Factual error: The payphone McClane uses in Dulles airport has the "Pacific Bell" logo. Pacific Bell is a West Coast phone company. (00:04:20)
Factual error: Near the beginning of the film when John McClane goes to the pay phone and calls his wife Holly on the airplane, that was impossible at the time. Those phones you see on the seats on the plane can only be used from the air to the ground not the other way around. Holly does answer on the plane phone and not on any cell phone she had in her purse. Not to mention even if it was possible to call the planes from the ground, they could do that to warn them of what's going on below and prevent more crashes. (00:04:20)
Factual error: When McClane (Bruce Willis) is brought into Capt. Lorenzo's (Dennis Franz) office at Dulles Airport for the first time, Lorenzo mentions that McClane was in violation of several District of Columbia laws. Dulles Airport is in Virginia, not DC, therefore any DC laws would not apply to Dulles. (Although VA may very well have similar laws about airport misconduct.) (00:19:55)
Factual error: There is absolutely no way the villains could remotely recalibrate the instruments on the plane itself. Even if it would be possible to remotely readjust the ILS glideslope - which it isn't - the pilot would've noticed their approach angle being suspiciously steep on the attitude indicator and the aircraft's radar altimeter would've given a terrain warning. (00:52:44)
Factual error: When the terrorist clears the nearly fuel-exhausted plane to land on the lowered ILS, the terrorist says, "Windsor 114, you are cleared to land on Dulles Runway 29, ILS." Problem is: There is no Runway 29 at Dulles. The closest runway alignment for a 290 degree heading is Runway 30. (00:53:35)
Factual error: The terrorists are using Kenwood 46AT Handheld Radios that operate on 440Mhz. The Army moves in with a Kenwood TS-850 Radio that operates on 30Mhz-3Mhz. Nowhere near the frequency that the terrorists are using. (01:11:30 - 01:25:40)
Factual error: There is no airport in the world with a manhole cover in the middle of a runway. (01:14:00)
Factual error: The plane from which Bruce Willis escapes by using an ejector seat is a non-existing plane. The fuselage is from an old transport plane from the US Air Force made by Chase. But there has never been a Chase with 4 engines buried in the wing. America uses underslung engines. In this case, it is the wing of an Arado Blitz prototype from the second world war and the fuselage of a Chase cargo plane. (01:15:10)
Factual error: The chase scene involving the snowmobiles is problematic in that McClane can actually see where he's going. In driving snow, it's often difficult to see, as snow blows in one's eyes. On a speeding snowmobile, in heavy snow and with no eye protection, it would be practically impossible to see anything. (01:31:15)
Factual error: Firing a full magazine of blank cartridges from an automatic weapon in the police station office as McClane does would be painfully loud. Nobody shows the slightest effect - nobody even winces. Some of the men wince slightly but their reaction is grossly underplayed. Obviously the sound was looped in later. (01:37:40)
Factual error: When McClane lights the fuel with the zippo, the flame trail is all wrong. There appears to be a thin strip of fuel which accelerates away from him. However, we have seen the Fuel spurted out in a wider less controlled manner from a wing tip that has to be at least fifteen feet up, in a wind, which would have sprayed it around further. There is no way it would light in the tight manner shown. (01:45:55)
Factual error: When the bad guys 747 is blown up it is about 40 or 50 metres off the ground and travelling at take-off velocity, yet when Holly's plane is landing you can see that the debris field is perfectly circular. Surely the 747s speed and angle of descent would mean the debris field would be elongated? (01:50:30)
Factual error: When the 747 explodes, fire is rushing up through the cargo hold. Esperanza - in the cockpit - looks back over his shoulder as if seeing the fire coming. Clearly he can't see the fire - since the view we are seeing is inside the cargo hold and cabin. But why is he then turning his head and looking back against the cockpit wall? And the flash we see on his face - from the explosion - that would not be there until the fire was inside the cockpit. And that would go so fast that he wouldn't have time to scream. (01:50:35)
Factual error: When Holly's plane finally lands, the cockpit shot shows the pilot with his hands on four engine throttles. But Holly's plane is an L-1011 TriStar, which only has three engines. (01:52:00)
Factual error: In circling over Washington Dulles, a plane would fly over several airports that they could land at with perfect communication, including Richmond, Baltimore, Andrews AFB, etc. Also, there is no communication from the airport to the plane but the plane would be in range of no fewer than 15 transmitting stations that could have relayed messages.
Factual error: It is impossible for a stream of burning jet fuel to follow a plane through snow and catch up. Not only is jet fuel extremely hard to ignite, almost as soon as the plane was off the ground the fuel stream would be too dispersed for the flame to climb up into the tank, and even if not it wouldn't burn fast enough to catch the plane.