Skip to content

Deadliest Plane Crashes

If figures are to be believed 2012 came out as the safest year in terms of casualties from plane crashes with lowest accident rate of 1 per 2.5 million flights which is half of that of 2011. According to Ascend the passenger death rate has decreased over the years. It was 1 per 1.8 million in 1990s, 1 per 3.7 million in 2000-2009 and 1 per 6.1 million in 2010. Insurance claims also reduced to 980 million dollars in 2012. About 160 passengers and crew were killed per year in last decade which is half of the previous decade. We are listing 10 most fatal plane crashes till date

1.  Pan Am Flight 1736 and KLM Flight 4805  @  Tenerife North Airport(1977)

(583 lives)

A small bomb explosion at Gran Canaria Airport compelled these two flights to divert to Tenerife North Airport on 27 March 1977. Poor visibility, thick fog cover and short of ground radar facilities and communication errors led to the fiasco where two Boeing 747 aircraft’s collided on the runway. 335 people aboard of Pan Am flight and all 248 passengers along with the crew of KLM flight were killed leading the shocking death toll of 583 making it the deadliest plane crashes till date. It is still the most deadly disaster in commercial aviation history. Its repercussions led to the formation of Crew Resource Management where the flight crew had enough powers to challenge their captains if they feel of some errors being committed. ATC jargons were standardized to reduce the occurrence of any misunderstandings which played the main role in the accident.

2.    Japan Airlines Flight 123 @ Mount Takamaghara. (1985)

 (520 lives)

On 12 August, 1985 series of mechanical failure led to this plane crash. 12mins post take off from Haneda airport the alt pressure bulkhead (seals the rear end of the plane to build cabin pressure) leaked and the sudden rush out of gases from the cabin ripped off the vertical stabilizer of the aircraft. Unmaneuverable the plane crashed into the Takamaghara mountains after few failed attempts of the pilot to steer the aircraft to safety. All the 15 crew members and 505 passengers lost their lives. Amazingly only 4 of passenger survived. It is considered the most dreadful single-aircraft accident in the history. Later investigations revealed that the aircraft had malfunctioned 7 years earlier and wasn’t repaired aptly. It led to the formation of Safety Promotion Center at Tokyo International Airport to train people about personable responsibility.

3.      Mid- Air Collision Saudi 747 & Kazak IL-76 @ Charkhi Dadri (1996)

  ( 349 lives)

This is considered to be the most dreaded mid-air collision till date. Between the Saudi 747 & Kazak’s IL-76 a total of 349 people lost their lives. During those days Delhi airport only had one air corridor for both incoming and outgoing aircrafts and 1000 feet was the separation distance kept between incoming & outgoing aircrafts. The collision occurred with the Kazakhstan pilot misunderstanding the directions to fly at an altitude of 14000ft as against the directed altitude of 15000ft. It was in the last few seconds before the impact that the ATC could communicate clearly that the Kazak aircraft needs to pull up which it did with full throttle however fate had its own story and the tail of the IL-76 ripped apart the left wing of the Saudi 747. Both the planes turned into a fireball and plummeted to the ground with no survivors. Post this the aviation authorities of India ordered additional air corridors to separate traffic and that all aircrafts coming to India should have Airborne Collision Avoidance System.

4.      Turkish Airlines Flight 981 @ Paris 1974

(346 lives)

This crash is a classic example where aircraft maintenance is taken for granted and not looked upon as a serious affair by organizations. This Turkish airline, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 crashed because of its rear cargo hatch blowing off, resulting in decompression and crippled controls. The hatch was closed manually those days to ensure it’s locked properly. Repeated complaints were made for this aircraft’s faulty hatch lock however during regular maintenance this was overlooked and shortcuts where used to solve the problem, finally leading up to the crash on 3rd March, 1974 near Paris where all the 346 passengers on board died.

5.       Saudi Arabian Flight 163, Riyadh Airport 1980

          (287 lives)

287 passengers along with 14 crew members died due to smoke inhalation after the fire broke off in Lockheed L-1011 TriStar after takeoff from Riyadh International Airport in the month of August. The aircraft made emergency landing but it burst into flames. It remains the gravest of disasters which was not due to crash or mid-flight break up. Investigators marked the presence of 2 butane stoves which were kept near fire extinguishers. Airlines modified their training and emergency protocols and Lockheed upgraded to glass laminate enforcement in its planes.

6.       American Airlines Flight 191,Chicago O’Hare 1979

           (271 lives)

On 25th May , 1979 another McDonnell Douglas DC-10 met the tragic end when it crashed after takeoff from O’Hare when left wing engine #1 got detached and flipped over top of the wing and denting the plane. 13 crew members and 258 passengers lost their lives. The detachment of engine was assumed to be the reason for the accident and the maintenance was kept in question and led to grounding of DC-10 by Federal Aviation Administration.

7.      China Airways Flight 140 Nagoya Airport, Japan  1994

     ( 264 lives)

Human error resulted in another accident when the pilot unknowingly pressed the takeoff/go-around button before landing at Nagoya Airport and they could not troubleshoot the situations after autopilot of the Airbus A300 came into action. 264 lost their lives in accident. CAA, Taiwan ordered China Airways to modify the computers used for flight control.

8.       American Airlines Flight 587 ,New York, 2001

     (260 lives)

The second deadly aircraft accident out of John F Kennedy airport when flight 587 crashed into the Belle Harbor just moments after takeoff on 12 Nov, 2001. It killed all 260 passengers including the crew. It was assumed to be a terrorist attack since it happened 2 months after 9/11. But the safety board revealed it that manual fault was responsible. Pilot training program was launched by American Airlines to rectify the mistakes.

9.       Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 Abdul Aziz Airport 1991

( 260 lives)

261 Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca died on 11 July, 1991 when the plane caught fire just before landing and again the culprit was McDonnell Douglas Dc-8. Reports revealed that mechanic requested to inflate two tires which were below the minimum but it was ignored because of non availability of nitrogen gas. Friction generated led to generation of enough heat. The aircraft didn’t possess fire or heat sensors for wheel assembly.

10.    Air New Zealand Flight 901 Ross Island, Antarctica 1979

  ( 257 people)

The site seeing route witnessed the fatal accident when Air New Zealand 901 crashed into Mount Erebus killing 257 people. Pilot error resulted in the disaster as the flight path was changed the last night without prior information to the pilot as claimed by people