Statistically, travelling in an airplane is much safer than travelling in a car. But, sometimes disasters do happen, which compels many to reconsider their decision to travel by air. Moreover, several documentaries on air crashes and plane hijackings have only helped in fueling this fear. Even though taking a flight is safe, many air mishaps have happened throughout history which have been so devastating that extra precautions and securities have been instated to provide a safe journey to the passengers. Whatever may be the case, airplane crashes do attract public attention with their destruction and drama. If you have a fear of flying, then it is worth noting that majority of the crashes mentioned in this list happened in 70’s and 80’s and the situation in the modern era has improved significantly. Read on to know about the 30 worst air crashes and disasters of all time, which revealed many shortcomings and ultimately helped make air travel much safer.
30. Air India B747, 1978
Location: Off Bandra, Maharashtra, India
Summary: The plane crashed off the coast of Bandra , due to instrument malfunction which caused spatial disorientation, resulting in crash.
29. Egypt Air B767, 1999
Location: Off Nantucket, Massachusetts
Summary: NTSB investigated the crash and found out that the co-pilot deliberately crashed the plane, with nobody surviving the crash.
28. Lauda Air B767, 1991
Location: Ban Nong Rong, Thailand
Summary: Flight 004 broke up in mid-flight, killing everyone on board. This crash is known as Thailand’s worst aviation disaster.
27. Metroair A321, 2015
Location: North Sinai, Egypt
Summary: The crash is still under investigation.
26. China Airlines B747, 2002
Location: Off Penghu, Taiwan
Summary: Boeing 747 was flying near the Penghu Islands when it suddenly broke up in mid-air killing all 225 people on board. The crash is blamed on an improper repair of a tail-strike which happened 22 years before the crash
25. African Air An-32, 1996
Location: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Survivors: possibly 5
Summary: The plane failed to take off due to being over maximum take off weight. The aircraft overran the runway and plowed into a crowded market, killing 227 people.
24. Korean Airlines B747, 1998
Location: Agana, Guam
Summary: The crash was blamed on insufficient pilot training as the pilot was unable to make flight decisions in emergency.
23. Air France A330, 2009
Location: Atlantic Ocean
Summary: The plane entered high altitude stall and hit the ocean, killing all on board.
22. Swissair MD11, 1998
Location: Off Nova Scotia, Canada
Summary: The plane became a victim of in-flight fire which lead to electrical failure and spatial disorientation. The aircraft soon crashed in the ocean, with no survivors on board.
21. Trans World Airlines B747, 1996
Location: Off East Moriches, New York
Summary: The aircraft exploded mid-air due to a fuel tank explosion. No-one survived.
20. Garuda Indonesia Airlines 152, 1997
Location: Buah Nabar, Indonesia
Summary: The plane lost contact over a ravine in Sumatra. Airborne searchers and National Search and Rescue Agency later found that the plane crashed 25 km south of Medan, killing 234 passengers and crews on board.
19. Malaysia Airlines B777, 2014
Location: South Indian Ocean
Fatalities: 239 (assumed)
Survivors: 0 (assumed)
Summary: The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared on 8 March, 2014 somewhere near the South Indian Ocean. To this date, not a single debris or body has been found, resulting in the plane being assumed as crashed with no survivors on board.
18. Arrow Airways DC8, 1985
Location: Gander, Newfoundland, Canada
Summary: The plane crashed shortly after takeoff on 12 December. 1985 due to icing in the engines, which stalled the aircraft mid-air. All 256 aboard died.
17. Air New Zealand Flight 901, 1979
Location: Mt. Erebus, Antarctica
Summary: The aircraft crashed into Mount Erebus, Antarctica due to various factors like- pilot error, maintenance crew error, and whiteout conditions. It claimed all 257 lives on board.
16. Nationair/charter Nigeria AW DC8, 1991
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Summary: The aircraft crashed due to under-inflated tire which overheated, leading to a fire shortly after takeoff.
15. China Airlines A300, 1994
Location: Komaki, Japan
Summary: China Airlines A300 became a victim of mid-air stall due to pilot error, resulting in 264 deaths.
14. American Airlines A300, 2001
Location: Belle Harbor, Queens, New York
Summary: The crash in 2001, is blamed on the mid-air failure of tail structure due to co-pilot error while encountering wake turbulence.
13. Korean Airlines Flight 007, 1983
Location: Near Moneron Island, Soviet Union
Summary: The Korean Flight 007 entered the Soviet airspace without permission and due to the pilot’s error, the airliner was shot down by Soviet military, claiming 269 lives.
12. Pan American World Airways B747, 1988
Location: Lockerbie, Scotland
Summary: The plane became a victim of on-air terrorist attack in which two Libyan citizen were arrested.
11. American Airlines Flight 191, 1979
Location: O’Hare Airport, Des Plaines, USA
Summary: Flight 191 crashed near the runway due to improper maintenance, which caused loss of control after engine detachment got ruptured hydraulic fluid lines.
10. Iran Ilyushin Il-76 Crash, 2003
Location: near Kerman, Iran
Summary: Iranian Il-76 crashed near Kerman due to pilot’s incorrect decision for descending in poor weather and strong winds.
9. Iran Air Flight 655, 1988
Location: Persian Gulf
Summary: Iranian flight 655, carrying 290 passengers, was shot down over the Persian Gulf by the United States Navy’s guided missile due to miscommunication, killing all aboard including 66 children.
8. Malaysian Airlines B-777
Location: Hrabove, Ukraine
Summary: The plane was flying over Ukraine when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile. As the missile exploded beside the aircraft, the shrapnel, thrown by the missile, penetrated the aircraft which destroyed the cockpit and the first class. The Boeing 777 spiraled and disintegrated on air, sucking out passengers from their seats. It then crashed near Hrabove. All 298 people on board were killed in the worst civilian airliner shoot-down in history.
7. Saudia Flight 163, 1980
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Summary: Just after taking off from Riyadh, the cargo hold of the flight caught fire. The pilots however successfully landed the plane and instead of conducting an evacuation immediately, they tried to taxi the aircraft. The plane then stopped with no further contact. After hours of silence from the plane, the rescue party opened the plane’s door and found everyone on board dead due to smoke inhalation.
6. Air India Flight 182, 1985
Location: Atlantic Ocean West of Ireland
Summary: The aircraft exploded 120 miles off the South West coast of Cork, on 23 June, 1985 due to terrorist bombing. It is the second deadliest terrorist on-air bombing in the aviation history.
5. Turkish Airlines Flight 981, 1974
Location: Ermenonville, near Senlis, France
Summary: This plane was a DC-10 flying from Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport. Just after take-off, the cargo door got torn apart from the aircraft which led to explosive decompression which cut most of the aircraft’s vital cables, making the crash inevitable. It then crashed in Ermenonville Forest and all 346 people on board perished.
4. Saudi/ Kazakhstan Mid-air Collision, 1996
Location: Charkhi Dadri, India
Summary: The Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 collided in mid-air with Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 on 12 November 1996. The crash investigation determined pilot error by the Kazakhstan Airlines pilot. All 349 people on board both flights were killed, making it the deadliest mid-air collision in aviation history.
3. Japan Airlines Flight 123, 1985
Location: Ueno, Japan
Summary: Japan Airlines Flight 123 experienced an in-flight structural failure due to maintenance errors, which caused loss of flight controls, resulting in 520 deaths with only 4 survivors.
2. Tenerife Disaster, 1977
Location: Tenerife Airport, Canary Islands
Summary: KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 crashed into each other during takeoff from Tenerife in the Canary Islands on 27 March 1977. This ground collision was caused due to many factors like pilot error, bad weather conditions, etc. It has made the Tenerife airport disaster as the worst aviation disaster in aviation history.
1. The World Trade Center Disaster, 2001
Location: New York City, New York
Fatalities: 2,907 (estimated)
Survivors: Not Applicable
Summary: On 11th September, 2001, America suffered a horrific terrorist attack on the twin World Trade Centers resulting in over 2900+ deaths. The attack was blamed on Al Qaeda and USA started an all out mission to kill all those responsible.