Accidents and incidents in aviation
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An aviation accident is an incident on board an aircraft causing injury or death to one or more persons. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board definition of an aviation accident is as follows:
- An occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage.
An aviation incident is an occurrence other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operations.
Other countries adopt a similar approach, although there are minor variations, such as to the extent of aviation-related operations on the ground, covered, as well as with respect to the thresholds beyond which an injury is considered serious or the damage is considered substantial.
- "Flying is not inherently dangerous, but to an even greater extent than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incapacity, or neglect"—Rob 'Smokey' Ray
Since the birth of flight, aircraft have crashed, often with serious consequences. This is due to the unforgiving nature of flight, where a relatively insubstantial medium, air, supports a significant mass. Should this support fail, there is limited opportunity for a good outcome. Because of this, aircraft design is concerned with minimizing the chance of failure, and pilots are trained with safety a primary consideration. Despite this, accidents still occur, though statistically flying is nowadays an extremely safe form of transportation. In fact, the relative rarity of incidents, coupled with the often dramatic outcome, is one reason why they still make headline news.
Many early attempts at flight ended in failure when a design raised to a height for a launch would fail to generate enough lift and crash to the ground. Some of the earliest aviation pioneers lost their lives testing aircraft they built.
Otto Lilienthal died after a failure of one of his gliders. On his 2500th flight (August 10, 1896), a gust of wind broke the wing of his glider, causing him to fall from a height of roughly 56 ft (17 m), fracturing his spine. He died the next day, with his last words being reported as Opfer müssen gebracht werden! ("sacrifices must be made"). Percy Pilcher was another promising aviation pioneer. Pilcher died testing The Hawk (September 20, 1899). Just as with Lilienthal, promising designs and ideas for motorized planes were lost with his death. Some other early attempts experienced rough landings, such as Richard Pearse who is generally accepted to have crash landed (survived) a motorized aircraft in some bushes, unable to gain altitude after launching from it from some height.
The Wright Flyer nearly crashed on the day of its historic flight, sustaining some damage when landing. Thomas Selfridge became the first person killed in a powered airplane on September 17, 1908 when Wilbur crashed his two-passenger plane during military tests at Fort Myer in Virginia.
An accident survey  of 2,147 airplane accidents from 1950 through 2004 determined the causes to be as follows:
- 37%: Pilot error
- 33%: Undetermined or missing in the record
- 13%: Mechanical failure
- 7%: Weather
- 5%: Sabotage (bombs, hijackings, shoot-downs)
- 4%: Other human error (air traffic controller error, improper loading of aircraft, improper maintenance, fuel contamination, language miscommunication etc.)
- 1%: Other cause
The survey excluded military, private, and charter aircraft.
Some well-known aviation disasters
- The zeppelin LZ129 Hindenburg on landing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey on May 6, 1937 — the crash of the largest airship ever built, effectively ending the era of commercial lighter-than-air travel.
- A De Havilland Comet crashed in Jalalogori, India soon after take-off from Calcutta (now Kolkata) on May 2, 1953 — the first of a series of crashes that led to Comet 1 fleet being grounded and eventually scrapped.
- The Grand Canyon Midair Collision, on June 30, 1956, in which a TWA Lockheed Super Constellation and a United Airlines Douglas DC-7 collided while flying over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, killing all 128 passengers and crew members aboard both aircraft.
- The Munich air disaster on February 6, 1958, in which an Airspeed Ambassador carrying members of the Manchester United football club crashed while attempting to take off in slushy conditions.
- The Day The Music Died - February 3, 1959, plane crash that killed Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper
- The 1960 New York air disaster, on December 16, 1960, in which a United Airlines Douglas DC-8 jet collided with a TWA Lockheed Super Constellation propliner over Staten Island, New York. The Constellation crashed onto a military airfield; the United jet careened into the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, where it crashed and exploded. All 128 occupants of both planes and six persons on the ground died.
- Aer Lingus Flight 712 in 1968. 61 passengers and crew were lost aboard a Vickers Viscount 803 EI-AOM from Cork to London when it crashed in mysterious circumstances into the sea off Tuskar Rock, County Wexford. No definite cause has been found. Some have speculated that the aircraft may have suffered a missile strike
- The LANSA Lockheed Electra OB-R-941 on a flight from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru, breaks apart in mid-air after being set aflame by lightning on December 24, 1971. It crashes in the Amazonian Rainforest. 91 people die; the sole survivor is Juliane Koepcke, a 17-year old girl who survives a fall from 2 miles and 10-day walk through the jungle before being found by hunters. Her mother, famous ornithologist Maria Koepcke, dies; director Werner Herzog had narrowly missed being on the same flight.
- The Andes flight disaster of 1972, in which the passengers who survived the crash had to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.
- The Tenerife disaster: on March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 airliners, from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and PanAm collided on the runway of Los Rodeos Airport, Tenerife, Islas Canarias, killing 583 people. It is the worst accidental disaster in the history of aviation.
- The crash of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182, in San Diego, California on September 25, 1978, following the PSA Boeing 727-214 jetliner's midair collision with a Cessna. California's worst aviation disaster to date, with a death toll of 144.
- The Mount Erebus disaster, in 1979, in which an Air New Zealand DC-10 flew into Mount Erebus, Antarctica.
- The Air Canada Flight 143 (the "Gimli Glider") crash-landed in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada on July 23, 1983 after the airplane ran out of fuel because of a metric conversion error during refueling. Only a few passengers were slightly injured, and none were killed.
- Korean Air Flight 007 — Shot down by Soviet Union fighter planes. All 269 passengers and crew on board died.
- The Air India Bombing of June 23, 1985 was the largest mass-murder in Canadian history, caused by a bomb placed in checked luggage.
- Japan Airlines Flight 123 — the worst single-aircraft disaster in history, killing 520 people.
- The USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, claiming to have mistaken it for an F-14 fighter. All 290 passengers on board were killed.
- Ramstein airshow disaster August 28 1988
- Lockerbie disaster — On December 21 1988 Boeing 747 was destroyed in mid-air by a bomb, killing all 278 on board and another 11 on the ground
- Chinook crash on Mull of Kintyre in 1994
- China Airlines Flight 140 crashed at Nagoya Airport on April 26, 1994, killing 264 people.
- TWA Flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic Ocean on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 people onboard.
- Korean Air Flight 801 crashed near Guam Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport on August 6, 1997, killing 228 people.
- Air France Flight 4590 was a Concorde flight from Charles de Gaulle International Airport near Paris, France to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, New York, which crashed on July 25, 2000, in Gonesse, France shortly after takeoff, killing all on board and four on the ground. The crash led to the end of Concorde flights.
- 9/11 — American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center buildings in Manhattan, New York on September 11, 2001, killing all on board and 2595 on the ground. Concurrently, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93 were crashed in related terrorist attacks, into The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, respectively. As with the World Trade Center attacks, all on board these two flights were killed, as well as 125 in the Pentagon.
- China Airlines Flight 611 broke up near Penghu Islands mid-air on May 25, 2002, killing all 225 people on board.
- Flash Airlines Flight 604 crashed shortly after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on January 3, 2004. All 135 passengers and 13 crew were killed.
- Air France Flight 358 overshoots the runway while landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport on August 2, 2005. All passengers and crew aboard survived.
- Helios Airways Flight 522, Boeing 737-31S, crashed into a mountain between Marathon and Varnavas on August 14 2005 killing 121.
- West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 crashed in a mountainous region in northwest Venezuela on the morning of Tuesday, August 16, 2005, killing all 152 passengers and eight crew. It was the worst crash to date in Venezuelan history.
- TANS Peru Flight 204 crashed near Pucallpa, Peru on August 23 2005. At least 41 people died and about 50 survived.
- Mandala Airlines Flight 091 crashed into a heavily-populated residential area seconds after taking off from Polonia International Airport in Medan, Indonesia on September 5, 2005.
- An Iranian Air Force C-130 crashed into a residential area in Tehran on December 6, 2005, killing at least 120.
- Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 ran off the runway at Chicago Midway Airport striking two cars and killing a six year old boy in one of them on December 8, 2005.
Commercial airliner accidents
Lists of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners are available sorted:
Sightseeing helicopter crashes:
- September 23, 2005, Heli USA Airways, Haena, HI
- September 20, 2003, Sundance Helicopters, Grand Canyon West, AZ
- July 23, 2003, Jack Harter Helicopters, Waialeale Crater, Kauai, HI
- Chinook Helicopter Crash (1994)
- Graham Strachan died in 2001 in a helicopter crash in Queensland, Australia
- Alia al Hussein died in a helicopter crash in Amman, Jordan and Amman airport was afterwards renamed Queen Alia International Airport
- Abdul Salam Arif was killed in a helicopter crash in southern Iraq
- Proton's CEO, Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad was killed in a helicopter crash in 1997
- René Barrientos died as the result of a helicopter crash near Arque village in Bolivia.
- Bill Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991
- Aleksandr Lebed died in a helicopter crash in bad weather 2002
- Pope Petros VII of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria died in a helicopter crash on September 11, 2004, in the Aegean Sea near Greece, killing him and several other clergy, including Bishop Nectarios of Madagascar
- Disney's second in command, Frank Wells, died in a helicopter crash
- Two MH-60 Black Hawks crashed in the Battle of Mogadishu, which the book and film Black Hawk Down is based on
- Vic Morrow died on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie while holding two small children. A helicopter being used on the set spun out of control and crashed, decapitating him and one of the children with its blades. The remaining child was crushed as the helicopter crashed. Everyone inside the helicopter was unharmed. The accident led to massive reforms in U.S. child labor laws and safety regulations on movie sets in California.
- April 7, 2001 - An M-17 helicopter crashes into mountain in south of Hanoi, Vietnam killing 16. The flight was carrying United States armed forces personnel searching for MIAs from Vietnam War
Main article: List of Coalition aircraft crashes in Iraq
- August 12, 2005 - AH-64 Apache crashes near Kirkuk, injuring the two pilots.
- May 31, 2005 - An Italian AB-412 helicopter crashes near Nasiriyah, killing the four soldiers on board.
- December 15, 2004 - A helicopter crashes near Karbala after it suffers engine failure; 3 Polish soldiers are killed and 4 injured.
- September 8, 2004 - Helicopter crashes 20 miles south of Fallujah; all 4 crew members survive.
- April 7, 2004 - US helicopter crashes near Baquba.
- March 21, 2003 - 4 Marines killed as helicopter crashes.
- List of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners grouped by year
- Aircraft hijacking
- List of deaths by aircraft misadventure
- List of people who died in aviation-related incidents
- List of space disasters
- Cavalese cable-car disaster (United States Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler jet cut off cable of a cable-car, killing 20 people)
- Kegworth air disaster (Boeing 737 G-OBME crashed on the embankment of Britain's M1 motorway after an engine failure)
- Manchester air disaster (Boeing 737 caught fire on the ground after an engine failure)
- Munich air disaster (Airspeed Ambassador crashed attempting take-off during a blizzard)
- Staines air disaster (Trident stalled and crashed shortly after takeoff)
- Superga air disaster, aircraft crashed into the Superga hills outside Turin
- Air safety
- Aviation archaeology
- , Newsweek article about Aer Lingus flight 712. Questions exist over whether it was downed by a British missile strike.
- , editorial citing examples of most severe consequences of pilot error and other human error
- AirlineSafety.Com An editorial-driven site which discusses human factors in airliner accidents
- airsafe.com A comprehensive American-oriented website on air safety issues and disasters
- airdisaster.com A comprehensive website on air disasters
- PlaneCrashInfo.com Data, photos and sounds.
- Computer-Related Incidents with Commercial Aircraft: A Compendium of Resources, Reports, Research, Discussion and Commentary, compiled by Peter B. Ladkin et al.
- Check-Six.com, offering aviation history and adventure first-hand
- The Black Box Story, Crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401, told using Black Box transcripts
- National Transportation Safety Board Accident Database & Synopses