May 7, 2021


Dambela Blog

Top 10 flight disasters of all time

8 min read

Stunned survivors mill about the burning wreckage of Pan American Boeing 747 Flight 1736 after it collided with another 747, KLM 4805, at Los Rodeos Airport on the island of Tenerife on March 27, 1977. (David Yeager Alexander)

10 of the world’s deadliest air crashes

There are several accidents in the world that are well known but none is more breathtaking as those of aviation accidents. The idea that man could easily fly across the sky has been amazing, however there have been several calamities associated with aviation disasters. On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk with their first powered aircraft. The Wright brothers had invented the first successful airplane which has since held humanity spellbound. With the invention, came several disasters.

Prior to the Wright brothers invention in the beginning of the 20th century, the first recorded fatal aviation accident was the crash of a Rozière balloon near Wimereux, France, which occured on June 15, 1785, killing the balloon’s inventor, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, and the other occupant, Pierre Romain.

The first powered aircraft incident occured in the United States on September 17, 1908, involving the crash of a Wright Model A aircraft at Fort Myer, Virginia, injuring its co-inventor and pilot, Orville Wright, and killing the passenger, Signal Corps Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge

Since then there have been several aircraft disaster. The first aircraft incident in which 200 or more people died occurred on March 3, 1974, when 346 died in the crash of Turkish Airlines Flight 981. As of April 2020, there have been more than 33 aviation incidents in which 200 or more people lost their lives.

This week Dambela presents 10 of the world’s deadliest air crashes. Just for the records, September 11 attacks which occured on Sep 11th 2001 with fatalities of 2,996 was the deadliest aviation-related disaster ever due to fatalities occuring on both the aircraft and the ground, leading to the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City was omitted in our list as the disaster was classified as a terrorist act resulting in mass-killing and not as accident related.

  1. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
    Date: March 8, 2014.
    Missing: 275.

MAS Flight 370 was an international passenger flight operated by Malaysia Airlines that disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to its destination, Beijing Capital International Airport. The mystery surrounding flight MH370 has been a focus of continued investigation and a source of much public speculation.

An extensive search was made for the aircraft and passengers, but resulted with results. In 2017, key pieces of debris were found washed up on the beach on Réunion island in the south- western Indian Ocean, three years after the aircraft vanished.

Aviation investigators confirmed at at least three pieces found floating were from the plane, while five others remain likely inconclusive.

9) Iranian Air Force Ilyushun II-76
Fatalities: 275
Date: On February 19, 2003

An Iranian military Ilyushin Il-76 crashed in the mountainous terrain near Kerman in Iran. According to the official report bad weather brought the aircraft down; high winds and fog were present at the time of the crash

The official report into the military aircraft that crashed in the Sirach Mountains near Kerman in Iran found that bad weather, including high winds and fog, brought the plane down, killing all passengers on board along with members of the Revolutionary Guards. The Aviation Safety Network classifies the crash as a Controlled Flight into Terrain.’

8) Iran Air Flight 655
Fatalities: 290
Date: July 3, 1988,

On July 3, 1988 an Iranian Airbus A300-200 airliner, was shot down by two surface-to-air missiles from the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennesover the Strait of Hormuz. All 290 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft died. The flight was in Iranian airspace, over Iranian territorial waters and on its usual flight path, yet, according to the US government, Vincennes mistook it for an F-14A Tomcat fighter plane. The crew on the American ship had made 10 attempts to contact the Iran Air aircraft on military and civilian radio frequencies, with no response, before they fired.
In 1996 the US government and Iran reached a settlement at the International Court of Justice, the former expressing “deep regret over the loss of lives”, but not admitting legal liability or formally apologizing. The US went on to agree to pay $213,103.45 compensation per passenger.

7) Malaysia Airlines Flight 17,
Fatalities: 298:
Date: July 17, 2014.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777-200ER, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down near the Russian border, likely by pro-Russian forces in control of the region during the War in Donbass between separatist insurgents and the Ukrainian government in an area of Eastern Ukraine near the Ukraine/Russian border on July 17, 2014.
There were 283 passengers, including 3 infants, and 15 crew members on board MH17, that perished in the flight. The crew were all Malaysians, while the passengers were of many nationalities, most of whom from the Netherlands.

Shortly after the crash, a post appeared on the VKontakte social media profile which was attributed to Igor Girkin, leader of the Donbass separatist militia, claiming responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian An-26 military transporter near Torez. The post was removed later the same day, and the separatists went on to deny shooting down any aircraft

Some airlines had already begun to avoid Ukrainian airspace owing to the Crimean crisis that began early in 2014, with the International Civil Aviation Organization warning of a risk to passenger jets in the area, but not all carriers had changed their routes.

6). Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 163
Fatalities: 301.
Date: August 19, 1980.

Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 163, a Lockheed L-1011, became the world’s deadliest aviation accident which did not involve a crash. The Saudi flight 163 had taken off from Riyadh, en route to Jeddah, only to return to Riyadh minutes later for an emergency landing after a fire started in the cargo department.

However, when the plane landed, instead of initiating an emergency evacuation, the pilot taxied the aircraft back towards the airport, on to stop on the runway for nearly three minutes.

It then took 23 minutes to access the aircraft once the engines were stopped. By the time the doors were opened all on board had died from smoke inhalation. All 301 passengers and crew on board the Lockheed L-1011 died of suffocation before the rescue ground crews could open the doors, after which the aircraft burst into flames and was consumed by fire.

  1. Air India Flight 182
    Date: June 23, 1985.
    Fatalities: 329:

On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182, a Boeing 747-237B enroute from Toronto and Montreal to London and Delhi, crashed off the southwest coast of Ireland when a bomb exploded in the cargo hold. All 307 passengers and 22 crew members onboard the flight died. One of the passengers who had checked in as “M. Singh”.

Singh did not board the flight. His suitcase which contained the bomb was loaded onto the plane, however. “Mr Singh” was never identified or captured. It was later discovered that Sikh extremists were behind the bombing as a retaliation for the Indian government’s attack on the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar, which was very dear to the Sikhs. At that time, it was the deadliest terrorist attack involving an airplane.

  1. Turkish Airlines Flight 981,
    Date: March 3, 1974;
    Fatalities: 346.

Turkish Airlines Flight 981 plane was carrying 335 passengers and 11 crew when it crashed in the Ermenonville Forest north of Paris, after taking off from Orly Airport. The flight which was bound for London Heathrow, was en route from Istanbul. Ten minutes into the flight, the rear left cargo door blew off dueto a problem with the hatches. It was later found out by Aviation safety investigators that the cargo door was not securely fastened, which caused an explosive decompression in the cabin and severing cables which linked the flight deck with the aircraft’s elevators, rudder and two engines. All 346 people on board died. It was the deadliest plane crash of all time until the Tenerife disaster in 1977. It is among the deadliest single-aircraft crash with no survivors.

  1. Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision
    Date: November 12, 1996.
    Fatalities: 349.

Regarded as the world’s deadliest mid-air crash. On November 12, 1996, the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision took place between Saudia Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 over Charkhi Dadri, India. The collision was mainly the result of the Kazakh pilot flying lower than the assigned clearance altitude.

The Saudia-operated Boeing 747 was bound for Dhahran from Delhi while the Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin II-76 was bound for Indira airport from Shymkent when they collided, killing 312 people on board the former and 37 on the latter. The crash occurred after the Ilyushin aircraft was cleared to descend to 15,000 feet, but then descended past that level to 14,500 feet while the 747 was ascending in the opposite direction.

By the time the air traffic controller could warn of the proximity between the two aircraft it was too late. The tail of the Kazakhstan plane cut through the Saudia wing, causing the aircraft to go into a quick descending spiral, while the Ilyushin entered a smooth but yet fast and uncontrolled descent.

A number of factors were found to have caused the crash, including the failure of the Kazakhstan Airlines pilot to follow the ATC instructions.
The Civil Aviation Authorities in India later made it mandatory for all aircraft flying in and out of India to be equipped with a Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), setting a worldwide precedent for mandatory use of TCAS.

  1. Japan Airlines Flight 123.
    Date: August 12, 1985.
    Fatalities: 520 Known as the largest single aircraft accident in history. The crash involved a Boeing 747 on Mount Takamagahara in central Japan. Only four people survived when the aircraft spiraled out of control, its wing clipping a mountain ridge, before flipping and landing on its back, following an explosive decompression towards the rear of the plane, a result of a faulty repair job done seven years earlier. The Pilots were able to keep the plane in the air for 32 minutes after the mechanical failure before crashing into a mountain. Four passengers, all female, survived. They had sat in the middle of rows towards the rear of the aircraft.
  1. The Tenerife Airport Disaster
    Date: March 27, 1977
    Fatalities: 583:

The Tenerife airport disaster, which occurred on March 27, 1977, remains the accident with the highest number of airliner passenger fatalities. It is the deadliest aviation crash in history.

583 people died when a KLM Boeing 747 attempted to take off without flight clearance, and collided with a taxiing Pan Am 747 at Los Rodeos Airport on the Canary Island of Tenerife, Spain. All 234 passengers and 14 crew of the KLM aircraft died and only 61 of the 396 passengers and crew of the Pan Am aircraft survived.

The deadly crash involved a collision of two flights ù KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 — which collided at the Tenerife North Airport (formerly Los Rodeos). Both were Boeing 747s. It was a foggy day, neither of the two aircraft were supposed to be at Los Rodeos. Both flights were diverted to the airport. The collision occurred when the KLM aircraft attempted to take-off without clearance, while the Pan Am aircraft was still taxiing along the same runway, having missed its turn to leave. There were no survivors. Pilot error was the primary cause of the crash, as the KLM captain had began his takeoff run without obtaining air traffic control clearance. Other contributing factors were a terrorist incident which was happening same time at Gran Canaria Airport which had caused many flights to be diverted to Los Rodeos, a small airport not well equipped to handle aircraft of such size, and dense fog.
The KLM flight crew could not see the Pan Am aircraft on the runway until immediately before the collision. The accident had a lasting influence on the industry, particularly in the area of communication.

Hope you enjoyed out Top 10 list. Kindly make your comments if you agree with our list. Are there other flight disasters that should have made out list.

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