What Airline Has the Most Crashes?

What Airline Has the Most Crashes

What airline has the most crashes? To find the safest airlines and most dangerous airlines in the world, the Chicago aviation accident lawyer team at Curcio & Casciato has conducted an extensive analysis of commercial air crashes. While the bulk of the analysis spans from the 1980s to the early 2000s, additional data from later years were also included in some parts of the study of the safest and most dangerous airlines. In the past couple of years, the United States airline with the most reportable incidents is United Airlines. However, historically, American Airlines has the most plane accidents in the United States.

The recent plane crashes involving Boeing have brought the safety aspect of air travel into sharp focus around the world. While air travel is typically regarded as one of the safest transportation methods, these recent public aircraft accidents highlight the devastating consequences that can occur when commercial air crashes happen.

The recent particular crash prompts critical questions about aviation safety: How frequently do plane crashes actually happen? How many lives have been lost in these fatal accidents? What particular airline and which manufacturers are most often involved in most crashes?

How Safe Are Commercial Airplanes?

When looking at the overall fatal crash rate, commercial air travel is among the safest forms of transportation. Advances in technology, stringent regulatory standards, and improved training for flight crew members have significantly reduced the commercial aircraft accident rate per mile flown. Agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) enforce rigorous safety standards that contribute to this high level of safety.

The safety of major airlines depends on the type of aircraft you’re boarding. Additionally, plane crashes are much more likely in a single-engine plane. Crashes by personal planes are much more common than commercial air crashes. Almost 80% of aircraft accidents and 72% of fatal accidents involved personal, single-engine planes.

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Aviation Safety Standards

Aviation safety standards ensure that airline operations adhere to the highest safety protocols. These standards encompass everything from improper maintenance and faulty aircraft design to negligent flight operations and pilot error. National and international bodies monitor compliance with these standards, ensuring that major airlines operate within strict safety guidelines.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in 2014 prompted a significant increase in aviation industry regulations, including better satellite tracking and improved training for crew members during forced landing and other emergency situations.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) establishes global aviation safety standards. As a specialized agency of the United Nations, ICAO promotes the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation by setting standards and regulations for air travel safety, security, efficiency, and environmental protection.

The Aviation Safety Network (ASN) is a valuable resource for aviation safety data, providing detailed information about aviation accidents, incidents, and safety issues. This online database is crucial for researchers, the aviation industry, and the public in understanding the factors contributing to aviation safety and the historical context of airline accidents.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a key agency within the United States Department of Transportation, is tasked with regulating and overseeing all civil aviation activities in the U.S. The FAA’s responsibilities include the certification of aircraft and pilots, setting standards for airports, and overseeing air traffic management.

What are the Safest Airlines in the United States?

Delta Air Lines has the best safety record in the United States.

Delta Air Lines is one of the world’s largest and most established carriers, renowned not only for its extensive network that connects passengers to over 300 destinations across the globe but also for its stringent safety measures. Founded in 1929, Delta Air Lines has grown to become a leader in the aviation industry, particularly noted for its customer service and operational excellence. The airline has received numerous accolades for its safety standards, innovative technology implementations, and rigorous pilot training programs. It consistently ranks high on lists of the safest airlines, making it a top choice for domestic and international travelers seeking reliability and security.

Southwest Airlines has the second-best safety record in the United States.

Founded in 1971, Southwest Airlines is a major American airline known for its low-cost, high-efficiency operations. It stands out for its unique business model that includes flying a single aircraft type (Boeing 737), which simplifies training and maintenance. Southwest Airlines has a commendable safety record, having experienced very few incidents relative to its massive volume of flights and operational years. The airline’s commitment to the safety aspect is matched by its dedication to customer service, often leading to high passenger satisfaction ratings. Southwest’s approach to safety includes continuous investment in new aircraft, advanced navigation technology, and comprehensive safety training for its crew.

What are the Safest Airlines in the World?

Qantas has the best safety record in the world.

Of all the global airlines, the Australian flag carrier is frequently cited as the safest airline globally. Qantas has a remarkable reputation for safety, having no fatalities in the jet era. Known for its pioneering efforts in developing and implementing flight safety technologies, Qantas has been a leader in using the Flight Data Recorder to monitor aircraft and crew performance, helping to improve safety conditions further. Its proactive safety management strategies and operational excellence make it a standout in the aviation industry.

Singapore Airlines has the second-best safety record in the world.

This airline is renowned for its exceptional safety aspects, modern fleet, and rigorous training of its crew. Singapore Airlines has also maintained a stellar safety record with very few incidents relative to the scope of its operations. The airline operates a diverse, young fleet of aircraft equipped with the latest aviation technology designed to enhance safety and efficiency. Its commitment to comprehensive, ongoing training for pilots and crew members ensures that Singapore Airlines remains at the forefront of operational safety practices in the industry.

What Causes Commercial Air Crashes?

What Causes Commercial Air Crashes

Pilot error is the leading cause of aviation accidents. Flying an aircraft demands extensive training, a deep understanding of its mechanical workings, and the hand-eye coordination necessary to navigate safely. Additionally, pilots must be forward-thinking, planning routes, monitoring weather conditions, and preparing for potential in-flight adjustments. Failure to adequately prepare for a flight, encountering adverse weather, or not foreseeing potential problems can result in accidents. Furthermore, pilots can sometimes experience disorientation, particularly when flying in clouds under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), which may result in dangerous stalls or spins that cause crashes. In legal matters arising from such incidents, it is crucial to have an attorney who thoroughly understands aviation and piloting.

Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) ensures safety and efficiency in operating larger aircraft with multiple crew members. This practice involves clearly allocating cockpit duties and ensuring that each pilot understands their responsibilities. Effective CRM also emphasizes the importance of open communication among crew members, encouraging pilots to voice concerns if they notice anything amiss or unsafe in the cockpit. Airlines invest significant time in training their pilots in CRM, recognizing its critical role in preventing accidents. A lapse in proper CRM practices can lead to air crashes, highlighting its importance in aviation safety.

Air traffic controllers are crucial to maintaining aviation safety. They are responsible for keeping aircraft safely separated and efficiently navigating them through busy airspace. Controllers provide pilots with essential information, such as flight headings and assigned altitudes. However, if a controller provides incorrect information or fails to ensure adequate separation between flights, collisions increase significantly. Air traffic control data and communication transcripts are only retained for a limited time following an incident. Therefore, requesting and securing this information after a collision occurs promptly is vital.

Weather frequently plays a critical role in aviation accidents. Pilots are responsible for being aware of and understanding the weather conditions along their flight routes. Air traffic controllers are also responsible for supplying pilots with accurate weather information. Accidents can result if incorrect weather data is provided or if flights are not adequately planned according to anticipated weather conditions. Additionally, securing weather information post-accident is essential for understanding the circumstances leading to the incident.

Aircraft designs are highly diverse, with variations in engines, propellers, wings, and cockpit instrumentation. If any of these components are improperly designed, it can lead to crashes. Aircraft must be engineered to endure turbulence, various weather conditions, and other environmental challenges. Typically, these designs undergo rigorous testing before entering production. Collecting and reviewing this testing data is crucial to ensure that the design has been subjected to appropriate testing protocols. A defectively designed aircraft significantly increases the risk of accidents.

Engine malfunctions are a common technical issue that can lead to accidents, necessitating rigorous maintenance and regular inspections.

Proper aircraft maintenance is crucial for safe flight operations. Numerous rules and regulations dictate how aircraft should be maintained, requiring airplane mechanics to adhere to specific checklists, guidelines, and inspection protocols. These inspection requirements can differ based on the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) under which the flight operates. Identifying whether a mechanical issue contributed to an aircraft crash can be challenging. Therefore, conducting thorough post-accident inspections is essential to determine if a mechanical problem was a factor in the crash.

When Do Most Air Crashes Occur?

Not every phase of air travel is equal. According to NTSB data, take-off and landing are when most air crashes occur.

The maneuvering phase involves complex flight operations near the ground or obstacles, which can lead to aircraft accidents if mishandled.

According to the most recent data, there have been 10,275 plane crashes during this step.

Takeoff and landing are critical phases of airline flights that involve significant operational challenges and are frequent stages for most air crashes.

An interesting statistic: while the landing is when most accidents occur, most crashes involving a forced landing were the least fatal.

According to the most recent data, there have been 20,330 plane crashes during this landing and 16,061 air crashes during takeoff. Under 2%of planes that crash-landed resulted in even only one fatality, compared to 15.7% fatal accident statistics associated with plane crashes during takeoff.

While statistically the safest phase of flight, plane crashes can still occur during the cruise, often due to unforeseen technical or weather issues.

According to the most recent data, 11,034 plane crashes occurred during this step.

Air crashes during the maneuvering and cruise stages tend to have a higher fatality recorded.

During the approach, pilots must navigate various factors such as altitude, speed, and external conditions to reach the runway safely.

According to the most recent data, there have been 8,077 air crashes during this step.

Where Do Most Air Crashes Occur?

Most air crashes in the United States tend to occur near airports during the critical takeoff and landing phases. These phases involve complex maneuvers and have a higher accident rate due to the proximity to the ground and other obstacles, increasing the likelihood of collisions, runway excursions, and other plane crashes.

Small airports and rural areas can also be common sites for air crashes, especially for general aviation and private aircraft, due to varying levels of airport infrastructure and air traffic control.

Where Do Most Air Crashes Occur

Statistically, certain states with higher air traffic volumes, such as California, Texas, and Florida, report more aviation incidents. This correlation is largely due to the airlines’ flight numbers and the density of airports in these regions. In remote areas around the Alaska Airlines, the rate of air crashes is also notably higher, with most crashes occurring in Anchorage due to challenging weather conditions, difficult terrain, and the reliance on smaller aircraft for transportation.

What are Hull Losses?

Hull losses refer to an air crash in which the aircraft is damaged to such an extent that it is either beyond repair or not economically viable to repair. This term, hull losses, is primarily used in the context of insurance and aviation safety statistics related to air travel, where it signifies a severe plane crash with significant damage to the aircraft structure. Hull losses do not necessarily imply a fatal crash or even injuries; the defining factor is the damage to the aircraft.

Determining hull losses involves assessing the cost of repairs relative to the aircraft’s value. If the cost to repair the aircraft exceeds its value at the time of the particular crash, or if the structural integrity of the aircraft is compromised to a degree that cannot be safely restored, the aircraft is considered a total loss. This is similar to a car that is “totaled.”

The classification of hull losses helps airlines, insurance companies, and safety analysts to categorize and evaluate most crashes regarding economic impact and severity. Hull losses are significant indicators in the aviation industry, as they often lead to in-depth investigations aimed at preventing similar air crashes in the future.

Most Dangerous Airlines In the United States

While the U.S. maintains strict aviation safety standards, historical data indicates that some airlines have faced more safety challenges than others. This information can be critical for understanding risk factors associated with specific carriers. According to statistics, American Airlines has the most plane crashes in the United States.

Most Dangerous Airlines in the World

Globally, certain airlines have poorer safety records, often due to less rigorous safety standards or operational challenges in difficult environments. These statistics are crucial for passengers and the industry in assessing potential risks.

Air France and American Airlines have the most plane crashes, with 11 air crashes each. However, two accidents associated with American Airlines happened on September 11th, 2001. Two accidents out of the seven accidents associated with United Airlines also occurred on this day.

Here are the most dangerous airlines in the world, according to the number of plane crashes.

The following shows the global airlines and how many plane crashes the particular airline has:

  1. American Airlines: 11 (eleven accidents)
  2. Air France: 11 (eleven accidents)
  3. China Airlines: 9 (nine accidents)
  4. Korean Air: 9 (nine accidents)
  5. Pakistan International Airlines: 8 (eight accidents)
  6. United Airlines: 7 (seven accidents)
  7. Egyptair: 6 (six accidents)
  8. Ethiopian Airlines: 6 (six accidents)
  9. Thai Airways: 6 (six accidents)
  10. American Eagle: 5 (five accidents)
  11. Continental Airlines: 5 (five accidents)
  12. Lufthansa: 5 (five accidents)

Interesting statistic: American Eagle is a regional branch of American Airlines. The combined plane crashes for these two airlines are 16 accidents.

Another interesting statistic: Contental Airlines merged with United Airlines in 2012. The combined plane crashes for these two airlines are 12 accidents.

Fatal Crash Statistics by Airline

While most crashes are not considered a ‘fatal accident,’ here are some examples of air crashes that had a high number of fatalities recorded:

  • Air France: June 2009, Air France Flight 477 crash-landed in the Atlantic Ocean. The fatal accident killed all 228 onboard.
  • Air China: May 2002, Flight 611 disintegrated in mid-air due to improper maintenance. The fatal accident killed all 225 onboard.
  • United Airlines: Sept 1965, Flight 389 crash landed in Salt Lake City. The fatal accident killed 43 of 91 passengers.
  • Thai Airlines: Aug 1987, Flight 365 crash landed near Phuket. The fatal accident killed all 83 passengers.

A hostile takeover has also caused many aircraft accidents. Russian separatist forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

United Airlines Plane Crashes

Historically, United Airlines has been involved in several fatal accidents, particularly in the earlier decades of commercial aviation. One would need to sum up the fatalities from all these incidents for an accurate total count. Key accidents include:

  • United Airlines Flight 823 in 1964 with 39 fatalities.

  • United Airlines Flight 553 in 1972 with 45 fatalities.

  • United Airlines Flight 2860 in 1977 with 3 fatalities.

  • United Airlines Flight 232 in 1989 with 112 fatalities out of 296 people on board.

  • United Airlines Flight 175 and United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, were part of terrorist attacks, with all passengers and crew members on board both flights perishing.

However, there have been several nonfatal accidents related to United Airlines. Here is the timeline from March 2023-March 2024:

March 2023: There were six accidents involving United Airlines planes, according to AeroInside. One accident from Miami to Newark was avoided, as the plane was forced to return to Miami after onboard staff reported they had an engine compressor stall. In another notable incident, a United Airlines captain became incapacitated on a flight from Guatemala City to Chicago.

April 2023: There were three accidents, according to AeroInside. One accident for United Airlines includes a flight from San Diego to Chicago in which a lightning strike hit an aircraft. On one flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Denver, the United Airlines aircraft could not retract the landing gear. On a third flight, from Hartford, Connecticut, to Washington, D.C., the window popped open on takeoff of the United Airlines flight.

May 2023: According to AeroInside, five reportable incidents involving United Airlines planes occurred in May 2023. The United Airlines’ planes experienced yet another window issue: cracked windshields. One accident included hydraulic failures, one flight had rudder issues, another flight experienced engine failure and the last flight, fire.

June 2023: There were five reportable incidents for United Airlines. One accident, on June 12, 2023, was avoided as a United Airlines aircraft heading from St. Louis to Denver was forced to land in Kansas City, Missouri, after smoke entered the cockpit.

July 2023: United Airlines had three accidents, according to AeroInside. On July 8, 2023, a passenger video emerged on social media of a fire breaking out on a United Airlines flight leaving Denver. On another United Airlines flight on July 17, 2023, the emergency slide dropped from the plane, landing in the backyard of a Chicago home.

August 2023: United Airlines had six incidents, including two engine fires.

September 2023: There were two accidents for United Airlines. On September 5, 2023, the FAA temporarily halted all flights for a little over one hour by company request, identified a “technology issue.” Then, a video posted on social media showcases sparks flashing out of a United Airlines aircraft as it diverts landing back to Newark after yet another technical issue.

October 2023: United Airlines flights reported five incidents this month. Reported incidents noted electrical issues and an oil leak from the engine.

November 2023: There were eleven reportable incidents aboard United Airlines flights. A rejected takeoff avoided one accident because of smoke on the plane. One flight had a nose gear door issue. Two accidents involved engine failure.

December 2023: There were six incidents for United Airlines this month. On December 3, 2023, one flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Norfolk, Virginia, was forced to turn back around after fuel started leaking from the aircraft.

January 2024: There were seven accidents that occured on United Airlines flights. One accident was due to loss of cabin pressure. One flight experienced a bird strike. Another flight had an engine failure, and another a cracked windshield.

February 2024Seven accidents were reported on United Airlines flights this month. One flight due to a tail strike on departure. One accident included engine failure mid-flight. Another was struck by lightning.

March 2024: There were ten incidents reported for United Airlines this month. One flight experienced an engine fire from Houston to Fort Myers, Florida. On the same day, another flight experienced engine failure mid-flight. Another flight from Japan to San Francisco lost a tire during take-off. One flight from San Francisco to Mexico was forced to make an emergency landing in Los Angeles due to hydraulics issues. On the same day as this flight, a second incident was reported: a United Airlines plane rolled off the runway at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Two accidents included forced landings due to improper maintenance. One flight arrived in San Francisco with a “small amount of smoke” caused by a hydraulic leak. One accident included a missing panel discovered upon landing. One flight bound for Osaka, Japan, was forced to land in San Francisco due to mechanical failure.

Southwest Airlines, recognized for its extensive network and customer-centric approach, has maintained an impressive safety record throughout its operational history. Since its establishment in 1971, Southwest has experienced very few accidents relative to the volume of its operations.

One of the most notable incidents occurred in 2005 when Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 overran the runway in heavy snow conditions at Chicago Midway International Airport, striking a car and causing a fatality on the ground, though all passengers survived.

Another incident in 2018 involved Flight 1380, where an engine failure led to a shattered window and the death of one passenger due to being partially ejected.

Despite these events, Southwest Airlines has continued to uphold a high safety record, emphasized by its quick responses and transparent handling of incidents. The airline’s commitment to safety training, continuous fleet upgrades, and proactive maintenance practices has solidified its reputation as one of the safest carriers in commercial aviation.

As previously stated, Delta Air Lines has the best safety record in the United States. The last fatality recorded on a Delta Air Lines flight was July 6, 1996. Two fatalities occurred out of the 147 occupants. Before this, the last fatal crash occurred due to pilot error on August 31, 1988, resulting in 14 fatalities out of 108 occupants.

Aircraft Accidents by Airplane Manufacturer

Aside from extreme pilot error, plane models often cause most accidents. Two accidents for Boeing 737 Max planes occurred in 2018–19. These two accidents stemmed from issues related to the model’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System system, a flight software designed to control onboard to prevent stalls.

But which aircraft manufacturer has the most crashes? Which airplane manufacturer has the highest number of fatal crash accidents?

Airplane Manufacturer With the Most Aircraft Accidents

According to the NTSB database, most crashes involve a:

  • Cessna: 56,084 plane crashes
  • Piper: 35,802 plane crashes
  • Beech: 12,395 plane crashes
  • Boeing: 2,891 plane crashes
  • Airbus: 191 plane crashes

These manufacturers have historically been the largest airplane producers for general aviation purposes.

Airplane Manufacturer With the Most Fatal Accidents

  • Cessna: 8,210 fatal accidents
  • Piper: 6,432 fatal accidents
  • Beech: 3,002 fatal accidents
  • Boeing: 282 fatal accidents
  • Airbus: 21 fatal accidents

It’s important to note that the number of fatal accidents is just that. For many of these plane crashes, there was only one fatality recorded. There were also many air crashes that only had two fatalities recorded.

Aircraft Accidents by Airplane Manufacturer

According to the most current information we could compile, here is the list of the number of fatalities recorded from each aircraft manufacturer:

  • Cessna: 9,216 fatalities recorded
  • Boeing: 9,154 fatalities recorded
  • Airbus: 2,978 fatalities recorded
  • DC: 2,897 fatalities recorded
  • Tupolev: 1,813 fatalities recorded

These numbers do not include any fatalities recorded on “the ground”

Most Fatal Accidents in Airline History

When looking at the worst plane accidents recorded by total fatalities, many fatal accidents occurred as the result of military exercises or terrorist attacks. The Aviation Safety Network highlights the following as some of the most fatal accidents in airline operations history:

At 12:30, a bomb exploded in the Las Palmas passenger terminal, leading to its closure due to a potential second bomb threat. Consequently, numerous flights were diverted to Tenerife, including KLM Flight 4805 from Amsterdam and PanAm Flight 1736 from Los Angeles and New York. Las Palmas reopened at 15:00, but congestion on the Tenerife taxiways delayed departures. PanAm passengers stayed on board, ready to leave, but their aircraft had to wait nearly two hours due to the KLM Boeing blocking the entrance to runway 12 for refueling and boarding.

The KLM plane eventually backtracked and was preparing for takeoff when a crucial communication mishap occurred. The Tenerife tower, aware that PanAm 1736 was still on the runway, instructed KLM to stand by, but this message was obscured by simultaneous transmissions, leading to confusion in the KLM cockpit. Despite this, the KLM aircraft commenced takeoff and collided with the PanAm plane still on the runway. The collision resulted in catastrophic damage and fatalities, largely because the KLM crew mistakenly believed they had clearance to take off—a tragic error compounded by communication failures and misinterpretations between the tower and the KLM flight crew.

  • Outlined Airlines: Pan American World Airways
  • Aircraft Involved: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 747-206B and Pan Am Boeing 747-121
  • Date: March 27, 1977
  • Fatality recorded: 583 (355 occupant fatalities and 248 ground fatalities)
  • Survivors: 61
  • Particular Crash Cause: Pilot error

JA8119, a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747SR configured for high-density domestic travel, experienced significant damage during a botched landing in Osaka on June 2, 1978, when its tail struck the runway. The rear pressure bulkhead was cracked, necessitating repairs by Boeing, including replacing the lower rear fuselage and part of the bulkhead. Seven years later, on August 12, 1985, after departing Tokyo-Haneda for Osaka, the aircraft encountered severe difficulties twelve minutes into the flight. A decompression event caused by a ruptured rear pressure bulkhead led to the loss of a significant section of its vertical fin and tail cone, severely impacting flight systems control onboard. The aircraft struggled with unstable movements and eventually crashed into the Osutaka Ridge after an uncontrollable descent and climb sequence, resulting in a fatal crash.

The plane crash was primarily attributed to the inadequate repair of the rear pressure bulkhead in 1978, which led to fatigue cracks weakening the structure. These issues were compounded by maintenance oversights that failed to detect the deteriorating condition of the bulkhead, ultimately causing its catastrophic failure in flight and the consequent loss of control onboard.

  • Outlined Airlines: Japan Airlines Flight 123
  • Aircraft Involved: JAL Boeing 747-146SR
  • Airport: Tokyo-Haneda Airport (HND/RJTT)
  • Date: August 12, 1985
  • Fatality recorded: 520
  • Survivors: 4
  • Particular Crash Cause: In-flight structure and engine failure

Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907, an Ilyushin Il-76, was en route from Shymkent, Kazakhstan, to Delhi when it collided with a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 that had just departed Delhi for Dhahran. The incident occurred as both aircraft were navigating Airway G452. The Kazakhstan flight was instructed to descend to FL150, while the Saudi flight was cleared to climb to FL140 on the same airway. Despite air traffic control’s efforts to manage the flights’ altitudes, the Ilyushin descended below its assigned FL150 to 14,500 feet and dropped an additional 310 feet shortly before the collision. Both aircraft subsequently crashed in a rural farming area.

The primary cause of the fatal crash was the unauthorized descent of the Kazakh aircraft to FL140 instead of maintaining the assigned FL150. Contributing factors included the Kazakh pilot error in inadequate English proficiency, leading to misinterpretation of ATC commands, poor airmanship, ineffective Crew Resource Management (CRM), a casual approach to duties, and a lack of standard communication protocols among the crew members.

  • Outlined Airlines: Kazakhstan Airlines
  • Aircraft Involved: Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-168B and Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin II-76TD
  • Airport: Shymkent Airport (CIT/UAII)
  • Date: November 12, 1996
  • Fatality recorded: 349 (37 occupant fatalities and 312 ground fatalities)
  • Survivors: 0
  • Particular Crash Cause: Pilot error

On March 3, 1974, flight TK981, a DC-10, departed Istanbul for Paris and London, landing at Paris-Orly at 11:02. After 50 of the 167 passengers disembarked, the aircraft was refueled and prepared for the next leg with 216 additional passengers, many booked due to a British Airways strike. The aircraft took off around 12:30 after delays. Shortly after reaching flight level 60, a catastrophic decompression occurred due to the aft left-hand cargo door opening. This led to the collapse of the cabin floor above, ejecting two triple-seat units with passengers, severely damaging control cables under the floor, and nearly disabling engine no. 2. Despite efforts to stabilize, the aircraft crashed into the Ermenonville forest northeast of Paris.

The cause of the disaster was traced to a malfunctioning cargo door, which appeared locked due to a faulty latching mechanism but wasn’t securely closed. Contributing factors included improper application of service bulletins, inadequate modifications, and lack of a thorough visual inspection through the provided viewport, which had insufficient diameter. The design flaws and inadequate emergency procedures, previously exposed in an earlier incident, had not been effectively addressed, highlighting critical oversights for aircraft safety.

  • Outlined Airlines: Turkish Airlines
  • Aircraft Involved: McDonnell Douglas DC-10
  • Airport: Paris-Orly Airport (ORY/LFPO)
  • Date: March 3, 1974
  • Fatality recorded: 346
  • Survivors: 0
  • Particular Crash Cause: Faulty design

Air-India Flight 181/182, operated by a Boeing 747 named “Emperor Kanishka,” journeyed from Bombay, Delhi, and Frankfurt to Toronto, where a spare engine was added for transport to India. After passengers and a new crew of 22 boarded, the flight continued to Montreal, arriving uneventfully. In Montreal, 65 passengers disembarked, leaving 202 in transit. The flight renumbered AI 182, then took on 105 more passengers for its return to Bombay, with stops planned in London and Delhi. After departing Montreal at 02:18 UTC, the aircraft experienced a catastrophic explosion at 07:15 UTC over the Atlantic Ocean at 31,000 feet, leading to rapid decompression and structural disintegration before crashing into the sea. The wreckage, found at a depth of 6700 feet, yielded no direct evidence of an explosive, but circumstantial evidence strongly suggested an explosion in the forward cargo compartment, likely from a suitcase interlined from Vancouver via CP Air, similar to an incident in Tokyo that same day.

The Canadian Aviation Safety Board concluded that an explosion likely caused by a device in the forward cargo compartment led to the aircraft’s destruction. The evidence ruled out structural failure and supported no other explanations for the tragic event that killed all on board.

  • Outlined Airlines: Air-India
  • Aircraft Involved: Boeing 747-237B (Boeing 747 “Emperor Kanishka”)
  • Airport: Montreal-Mirabel International Airport, QC (YMX/CYMX)
  • Date: June 23, 1985
  • Fatality recorded: 329
  • Survivors: 0
  • Particular Crash Cause: Circumstantial evidence points to an explosion.

Flight SV163 from Karachi landed in Riyadh for a stopover and took off for Jeddah at 18:08 GMT. Shortly after departure, at 18:15, warnings indicated smoke in the aft cargo area. The aircraft began a return to Riyadh while ascending through FL220. By 18:22, smoke had infiltrated the cabin, causing panic among passengers. At 18:25, the no. 2 engine throttle malfunctioned as the fire spread into the cabin. Despite the chaos in the aisles, the captain urged passengers to stay seated. The aircraft landed back in Riyadh at 18:36 but did not immediately evacuate; instead, it taxied off the runway. The engines were shut down at 18:42, and rescue crews only managed to open the aircraft doors by 19:05, by which time the interior was fully engulfed in flames. All onboard perished in the fire.

The probable cause of the disaster was a fire that started in the cargo compartment, though the ignition source remains unidentified. Critical errors contributed to the tragedy, including the captain’s failure to prepare for immediate evacuation upon forced landing and inadequate emergency training and equipment for rescue personnel.

  • Outlined Airlines: Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Aircraft Involved: Lockheed L-1011 TriStar 200
  • Airport: Riyadh International Airport (RUH/OERY)
  • Date: August 19, 1980
  • Fatality recorded: 301
  • Survivors: 0
  • Particular Crash Cause: Fire, pilot error, additional errors by crew members

American Airlines Flight 191, a McDonnell-Douglas DC-10-10, tragically crashed on takeoff from Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, resulting in the deaths of all 271 on board and two fatalities on the ground. The flight, destined for Los Angeles, began its departure under clear weather conditions with a crew of 13 and 258 passengers. During the takeoff at 15:02:38, as the American Airlines aircraft was nearing lift-off, the No. 1 engine and its pylon detached, vaulting over the wing and crashing onto the runway, emanating white smoke or vapor. The plane managed a brief ascent but lost speed and began rolling to the left. Despite attempts to stabilize, the aircraft continued rolling and crashed in a nearby field and trailer park, just northwest of the runway, after only 31 seconds in the air.

Investigations into American Airlines pinpointed the immediate cause as improper maintenance during an engine/pylon reinstallation using a forklift, which was not an approved procedure and caused critical damage to the pylon structure. This error was exacerbated by the forklift’s inability to handle the precise movements needed for proper reinstallation. Further inspections of DC-10s revealed additional cracked pylon mounts.

Contributory factors for the plane crash included design vulnerabilities and inadequate communication and procedures among maintenance teams, the manufacturer, and the FAA, which did not effectively highlight or mitigate potential risks. The American Airlines Flight 191 accident underscored the catastrophic potential of improper maintenance and regulatory lapses in the aviation industry.

  • Outlined Airlines: American Airlines
  • Aircraft Involved: Donnell Douglas DC-10-10
  • Airport: Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, IL
  • Date: May 25, 1979
  • Fatality recorded: 273 (271 occupant fatalities and 2 ground fatalities)
  • Survivors: 0
  • Particular Crash Cause: Improper maintenance

American Airlines Flight 587 was scheduled to fly from New York-JFK to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but faced delays in boarding due to heightened security at gate 22, eventually closing the gate at 08:38 and pushing back at 09:00. After taxiing behind a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 bound for Tokyo, Flight 587 was warned of wake turbulence and held at runway 31L. The American Airlines flight was cleared for takeoff at 09:13:27, about two minutes after the JAL 747 had taken off. Shortly after the American Airlines flight takeoff and during a climbing left turn, the crew experienced a significant increase in unusual noises and vibrations attributed to wake turbulence. This was followed by severe control issues involving excessive rudder inputs by the first officer, which separated the entire vertical tail fin at around 2,500 feet. The American Airlines aircraft then entered an uncontrolled descent, resulting in both engines detaching and crashing into a residential area in Queens.

The American Airlines accident was likely caused by the vertical stabilizer’s in-flight separation due to loads beyond the design limit caused by the first officer’s excessive rudder pedal inputs. Contributing factors included the Airbus A300-600’s rudder system design characteristics and the training protocols under American Airlines’ Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Program.

  • Outlined Airlines: American Airlines
  • Aircraft Involved: Airbus A300B4-605R
  • Airport: New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY (JFK/KJFK)
  • Date: November 12, 2001
  • Fatality recorded: 265 (260 occupant fatalities and 5 ground fatalities)
  • Survivors: 0
  • Particular Crash Cause: Pilot error

China Airlines Flight 140 from Taipei to Nagoya encountered a critical situation during its approach due to the first officer’s inadvertent activation of the GO levers. This action shifted the autothrottles to go-around mode, causing an unexpected increase in thrust and misalignment with the intended glide path. Attempts to manually correct the approach led to further complications when the autopilot was mistakenly re-engaged in go-around mode, creating conflicting control inputs and causing the aircraft to become severely out-of-trim.

As the aircraft approached 700 feet, the misalignment of the horizontal stabilizer at its nose-up limit and the activation of the Alpha Floor function, which increases thrust during high angles of attack, exacerbated control issues. Despite the captain’s efforts to execute a go-around, the misconfigured flaps and increased pitch led to a stall and a catastrophic ascent to 1,730 feet, followed by a stall and crash near the runway.

The crash was primarily due to the unintended activation of the GO lever and the subsequent autopilot engagement in an incorrect mode, leading to an out-of-trim condition poorly managed by the flight crew. Contributory factors included inadequate warnings for out-of-trim conditions, insufficient crew understanding of flight systems, and the lack of mandatory service bulletins regarding aircraft maintenance and safety by the manufacturer and regulatory bodies.

  • Outlined Airlines: China Airlines
  • Aircraft Involved: Airbus A300B4-622R
  • Airport: Taipei-Chiang Kai Shek International Airport (TPE/RCTP)
  • Date: April 26, 1994
  • Fatality recorded: 264
  • Survivors: 7
  • Particular Crash Cause: Pilot error and improper training of air travel staff

A McDonnell Douglas DC-8-61 operated by Canadian airline Nationair for Nigeria Airways crashed near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, killing all 261 people aboard. The flight, carrying Hajj pilgrims back to Nigeria, experienced a catastrophic failure shortly after takeoff from Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport. During the takeoff run, the aircraft encountered tire failures and subsequent fires due to under-inflated tires and overloading. This mechanical breakdown led to structural damage, further exacerbated when the landing gear was retracted, bringing burning debris into contact with critical aircraft systems.

The crisis unfolded quickly as the aircraft ascended; tire remnants caught fire, rapidly spreading through the hydraulic and electrical systems and, ultimately, the cabin. Despite efforts to return to the airport, the plane lost structural integrity and crashed. The investigation highlighted severe lapses in maintenance protocols, including tire pressure checks and unauthorized personnel signing off on the aircraft’s airworthiness. The lack of adequate warning systems for tire failure and the decision to retract the landing gear after the tire failure was also criticized. The organizational and operational shortcomings at Nationair contributed significantly to the tragedy, underscoring the critical need for rigorous maintenance and adherence to safety regulations in aviation operations.

  • Outlined Airlines: Nigeria Airways
  • Aircraft Involved: McDonnell Douglas DC-8-61
  • Airport: Jeddah-King Abdulaziz International Airport
  • Date: July 11, 1991
  • Fatality recorded: 261
  • Survivors: 0
  • Particular Crash Cause: Improper maintenance

How Do You Know If You Have an Aviation Accident Claim?

You may have a claim if you have suffered losses or injuries in an aviation accident. Identifying the responsible parties—whether an airline, a manufacturer, or another entity. A skilled Chicago plane crash attorney can help victims understand their rights and the legal pathways available for seeking compensation.

Chicago Aviation Accident Attorneys

At Curcio & Casciato, our Chicago aviation accident attorneys are dedicated to representing clients affected by aviation accidents. With comprehensive knowledge of aviation law and a commitment to client advocacy, we strive to secure the compensation and justice our clients deserve. Whether dealing with complex litigation against major airlines or seeking accountability for regulatory failures, our firm provides expert legal representation tailored to the unique aspects of aviation-related claims.

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