pre-launch test. There were a number of contributing factors that led to the fire and poor rescue effort. 

More Info - Ep 34 Apollo 1

Ep 33 Arecibo Telescope

The Arecibo Telescope Collapse, designed in the 1960s, accomplished a lot for science until its collapse in 2020. NASA investigated the failure and issued a report of findings earlier this year. But the silver lining, some cool things are being worked on for the future of the site.

More Info - Ep 33 Arecibo Telescope

Ep 32 The Big O

The Big O, also known as Montreal Olympic Stadium, was supposed to be the highlight of the first self-financed Olympic games. But poor planning, fraud, corruption and a freewheeling architect put a blemish on the games and Montreal's skyline for decades. Over 45 years later, Montreal is still paying for it, literally. 

More Info - Ep 32 The Big O

Ep 31 Transatlantic Telegraph Cable Failure

The effort to construct the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic started in the late 1850s. It didn't quite go as planned, but they eventually installed a functional cable. 

More Info - Ep 31 Transatlantic Telegraph Cable Failure

Ep 30 SPECIAL Panama Canal

Every tenth episode we're covering an engineering marvel! The Panama Canal is one of the American Society of Civil Engineer's seven wonders of the modern world. And it was one of the largest engineering feats ever taken. 

More Info - Ep 30 SPECIAL Panama Canal

Ep 29 Kursk Submarine Disaster

A Russian submarine sank during a naval training exercise. Yes, submarines can sink too.

More Info - Ep 29 Kursk Submarine Disaster

Ep 28 Floating Bridges of Washington State

Washington state is the floating bridge capital of the world. But two of them sank.

More Info - Ep 28 Floating Bridges of Washington State

Ep 27 de Havilland Comet

The Comet, the world's first jet airliner, had some successes.  But, it never recovered from a series of catastrophic hull loss accidents. Find out what happened.

More Info - Ep 27 de Havilland Comet

Ep 26 Folsom Dam Gate Failure

On July 17, 1995, while opening the spillway gates, the structure of gate 3 buckled and the gate swung open; sending a rush of water down the river.

More Info - Ep 26 Folsom Dam Gate Faiure

Ep 25 Deepwater Horizon

On April 20, 2010, the deepwater offshore drilling rig suffered a well blowout that caused an explosion,  The rig sank two days later.

More Info - Ep 25 Deepwater Horizon

Ep 24 Eindhoven Airport Car Park Collapse

On May 27, 2017, one month before completion a section of the structure collapsed.  A poorly planned change in construction method was to blame.

More Info - Ep 24 Eindhoven Airport Car Park Collapse

Ep 23 Burnaby Supermarket Roof Collapse

On April 23, 1988, minutes after the grand opening, the rooftop parking deck collapsed into the produce section.

More Info - Ep 23 Burnaby Supermarket Roof Collapse

Ep 22 West Gate Bridge Collapse

On October 15, 1970, a span of the West Gate Bridge collapsed during construction.

More Info - Ep 22 West Gate Bridge Collapse 

Ep 21 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire became one of the deadliest industrial disasters in US history.

More Info - Ep 21 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 

Ep 20 SPECIAL Channel Tunnel

Every tenth episode of the podcast is about an engineering marvel.  The Channel Tunnel is one of the seven civil engineering marvels of the world.

More Info - Ep 20 SPECIAL The Channel Tunnel 

Ep 19 Dieselgate

Volkswagen cheated emissions testing for years.

More Info - Ep 19 Dieselgate 

Ep 18 The Hancock Tower

In the 1970s, the construction of the John Hancock Tower in Boston experienced a number of issues with structure and glass.

More Info - Ep 18 Hancock Tower 

Ep 17 Hindenburg Disaster

On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg caught fire while trying to land.

More Info - Ep 17 Hindenburg Disaster 

Ep 16 Sunshine Skyway Bridge Collapse

On May 9, 1980, a freighter collided with the bridge during a sudden squall.

More Info - Ep 16 Sunshine Skyway 

Ep 15 Podcast Origin Story

I answer listener questions about how and why I make this podcast.

More Info - Ep 15 The Origin Story 

Ep 14 Sampoong Department Store Collapse

On June 29, 1995 ,the Sampoong department store collapsed.

More Info - Ep 14 Sampoong Department Store Collapse 

Ep 13 Chernobyl Explosion

On April 26, 1986, reactor no 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded.

More Info - Ep 13 Chernobyl 

Ep 12 Flint Water Crisis

Flint residents were poisoned by their water supply for years.

More Info - Ep 12 Flint Water Crisis 

Ep 11 Titanic

On April 15, 1912, the Titanic sunk in the middle of the Atlantic after colliding with an iceberg.

More Info - Ep 11 Titanic 

Ep 10 SPECIAL International Space Station

Every tenth episode of the podcast is about an engineering marvel.  The International Space Station is a huge engineering and human accomplishment.

More Info - Ep 10 SPECIAL International Space Station 

Ep 09 Air France 447 Crash

On June 1, 2009, AF447 stalled and could not recover, crashing into the Atlantic in the middle of the night. 

More Info - Ep 09 Air France Flight 447 

Ep 08 Malahide Viaduct Collapse

On August 21, 2009, a section of the viaduct collapsed seconds after a train passed over the viaduct.

More Info - Ep 08 Malahide Viaduct 

Ep 07 Hartford Arena Roof Collapse

On January 18, 1978, the entire roof of the arena collapsed; luckily the building was empty at the time.

More info - Ep 07 Hartford Arena Roof 

Ep 06 Quebec Bridge Collapse

The bridge that collapsed twice; first on August 29, 1907, and again on September 11, 1916.

More Info - Ep 06 Quebec Bridge 

Ep 05 Ford Pinto

Cars aren't supposed to explode when rear ended.

More info - Ep 05 Ford Pinto 

Ep 04 Grenfell Tower Fire

On June 14, 2017, a fire broke out on the 24 story tower, quickly spreading to the external cladding and engulfing the building.

More Info - Ep 04 Grenfell Tower Fire 

Ep 03 Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse

On July 17, 1981, two stacked walkways in the hotel lobby collapsed during a tea party.

More Info - Ep 03 Hyatt Regency Walkway 

Ep 02 New Orleans Levee Failures During Hurricane Katrina

On August 29, 2005, over 50 levee failures occurred in and around New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

More Info - Ep 02 New Orleans Levee Failures 

Ep 01 Citicorp Building

In 1978, one year after the building opened, the structural engineer realized he has made a grave error in the wind calculations and the building was at risk of collapse during a 1 in 16 year storm.

More Info - Ep 01 Citicorp