Diane (Cheryl Ladd) and Greg Halstead (Doug Sheehan) were once happily married, in later years, even deciding to try to have a baby, despite the fact that she had already suffered two miscarriages. She has no luck in becoming pregnant and this leads to an estrangement from her husband. On his latest ConWest Airlines flight, Greg, a professional pilot, finds out about a bomb threat. The person carrying the bomb supposedly wants to kill another passenger, Sen. Charleston (John Rayburn) a politician with an outspoken opinion on abortion. Unknown to the killer, however, the politician has already left the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 airliner because it had an hour and a half delay. Greg decides to make an emergency landing in Dayton, Ohio, but due to severe thunderstorms, the aircraft crashes, killing almost everyone on board.
Soon, the CIA, FBI, and NTSB are at the scene of the accident. There are different kinds of speculation about the cause of the crash, and some suspect Greg of refusing to follow orders. The FBI notices that the CIA immediately collected cargo out of the wreckage and said it was top secret. Diane is devastated when she hears the news, until she finds out that Greg is one of the few survivors. She is contacted by Scott Cody (Jeffrey DeMunn), who works for the ALPA. He tells her that Greg is the prime suspect in the crash investigation and collects information from her, finding out that Greg was on medication.
Stirred up by news reporter Spense Zolman (Jim Metzler), who senses a good story, the investigators find there was no bomb on board, and all the evidence points to Greg. Cody finds out that the CIA was spying on the aircraft with on-board surveillance equipment, interfering with the aircraft's radar. Diane asks if that was the reason why Greg crashed, but Cody explains that it is more complicated. Meanwhile, Greg dies from his injuries. Diane makes an official statement in which she claims her husband was not responsible, but she is not considered a reliable source, in view of the fact that she could lose pension and other benefits.
Diane refuses to accept that her husband will be blamed for the crash and does everything to get the entire truth revealed. With the help of a few experts, she is able to prove that there was a fire on the aircraft, which caused the crash.
With the working titles, Aftermath: The Mystery of Flight 1501 and The Mysterious Crash of Flight 1501, the television film was mainly a studio-made affair with stock aerial footage. Principal photography began on July 17, 1990 and was finished by August that year. The aircraft depicted in Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501 is the ubiquitous DC-9 or its look-alike twin McDonnell Douglas MD-80. The aircraft is flown by the fictional ConWest Airlines, flight 1501, on the Baltimore–Kansas City–San Francisco route.
Prior to 1990, the closest aviation accident to the events depicted in Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501, occurred on November 28, 1979, when the actions of the pilot's wife were significant in raising a Royal Commission, in which the "pilot error" finding of the initial report on the crash of a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, was changed.
In 1996, six years after the release of Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501, ValuJet Flight 592, a DC-9, as depicted in the film, crashed after dangerous goods illegally loaded into the cargo compartment caused an in-flight fire which brought down the aircraft. The accident was a startlingly similar echo of the events in the film.
In a later review of Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501, Sergio Ortego in airodyssey.net, commented: "I like the depiction of the media and their misinterpretation of air disasters. Cheryl Ladd and the other actors are convincing, but the special effects and footage used aren’t." Andy Webb, in his review for The Movie Scene pinpointed the problems with the film: "What this all boils down to is as a whole movie 'Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501' doesn't work; it is too contrived and now seriously dated. But the various elements of the movie are interesting and it is a case that less would have made 'Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501' more."