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50 Worst Aviation / Air Disasters

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An aviation accident is an incident associated with the operation of an aircraft. It can take place anytime between the time any person boards the aircraft for flight and all such persons have disembarked, in which a person is fatally or seriously injured. The aircraft sustains damage or structural failure and/or the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible. It can be associated with the operation of an aircraft, which could affect the safety of operations. The first known aviation fatalities are the deaths of balloonists Pilâtre de Rozier and Pierre Romain on 15 June 1785.

Approximately 80 percent of all aviation accidents occur shortly before, after, or during takeoff or landing, and are often described as resulting from 'human error' while mid-flight disasters are rare but not entirely unheard of.To date there are 5,287 accidents recorded in the plane crash database.

Listed below is the list of the top 50 aviation disasters.

United Airlines, Flight 175, a Boeing 767, on a scheduled flight from Boston to Los Angeles, crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

United Airlines, Flight 175, a Boeing 767, on a scheduled flight from Boston to Los Angeles, crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

1st(i) Worst Disaster

Date: September 11, 2001

Time: 10:03

Location: Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Operator: United Air Lines

Flight #: 93

Route: Newark - San Francisco

AC Type: Boeing B-757-222

Registration: N591UA

cn / ln: 28142/718

Aboard: 44 (passengers:37 crew:7)

Fatalities: 44 (passengers:37 crew:7)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: The plane was hijacked after taking off from Newark International Airport, when the hijackers took control of the aircraft and turned the plane towards Washington D.C. After a struggle between the passengers and hijackers the plane crashed at a high rate of speed into a field in the Pennsylvania countryside. It was one of four planes that were hijacked the same day.

American Airlines, Flight 77, a Boeing 757, on a scheduled flight from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, moments after crashing into the Pentagon.

American Airlines, Flight 77, a Boeing 757, on a scheduled flight from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, moments after crashing into the Pentagon.

1st(ii) Worst Disaster

Date: September 11, 2001

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Time: 09:45

Location: Arlington, Virginia.

Operator: American Airlines

Flight #: 77

Route: Washington D.C. - Los Angeles

AC Type: Boeing B-757-223

Registration: N644AA

cn / ln: 24602/365

Aboard: 64 (passengers:58 crew:6)

Fatalities: 64 (passengers:58 crew:6)

Ground Fatalities: 125

Details: This aircraft was hijacked after taking off from Dulles International Airport. The hijackers took control of the aircraft and deliberately crashed it into the Pentagon. It was again one of four planes that were hijacked the same day.

Wreckage of United Airlines Flight  93, a Boeing 757, on a scheduled flight from Newark to San Francisco, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, on a scheduled flight from Newark to San Francisco, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

1st(iii) Worst Disaster

Date: September 11, 2001

Time: 08:47

Location: New York City, New York

Operator: American Airlines

Flight #: 11

Route: Boston - Los Angeles

AC Type: Boeing 767-223ER

Registration: N334AA

cn / ln: 22332/169

Aboard: 92 (passengers:81 crew:11)

Fatalities: 92 (passengers:81 crew:11)

Ground Fatalities: 2750

Details: The aircraft was hijacked shortly after it took off from Logan International Airport in Boston, when the hijackers took control of the aircraft and deliberately crashed it into the north tower of the World Trade Center between the 94th and 99th floors at approximately 450 mph. After 102 minutes, the building collapsed. It was one of the four planes that were hijacked the same day.

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1st(iv) Worst Disaster

Date: September 11, 2001

Time: 09:03

Location: New York City, New York

Operator: United Air Lines

Flight #: 175

Route: Boston - Los Angeles

AC Type: Boeing B-767-222

Registration: N612UA

cn / ln: 21873/41

Aboard: 65 (passengers:56 crew:9)

Fatalities: 65 (passengers:56 crew:9)

Ground Fatalities: 2750

Details: The plane was hijacked shortly after it left Logan International Airport in Boston. The hijackers took control of the aircraft and deliberately crashed it into the south tower of the World Trade Center between the 78th and 84th floors at approximately 550 mph. After 56 minutes, the building collapsed. It was one of four planes that were hijacked the same day.

The remains of a Pan Am B747 (top) and KLM B747 (bottom) in Tenerife

The remains of a Pan Am B747 (top) and KLM B747 (bottom) in Tenerife

Canary Islands in the second worst aviation disaster in history, which killed a total of 583 people. The KLM 747 collided with a Pan Am 747 after the captain of the KLM plane started his takeoff roll without clearance

Canary Islands in the second worst aviation disaster in history, which killed a total of 583 people. The KLM 747 collided with a Pan Am 747 after the captain of the KLM plane started his takeoff roll without clearance

2nd Worst Disaster

Date: March 27, 1977

Time: 17:07

Location: Tenerife, Canary Islands

Operator: Pan American World Airways / KLM

Flight #: 1736/4805

Route: Tenerife - Las Palmas / Tenerife - Las Palmas

AC Type: Boeing B-747-121 / Boeing B-747-206B

Registration: N736PA/PH-BUF

cn / ln: 19643/11 / 20400/157

Aboard: 644 (passengers:614 crew:30)

Fatalities: 583 (passengers:560 crew:23)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: Both aircraft were diverted to Tenerife because of a bombing at Las Palmas Airport. After an extended delay, both planes were instructed to back track up the runway. The KLM plane reached its takeoff point while the Pan Am plane was still on the runway. The Pan Am plane continued up the runway missing the taxiway turnout. There was heavy fog on the runway. The KLM plane began its takeoff roll without permission with the Pan Am plane still on the runway. The KLM plane hit the Pan Am plane just as it was taking off. Both planes burst into flames. KLM 234 + 14 crew, Pan Am 326 + 9 crew killed. All aboard the KLM plane were killed. The Pan Am aircraft was named Clipper Victor. The KLM aircraft was named Rhine River.

The wreckage of a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 that crashed on Mt. Osutaka, Japan.  Five-hundred twenty people out of 524 aboard were killed.

The wreckage of a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 that crashed on Mt. Osutaka, Japan. Five-hundred twenty people out of 524 aboard were killed.

 Improper repairs by Boeing after a tail strike 7 years earlier, led to a rupture of the pressure bulkhead and loss of all controls.

Improper repairs by Boeing after a tail strike 7 years earlier, led to a rupture of the pressure bulkhead and loss of all controls.

3rd Worst Disaster

Date: August 12, 1985

Time: 18:56

Location: Mt. Osutaka, near Ueno Village, Japan

Operator: Japan Air Lines

Flight #: 123

Route: Tokyo - Osaka

AC Type: Boeing B-747-SR46

Registration: JA8119

cn / ln: 20783/230

Aboard: 524 (passengers:509 crew:15)

Fatalities: 520 (passengers:505 crew:15)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: The aircraft suffered an aft pressure bulkhead failure at 23,900 ft. The aircraft had severe control difficulties with loss of all controls and eventually after 40 minutes, collided with a mountain. Improper repair of the bulkhead while being supervised by Boeing engineers after a tail strike in 1978 is the reason for this crash. Worst single plane disaster in aviation history. Kyu Sakamoto, 43, famous for his Japanese song "Sukiyaki" was killed in the accident.

The remains of a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 after a midair collision with a Kazastan Airlines Ilyushin 76 over New Delhi, India resulting in the loss of 349 lives. Reports vary but a misunderstanding of directions between the ATC and the Ilyus

The remains of a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 after a midair collision with a Kazastan Airlines Ilyushin 76 over New Delhi, India resulting in the loss of 349 lives. Reports vary but a misunderstanding of directions between the ATC and the Ilyus

4th Worst Disaster

Date: November 12, 1996

Time: 18:40

Location: Near Charkhidadri, India

Operator: Saudi Arabian Airlines / Kazakstan Airlines

Flight #: 763/1907

Route: New Delhi - Dhahran / Chimkent - New Delhi

AC Type: Boeing B-747-168B / Ilyushin IL-76TD

Registration: HZAIH/UN-76435

cn / ln: 22748/555/1023413428

Aboard: 349 (passengers:312 crew:37)

Fatalities: 349 (passengers:312 crew:37)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: Midair collision 17 km W of New Delhi, the capital city of India. The Saudi 747 had just taken off from New Delhi airport ascending to 14,000 feet while the Il-76 was descending. Neither aircraft was equipped with an Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS). The 747 had taken off from Delhi and had been cleared to climb to FL140. Meanwhile, the IL76, which was inbound to Delhi on the same airway, had been cleared to descend to FL150. However, due to a misunderstanding, the pilot and most of the cockpit crew of the IL76 believed the flight had been cleared to continue down to FL140. Three hundred and twelve aboard the B-747 and thirty-seven aboard the Il-76 were killed. The Il-76 descended below its assigned altitude. The death toll was reduced from 351 to 349 after Kazakstan Airlines reported 37 aboard rather than 39.  The Indian accident report attributed the failure of most of the IL76 crew to correctly understand the situation to their lack of a working knowledge of English. Also contributing to the crew's decision to continue the descent below their clearance limit were poor cockpit resource management, a lack of leadership by the captain, a lack of co-ordination between the crew and a general casual attitude to the conduct of the flight.

Not many pieces of wreckage larger than 3 feet long could be found after a Turkish Airlines DC-10 crashed into a forest at a high rate of speed at Ermenonville, France. A defective latching mechanism on the cargo door caused it to fail in flight resu

Not many pieces of wreckage larger than 3 feet long could be found after a Turkish Airlines DC-10 crashed into a forest at a high rate of speed at Ermenonville, France. A defective latching mechanism on the cargo door caused it to fail in flight resu

5th Worst Disaster

Date: March 03, 1974

Time: 11:41

Location: Near Ermenonville, France

Operator: Turkish Airlines (THY)

Flight #: 981

Route: Paris - London

AC Type: McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10

Registration: TC-JAV

cn / ln: 46704/29

Aboard: 346 (passengers:334 crew:12)

Fatalities: 346 (passengers:334 crew:12)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Orly Airport in Paris, France. Climbing through FL110 the aircraft lost the rear cargo door, resulting in explosive decompression and damage to the cabin floor and control cables. The aircraft lost control and crashed in a forest at a high speed. The service subcontractor and the flight engineer neglected to check the locking mechanism through a recently installed viewport to verify the door was latched properly. In addition, although a service bulletin stipulated that the locking pin should be extended, it was mistakenly shortened causing the latch to release after the cabin was pressurized.

On June 12, 1972, an American Airlines DC-10 lost its cargo door shortly after taking off from Detroit Michigan. Using mainly engine thrust the crew was able to land safely. The cause was a defect in the latching mechanism on the door.

1 The bomb explodes at 0714 GMT on 23 June 1984 in a suitcase packed into cargo bin 52-left, which had been loaded at Vancouver. The explosion shattered a key bulkhead, sending the plane into a dive  2 The plane hits the sea, off the coast of Ireland

1 The bomb explodes at 0714 GMT on 23 June 1984 in a suitcase packed into cargo bin 52-left, which had been loaded at Vancouver. The explosion shattered a key bulkhead, sending the plane into a dive 2 The plane hits the sea, off the coast of Ireland

6th Worst Disaster

Date: June 23, 1985

Time: 07:15

Location: Atlantic Ocean, 110 miles West of Ireland

Operator: Air India

Flight #: 182

Route: Montreal - London

AC Type: Boeing B-747-237B

Registration: VT-EFO

cn / ln: 21473/330

Aboard: 329 (passengers:307 crew:22)

Fatalities: 329 (passengers:307 crew:22)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: The aircraft broke up in flight and crashed into the ocean. Detonation of an explosive device in the forward cargo hold was the reason for the crash. Terrorist working in Vancouver, Canada, checked baggage with bombs onto two flights. One bag transferred at Toronto onto flight 182. The other would have been transferred at Tokyo onto another Air India flight, but exploded at the airport killing 2 baggage handlers. The aircraft was named "Kanishka."

The burned out hull of a Saudi Arabian Lockheed L-1011. Although the plane landed safely, all 301 aboard died before rescue crews could reach them.  The fire started in the aft cargo compartment and the crew failed to take immediate steps to evacuate

The burned out hull of a Saudi Arabian Lockheed L-1011. Although the plane landed safely, all 301 aboard died before rescue crews could reach them. The fire started in the aft cargo compartment and the crew failed to take immediate steps to evacuate

7th Worst Disaster

Date: August 19, 1980

Time: 19:08

Location: Near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Operator: Saudi Arabian Airlines

Flight #: 163

Route: Riyadh - Jeddah

AC Type: Lockheed 1011-200 TriStar

Registration: HZ-AHK

cn / ln: 1169

Aboard: 301 (passengers:287 crew:14)

Fatalities: 301 (passengers:287 crew:14)

GroundFatalities: 0

Details: The flight experienced a fire in the aft cargo compartment 6 minutes after taking off from Riyadh. The plane returned to the airport and landed but because of a delay in evacuating the plane, all aboard were killed by smoke and fire. Half a minute before landing the captain decided not to order an emergency evacuation. When he landed, he did not stop immediately but instead proceeded to make a normal landing delaying the fire equipment from putting out the fire. It took a full twenty-three minutes after touchdown before the doors were opened. The reason for crash was failure of the captain to prepare the cabin crew for immediate evacuation upon landing and his failure in not making a maximum stop landing on the runway, with immediate evacuation.

50-worst-aviation-disasters

8th Worst Disaster

Date: July 03, 1988

Time: 10:55

Location: Over the Persian Gulf, near Bandar Abbas, Iran

Operator: Iran Air

Flight #: 655

Route: Bandar Abbas - Dubai

AC Type: Airbus A300B2-203

Registration: EP-IBU

cn / ln: 186

Aboard: 290 (passengers:278 crew:12)

Fatalities: 290 (passengers:278 crew:12)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: The civilian Iranian airliner was shot down by the U.S. Navy vessel U.S.S. Vincennes with surface-to-air missiles. The Vincennes was protecting other civilian ships in the area from Iranian gunboats. The Vincennes responded to hostile action taking place against a ship by Iranian gun boats. However, orders to the captain were to send a helicopter to investigate but maintain position. In fact, the ship headed towards the hostilities and penetrated 2nm inside Iranian territorial waters and after the helicopter was fired upon, engaged the enemy boats. The ill-fated airliner was delayed in leaving Bandar Abbas because of a problem with the passport of a passenger. Soon after taking off the target appeared on the radar of the Vincennes. Because the plane was late and confusion of time zones, the crew was not expecting an airliner in the area. When the target was first identified, it squawked both 2 (military) and 3 (civilian). The reason for this was the radar tracker ball was left in the vicinity of the Bandar Abbas airport and the radar was picking up both the airliner and a military F-14 jet fighter at the same time. Playing it safe, the plane was misidentified as a F-14 Iranian fighter. The aircraft did not respond to 10 radio challenges from the Vincennes. However, 7 were on military frequencies which the airliner could not pick up. Three were on the civil emergency frequency addressed to the so called military F-14. When the plane was nearing 10 miles from the ship, it was reported to the captain that the aircraft was descending. At that time the surface-to-air missiles were fired destroying the aircraft. At the inquiry computer data showed that the plane was never descending and actually was ascending at a steady rate. Incredibly, a military investigation concluded that although the U.S. government regretted the loss of human life, the captain and crew were not at fault and acted properly in shooting down the airliner.

9th Worst Disaster

Date: February 19, 2003

Time: 17:30

Location: Near Shahdad, Iran

Operator: Military - Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps

Route: Zahedan - Kerman

AC Type: Ilyushin Il-76MD

Registration: 15-22

cn / ln: 63471155

Aboard: 275 (passengers:257 crew:18)

Fatalities: 275 (passengers:257 crew:18)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: The plane crashed into an 11,500 ft. mountain in poor weather, about 20 miles from its destination of Kerman. Besides the 18 crew members, the victims included Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

These pictures was taken by an amateur photographer seconds before an American Airlines DC-10 crashed at Chicago O'Hare Airport, after losing an engine during takeoff. Improper maintenance procedures was to blame.

These pictures was taken by an amateur photographer seconds before an American Airlines DC-10 crashed at Chicago O'Hare Airport, after losing an engine during takeoff. Improper maintenance procedures was to blame.

50-worst-aviation-disasters

10th Worst Disaster

Date: May 25, 1979

Time: 20:40

Location: Bullen Point, Alaska

Operator: Sea Airmotive

Route: Bullen Point - Deadhorse

AC Type: de Havilland Canada DHC-4A Caribou

Registration: N581PA

cn / ln: 253

Aboard: 3 (passengers:0 crew:3)

Fatalities: 3 (passengers:0 crew:3)

Ground Fatalities: 0

Details: The cargo plane crashed in heavy crosswind while attempting to takeoff. Inadequate preflight preparation and/or planning is considered the reason for crash. Pilot in command failed to follow approved procedures,directives,etc. Cargo shifted.

The cockpit section of Pan Am Flight 103 which crashed at Lockerbie, Scotland after a bomb, planted by terrorists, exploded in the forward cargo area.

The cockpit section of Pan Am Flight 103 which crashed at Lockerbie, Scotland after a bomb, planted by terrorists, exploded in the forward cargo area.

11th Worst Disaster

Date: December 21, 1988

Time: 19:03

Location: Lockerbie, Scotland

Operator: Pan American World Airways

Flight #: 103

Route: London - New York City

AC Type: Boeing B-747-121A

Registration: N739PA

cn / ln: 19646/15

Aboard: 259 (passengers:243 crew:16)

Fatalities: 259 (passengers:243 crew:16)

Ground fatalities: 11

Details: The aircraft disappeared from radar shortly after leveling off at FL 310 while on a flight from Heathrow Airport, London, to New York. The aircraft broke up with two main sections of wreckage coming down in the town of Lockerbie. Detonation of an explosive device in the forward cargo area planted by terrorists is the reason for the crash. Musician Paul Jeffreys was one among the killed. The aircraft was named "Clipper Maid of the Seas."