Aviation has come a long way since the Wright Brothers first took to the air in 1903. Since then, advances in technology and safety have made air travel one of the safest forms of transportation in the world. However, despite these advances, aviation still suffers from its fair share of accidents. Here are 10 of the deadliest aircraft accidents in aviation history.
10- Japan Air Lines Flight 123
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On August 12th, 1985, Japan Air Lines Flight 123 crashed into Osutaka Ridge, killing 520 of the 524 passengers and crew onboard. It is the deadliest single-aircraft accident in history. The plane had taken off from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and was bound for Osaka International Airport. The crash was caused by a malfunctioning of the plane’s rear pressure bulkhead, which had been damaged during a previous repair. The malfunctioning bulkhead caused the tail to separate from the plane, resulting in a loss of control. The plane then plummeted into the ridge, killing all but four of those onboard. The accident led to new safety regulations requiring that all planes be regularly inspected. It also highlighted the importance of proper maintenance and repair of aircraft. The lessons learned from this tragedy continue to be applied to this day.
9- Charkhi Dadri mid-air Collision
Photo Credit: Plane n’ Boom
On 12 November 1996, two planes collided mid-air near Charkhi Dadri, India, resulting in one of the worst aircraft accidents in history. Flight 605, a Saudia airliner, and Flight 981, a Kazakhstan Airlines cargo plane, crashed into each other, killing all 349 people on board. Witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion and seeing a fireball in the sky. The accident was caused by a miscommunication between air traffic controllers and the pilots. The Kazakhstan Airlines plane was given permission to descend to an altitude that was already occupied by the Saudia airliner. In the ensuing collision, both planes broke up and fell to the ground. The crash site was strewn with debris for several miles. It is still considered the deadliest mid-air collision in history.
8- EgyptAir Flight 990
EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on October 31, 1999, killing all 217 passengers and crew onboard. It remains the deadliest aviation disaster involving a Boeing 767. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the plane descended rapidly after the first officer disconnected the autopilot. It then climbed briefly before crashing into the sea. The cause of the crash is still unknown, though the investigation revealed evidence of an altercation in the cockpit between the first officer and the captain. It is believed that the first officer deliberately disengaged the autopilot and shut off the engines. This tragedy is a stark reminder of the importance of aviation safety and the need for pilots to be properly trained and monitored.
7- Delta Air Lines Flight 191
Photo Credit: The Flight Channel
On March 2nd, 1985, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashed during an approach to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, killing 137 passengers and 8 crew members. The accident remains the worst accident involving a Lockheed L-1011, and the second-worst aviation accident in U.S. history. The pilots of Flight 191 encountered a severe thunderstorm and wind shear, which caused the plane to lose altitude and subsequently crash. Investigations revealed that the pilots failed to respond correctly to the weather conditions, leading to the fatal accident. In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the wind shear alert system at the airport was not functioning properly. As a result of this tragedy, wind shear detection systems were improved, and safety protocols were strengthened. The legacy of Delta Air Lines Flight 191 lives on as a reminder of the importance of safety in aviation.
6- Pan Am Flight 103
Pan Am Flight 103 took off from London Heathrow on December 21, 1988. It was destined for JFK Airport in New York City. Disaster struck only 31 minutes later when a bomb exploded in the cargo hold. The plane disintegrated in midair, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members onboard. Debris from the plane rained down on the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 11 people on the ground. Investigations later revealed that the bomb had been placed onboard by a Libyan terrorist group. It remains the deadliest bombing of an airliner in history.
5- Air India Express Flight 812
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Air India Express Flight 812 crashed in Mangalore, India in 2010, killing 158 people. Flight 812 had taken off from Dubai and was heading to Mangalore when it overshot the runway. The plane careened off the end of the tarmac, breaking apart and bursting into flames. Witnesses reported the aircraft was too low and too far to the left of the runway. Investigations revealed the pilots had failed to reduce speed during the descent. The aircraft was unable to stop before the end of the runway. Rescue teams worked tirelessly to save survivors. Sadly, only eight survived and 158 people perished. The crash was one of the worst aircraft accidents in India’s history.
4- Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370,one of the worst aircraft accidents in history, took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 8th, 2014. It was headed for Beijing, China with 239 people on board. The plane never arrived at its destination and its fate remains a mystery. Search and rescue teams have scoured the Indian Ocean for the missing plane for years. Without any wreckage found, the cause of the crash remains unknown.
Many theories have been proposed, but none of them have been confirmed. Theories range from mechanical failure to hijacking and pilot suicide. There have been no survivors and the families of the victims are still searching for answers. The incident has also highlighted many issues regarding aviation safety. The lack of conclusive evidence has made it difficult to determine what happened to the plane and its passengers. Despite years of investigation, the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remains unsolved.
3- Turkish Airlines Flight 981
Photo Credit: Medium
Turkish Airlines Flight 981 crashed into the Ermenonville forest near Paris, killing all 346 passengers and crew on board. The accident was attributed to an incorrectly-secured cargo door, which caused explosive decompression. Investigations found that the pilots had failed to respond correctly to the emergency. This tragic incident remains one of the deadliest aviation disaster in history. The crash and its aftermath had a profound impact on the aviation industry, leading to improved safety standards and regulations. Airline crews now receive more thorough training on how to react to such emergencies. Aircraft manufacturers have also stepped up their efforts to ensure that cargo doors are correctly secured.
2- Saudia Flight 163
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Saudia Flight 163 took off from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on August 19th, 1980. The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 encountered a fire onboard shortly after takeoff. Passengers and crew attempted to put out the fire with fire extinguishers. Despite their efforts, the fire couldn’t be contained and the plane crashed back to the ground. All 287 passengers and 14 crew members on board perished in the crash, making it the deadliest plane disaster in history. The cause of the fire was later determined to be a leak in the cargo compartment that allowed jet fuel to enter the passenger cabin.
1- KLM Boeing 747
On March 27, 1977, a KLM Boeing 747 collided with a Pan Am 747 on the runway of Tenerife Airport in the Canary Islands, resulting in the death of 583 people, making it the worst plane accident in history. All 248 passengers and 14 crew members aboard the KLM plane were killed. Of the Pan Am passengers, 335 were killed and 61 survived. Witnesses reported that the KLM plane was taking off without clearance. The accident was attributed to poor communication between the air traffic controllers and the pilots, as well as the thick fog in the area.
The KLM crew had misheard the instructions from the air traffic controllers, believing they had clearance for take-off, when in fact they had been instructed to hold position. The accident resulted in the introduction of new safety procedures, including the use of standardized phrases by air traffic controllers and the prohibition of taking off without clearance. The tragedy remains a painful reminder of the importance of safety and communication in aviation.