Whether it is appalling weather, mechanical failure, pilot error, inhospitable terrain and hostile action, unfortunately bad plane crashes will always occur.
Listed in this article are the five worst plane crashes and a little information about each. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 is not included in this list.
5th Worst Plane Crash - Turkish Airlines Flight 981
Date: March 3, 1974
The Turkish Airlines Flight 981 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 that crashed just outside Senlis, France. It is know as the ‘Ermenonville air disaster’, from the forest where the plane crashed. The plane accident resulted in the deaths of all 346 on board. The plane crash resulted from the failure of the rear cargo hatch latching system. This allowed the hatch to blow off in mid-flight. The resulting decompression of the cargo hold caused the cabin floor above the hatch to collapse. The flight control cables for the airplane that ran through the floor were severed, leaving the pilots with almost no control over the aircraft.
4th Worst Plane Crash - Saudi 763 and Kazakhstan 1907
Date: November 12, 1996
The 1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision occurred when Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 (SVA 763), a Boeing 747-168B en route from New Delhi collided in mid-air with Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 (KZK 1907), an Ilyushin Il-76 en route to New Delhi, over the village of Charkhi Dadri, Haryana, India. All 349 people on board both flights were killed. It is one of the worst aviation tragedies and the deadliest mid-air plane crash in aviation history.
3rd Worst Plane Crash - Air Africa crash
Date: January 8, 1996
The Air Africa crash happened when an overloaded Air Africa Antonov An-32B aircraft, leased from Moscow Airways and bound for Kahemba Airport, overshot the runway and failed to take off at N'Dolo Airport in Kinshasa, DR Congo. The aircraft plunged into Kinshasa's Simbazikita street market, causing an estimated 300 fatalities, including two onboard the aircraft, and caused 253 serious injuries. This is the largest number of non-passenger ground fatalities caused by the accidental crash of a plane. According to the Russian Air Transport Department, the plane was operating out of license.
2nd Worst Plane Crash – Japan Airlines Flight 123
Date: August 12, 1985
The Japan Airlines Flight 123 was a Japan Airlines domestic plane flight from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) to Osaka International Airport (Itami). The Boeing 747-SR46 suffered mechanical failure 12 minutes into the flight and 32 minutes later crashed into two ridges of Mount Takamagahara in Ueno, Gunma Prefecture, 100 kilometers from Tokyo. All 15 crew members and 505 out of 509 passengers died, resulting in a total of 520 deaths and 4 survivors. It is one of the worst aviation tragedies and the deadliest single plane crash accident in history.
The Worst Plane Crash - KLM 4805 and Pan Am 1736
Date: March 27, 1977
The Tenerife airplane disaster in 1977 was a collision between two Boeing 747 passenger aircraft on a runway at Los Rodeos Airport (or Tenerife North Airport) on the Spanish island of Tenerife. There were 583 fatalities; this is the worst plane crash in aviation history. All 248 people aboard the KLM flight were killed. There were 335 fatalities and 61 survivors from the Pan Am flight 1736. The Pan Am flight was struck along its spine by the KLM's landing gear, under-belly and four engines. The rescue crews that attended the scene were unaware for over 20 minutes that the Pan Am aircraft was also involved in the accident. This was due to the heavy fog and the separation of the planes following the collision. Whilst taking off in heavy fog on the airport's only runway, the KLM flight crashed into the top of the Pan Am plane when it was back-taxiing in the opposite direction. The Pan Am had followed the backtaxiing of the KLM aircraft, under the direction of Air Traffic Control, and the KLM's flight crew had been aware of Pan Am backtaxiing behind them on the same runway. Despite lack of visual confirmation (because of the fog) the KLM captain thought that Pan Am had cleared the runway and so attempted to take off without further clearance to do so.
Worst Plane Crashes - Conclusion
Plane crashes are always a tragedy. The positive aspects of these aviation tragedies are that new technologies are developed that help civil aviation authorities to prevent or minimize future risks. As a result, although more planes are flying across the world, the ratio of incidents is decreasing year on year.
Sources:Gero, David, Published - Sutton Publishing Ltd (2006), Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950 (4th Edition), ISBN 978-0750931465
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The World's Worst Plane Crashes - Saudi 763