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.

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Contents

History

"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.

Causes

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An accident survey [1] 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

Commercial airliner accidents

Lists of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners are available sorted:

Helicopter crashes

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

Iraq 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.

See also

External links


Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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