An air plane crash is a mishappening where an unforeseen factor affects the airplane. They are catastrophic and affect the passengers to a greater extent. An air plane crash can also be called an aviation accident.
An aviation accident is defined by the Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence related to the working of airplanes that affects or could affect the safety of passengers and airplanes. Reasons for an air plane crash can be that airplane has experienced significant damage or structural failure, or the airplane goes missing or become entirely inaccessible.
It has been recorded that more than 80% of regular aviation accidents are because of human error, especially due to the loss of control by the pilot during the flight.
Types Of Air Plane Accidents
There are different types of air plane accidents because different reasons contribute to such accidents. A few of the types are listed below:
- Aviation accidents and incidents created by air traffic controller error.
- Aviation accidents and incidents due to design or manufacturing errors.
- Aviation accidents and incidents occurred due to loss of control.
- Aviation accidents and incidents because of in-flight depressurization.
- Aviation accidents and incidents comprising of in-flight explosions.
- Aviation accidents and incidents produced by uncontained engine failure.
- Airplane fires.
- Aviation accidents and incidents due to runway excursions.
- Aviation accidents and incidents that happen due to runway overruns.
- A terrorist attack on airplanes.
- Aviation accidents and incidents prompted by bird strikes.
- Aircraft bombing, collisions, and hijacking.
- Aircraft accidents and incidents due to instrument failure.
- Aircraft accidents and incidents caused due to volcanic events.
- Aircraft accidents and incidents occurred due to weather.
Different Aviation Authorities
Different aviation authorities are responsible for all the aircraft and their activities of a particular country.
- The National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) is the aviation authority of Brazil, which was created in 2005.
- The Civil Aviation Administration of China is the aviation authority under the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China.
- The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand.
- The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the corporation that is responsible for all types of civil aviation in the United Kingdom.
- The Civil Aviation Safety Authority(CASA) in Australia.
- The French Civil Aviation Authority is the French civil aviation authority responsible for France’s aviation-related matters.
- The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the body of the Indian Central Government to control civil aviation in India.
- The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is responsible for civil aviation safety in Europe.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controls all matters related to civil aviation in the United States.
- The International Civil Aviation Organization is a special civil aviation agency of the United Nations.
- The Ente Nazionale per I’Aviazione Civile (ENAC) is the national aviation authority of Italy.
- The Luftfahrt-Bundesamt is the national civil aviation authority of Germany that handles aviation incidents of Germany.
- The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) is responsible for all civil aviation matters of Pakistan.
- Transport Canada is responsible for making laws, policies, and services for all three modes of transportation.
Aviation safety has improved in over one hundred years of implementation. Two major manufacturers produce passenger aircraft for the civilian market: Boeing in the US and the European company Airbus. Safety is the vital selling point for these companies because they use aviation safety equipment while designing aircraft.
Some crucial safety devices used in commercial aircraft are:
- Evacuation slides to help passengers exit from the aircraft during emergencies or air plane crash.
- Advanced avionics for computerized auto-recovery and alert.
- Turbine engines with inbuilt improved durability and failure adulterated mechanisms.
- Landing gear to be used even after the loss of power and hydraulics.
By comparing all the other modes of transport with air transport based on fatality per mile, air transport has been considered six times safer than traveling by car and twice as safe as railways. But in contrast, in every billion journeys taken, air travel is three times more dangerous than car transportation and 30 times more dangerous than traveling by bus.
It has been recorded that between 1983 and 2000, the survival pace for people in U.S. plane crashes was more than 95 percent.
Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS)
This safety system has been developed to avoid incidents such as the disappearance of airlines flight. It included reporting their position every 15 minutes to air traffic controllers despite the country of origin.
ICAO developed it in 2016, and it doesn’t require any new aircraft equipment to get fit in the aircraft. But, GADSS is a long-term plan that will require a new aircraft to be attached with the data broadcast systems that stay in constant contact with air traffic controllers. It is homogenous to Global Maritime Distress and Safet System (GMDSS) required for maritime safety.
Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS)
ASRS gathers voluntarily submitted aviation safety reports from pilots and others. All the reports are then used to figure out system deficiencies, issues related to alert messages and introduce two publications, CALLBACK and ASRS Directline.
The gathered information from any air plane crash is made available to common people. It is also used by FAA, NASA, and related organizations functioning in research and flight safety departments.
Major Disasters Caused By Airplane Accidents
The list of top 10 countries with the greatest number of fatal civil aircraft accidents from 1945 to 2021 includes countries like United States, France, Russia, United Kingdoms, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, India, and Columbia. Out of all, Uk is observed to have the highest number of air plane crashes in Europe, then comes Indonesia, followed by India.
The massive loss of life on board a single-air plane crash have been 520 fatalities in the 1985 Japan Airlines Flight 123 accident.
1. September 11 Assault
Destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2011, has been declared the deadliest aviation-related disaster. 19 Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial jet airliners covering a distance from East Coast airports to California.
American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were purposely crashed into the North and South direction of the world trade center, destroying huge buildings in less than two hours. It killed approximately 2,753 people. Therefore, it was a mass killing and not an accident.
2. Tenerife Disaster
The Tenerife aircraft disaster is an accident with the highest number of aircraft passenger deaths. It took place on March 27, 1977. KLM Boeing 747 killed 583 people while taking off without flight clearance and bumped into taxing Pan Am 747 at Los Rodeos Airport. It had a lasting impact on industries related to communication.
High importance was given to standardized phraseology in air traffic control (ATC) by controllers and pilots.
3. JAL Flight 123
The smash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 happened on August 12, 1985. The aircraft experienced an explosive decompression, destroying its vertical stabilizer. The single-air plane crash takes the face of a disaster with the highest number of deaths because 520 people died on board.
The rescue operations were also delayed. However, pilots tried their best and kept the plane flying for 32 minutes after encountering the mechanical failure before smashing into the mountain. Out of all the passengers, only four survived the incident.
4. Other Crashes With Death Number Of 200 Or More
- The Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision occurred between Saudia Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines flight 1907 on November 12, 1996.
- Turkish Airlines Flight 981 bumped into a forest of Northeast Paris, France, on March 3, 1974.
- Air India Flight 182, en route from Toronto and Montreal to London and Delhi, strikes off the Southwest coast of Ireland after a bomb explodes in the cargo.
- Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 163 was declared the world’s deadliest aviation accident that did not happen due to a crash on August 19, 1980.
- Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was stroked down in Eastern Ukraine near the Ukraine border during the war in Doba on July 17, 2014.
7 Lesser-Known Strange Air Plane Crashes
Every country experiences air plane crashes due to one or the other reason. Some airplane crashes receive lots of media coverage and attention, whereas some stay lesser-known and mysterious. Nevertheless, every air plan crash affects hundreds of people and the environment.
1. Flight 19
Flight 19 started as a routine training mission for the US navy. Unfortunately, the mission ended in six planes destroying and disappearing into the atmosphere. Some people blame Bermuda Triangle, and some thought about UFO abduction for this air plane crash.
The five navy avenger planes made up flight 19 and took off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 5th December 1945. The weather was clear and mesmerizing that day. After 90 minutes of departure, pilots became perplexed and could not recognize the landmarks below. The leader of the flight was Charles Taylor.
Radio transmissions revealed that Taylor’s compass crashed, and it seemed as if he was confusing the Florida keys with the Bahamas. There was a command tower that tried to direct Taylor back to Fort Lauderdale. However, Taylor continued to guide the passengers in unpredictable directions and finally led them to sea. Consequently, the tower lost connection with the five plans, and none of them were seen or heard from again.
The strange thing was that the rescue plane also went missing while hunting for Taylors’ plane and team. Some assume that it exploded on its way into the air because it dropped off the radar while moving. The main reason is unknown even today.
2. EgyptAir Flight 990
On the Halloween of 1999, EgyptAir flight 990 dived into the Atlantic Ocean and killed 217 people on board. The case came under The Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) for investigation, but they couldn’t complete their investigation due to the unavailability of sources. This air plane crash occurred in international waters, so ECAA asked the US National Transportation Safety Board to take over the case.
NTSB introduced their investigation because the evidence of the criminal activity continued to rise in number. Though Egyptians were confident enough to handle things, they refused and asked the NTSB to continue the investigation. As a result, the American NTSB and the Egyptian ECAA brought two dissimilar conclusions about the case.
The US declared that the co-pilot was suicidal and intentionally took down the plane due to personal reasons. At the same time, Egyptians said that the cause of the accident was a mechanical failure. There was one more explanation regarding the cause of one of the accidents: a terrorist attack that killed 33 members of the Egyptian General staff. Even today, this airplane crash is a mystery.
3. Air France Flight 447 From Rio To Paris
Air France Flight 447 dropped out of the sky and went into an area of extreme thunderstorm activity of the Atlantic Ocean after covering a journey of three hours from Rio to Paris on June 1, 2009. It killed 228 people abroad.
After days, leftovers of the wreckage were observed floating on the water surface, but the other part of the plane was not found for more than two years. It was difficult for the investigators to conclude the cause of the crash because it was supposed to be amongst the safest aircraft in history. Later on, after 30 days, the private search found the complete plane, more than 100 dead bodies, and a crucial black box recorder.
Investigators solved some parts of the mystery by going in-depth of the information sent from the disabled plane as it went down. The message contained a piece of vital information regarding the speed which had malfunctioned, leading to series of events.
Further shreds of evidence showed that the crash happened due to the pilot’s failure to adopt corrective measures to recover from the fall. Though the mystery has been solved, many people still ponder how three experienced pilots could lose control over the aircraft.
4. Delta Airlines Flight 191
Flight 191 does not come under a crash but under the range of incidents of flights numbered 191. As Delta flight 191 was approaching to land at Dallas/Fort Worth airport on August 2, 1985, a thunderstorm struck it near the runway. Suddenly lightning flashed around the plane and faced a microburst wind cut off, causing the plane to lose 54 knots of airspeed in a short period.
The airplane struck the ground just a few miles away from the runway and bounced across the highway, destroying a car and killing the driver. Then, the airplane moved towards the left and struck two big airport water tanks. Because of this, 134 of 163 people were killed on board.
Such an incident motivated a 7-year NASA/FAA research to install radar wind-shear detectors on airplanes to avoid such mishappenings in the future.
There have been many theories related to this air plane crash, from technical errors to superstitions connected to the flight number. Because five flights with flight number 191 terminated in fatal crashes since the 1960s. It includes the worst aircraft disaster in American history in which the American Airlines Flight 191 smashed and 273 people got killed on board.
In 2012, a headline about JetBlue Airways 191 became the topic of discussion because the flight pilot went crazy during the flight. The pilot started speaking about Jesus, terrorists, and 9/11 when the co-pilot threw him out. Later on, he was admitted to the mental hospital. Though the difficulty of flights ending in 191 is a coincidence, numerologists have been trying to find the meaning and reasons.
5. TWA Flight 800
On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 blew up in midair for no specific reason, burst, and crashed 12 minutes after taking off from John F. Kennedy airport and killed 230 people. It was everybody’s nightmare that brought great controversy with itself.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) culminated that faulty wiring led to a spark that ignited the plane’s fuel storage, most probably after a short circuit. It took four years to come up with the cause of the explosion of the flight. NTSB rejected the possibility of a terrorist bomb or missile attack.
The explanation given by NTSB contradicted several FBI witnesses who proclaimed that they observed a streak of light rising towards the plane where the fire emerged.
All the above reports made people believe that the missile shot down the aircraft. Reasons which led people to develop such beliefs about the cause of airplane crashes were related to the prevailing theories that the US military mistakenly hit it during the Navy training sessions. Other reasons included the events like explosive residues on the plane’s remnants. Also, there were disagreements between the radar data and the theory.
The FAA has made related changes to reduce sparks from flawed wiring and other sources. For instance, Boeing has developed a fuel-inerting system that introduces nitrogen gas into fuel tanks to lessen the chance of explosion.
6. US Air Flight 427
US Air Flight 427 was carrying 132 people for a short trip from Chicago to Pittsburgh. Within 10 minutes of their flight, the plan strangely malfunctioned and reached the ground at the speed of 500kph.
When it prepared itself to land at Pittsburgh on September 8, 1994, it, unfortunately, rolled to the left of the ground, killing 132 people on board. It had been regarded as the deadliest air plane crashes in US history.
Usually, investigators find out the cause of any plane crash within a week or two, but this case took over four years to determine the cause of the malfunction. NTSB studied related theories and found that a fault in the rubber allowed the pilots to lose control because it moved to the left position, elevating the roll. Pilots pressed the right rudder pedal, but it went left.
US Air blamed the plane whereas, Boeing blamed the crew members. As a result, the victims’ families sued USAir Inc. and Boeing Co., which led them to settle the dispute in court. And, there were several similar air plane crashes in the 1990s.
7. South African Airways Flight 295
The Helderberg is South African Airways Flight 295, which was a Boeing 747-244B Comi. It was handed over to the airline in 1980.
A modified form of the aircraft took off on the 27th of November in 1987 from Taipei Chiang Kai Sek International Airport to Johannesberg through Mauritius. The aircraft allowed the merging of passengers and airfreight on the deck. There were 140 passengers and 6 pallets of cargo on the main deck.
The flight communicated with Hong Kong air traffic control after 30 minutes of departure to produce clearance from ELATO to ISBAN. Then, a position report was made over ELATO, SUKAR, and SUNEK. A fire took place in the cargo area on the main deck during the flight, but no one could extinguish the fire before the damage. So, smoke fumes were depressurized on the aircraft, and two cabin doors were opened.
The investigation team did not find any evidence proclaiming that the checklist was followed or the doors were opened. They found the first surface debris after 12 hours of damage because it was dislocated from the impact location. They later found a charged fire extinguisher from the debris along with molten metal.
This air plane crash showed signs of extreme trauma in water because there were oil slicks and 8 bodies in the water. Also, 140 passengers and 19 crew members were killed.
Also, read about the recent air plane crash in the Philippines.
Aviating to places is a fun experience for everyone, but it is also risky sometimes. As you have seen above in the list of lesser-known mysterious air plane crashes, many mysterious air plane crashes have occurred for decades since the invention of the airplane.
Nevertheless, airplanes are equipped with drawbacks like air plane crashes, plane accidents, terrorist attacks, mechanical errors, and many more difficulties while the plane is in the sky.
Along with tragic accidents that led to deaths, many planes had crashed and disappeared into the sky or sea, or jungle without leaving a shred of evidence. Many of the planes have met unfortunate accidents leading to crashes that killed hundreds of people on board.
The article has tried to develop in-depth information and a creepy back story regarding some of the world’s lesser-known mysterious air plane crashes. Nonetheless, the reasons for a particular air plane crash can vary.
About the author
Ms. Priyanka Ohri is a Human Developmentalist. She is pursuing a master's in Human development from SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai and sustains a graduation degree in B.sc home science with a specialization in Human development from Lady Irwin College, Delhi University. She is an empathetic listener and an articulate writer.