The Top 5 Worst Airplane Crashes In History

Despite flying being referred to as the safest way to travel long distance, unfortunately flying also involves risks and a number of high profile airplane disasters have highlighted this over the years.

Of course the most high profile aviation incident of recent years is the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11 at the hands of terrorist group Al-Qaeda, when two planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York, one plane into The Pentagon and one crashing in Pennsylvania. These four separate airplane crashes led to the death of 265 of those on board (and the loss of many more, of course, of those not on the planes). When compiling the list of the top five worst aviation disasters in history, 9/11 has been omitted, only on the grounds that most of those who we lost where not on the airplanes.

Read on for the five worst airplane crashes in aviation historyin terms of the number of fatalities.


1.         Tenerife – 27 March 1977

Officially the worst disaster in aviation history, with 583 deaths and 61 survivors, which occurred due to two 747 planes colliding on the ground. The disaster involved a KLM plane and a Pan Am aircraft, which were both due to take off in thick fog. Due to a bomb threat at a nearby airport, many aircraft had been diverted and caused heavy traffic on the taxiway. Both planes taxied on the same runway due to the congestion, however the weather, and communication problems meant that the KLM flight attempted take-off whilst the Pan Am flight was positioned on the runway. Both aircraft were destroyed.


2.         Mount Fuji, Japan – 12 August 1985

The second biggest aviation disaster caused the death of 520 people, with only 4 survivors, after a Japan Airlines flight JAL123 crashed near Mount Fuji. The crash was due to a mechanical problem with the bulkhead, which destroyed part of the tail and rendered the aircraft uncontrollable. The above video, a computer animated reconstruction, is very poignant


3.         Charkhi Dadri, India – 12 November 1996

The mid-air collision over the small village of Charkhi Dadri, near New Delhi, claimed the lives of 349, with no survivors. The collision involved two aircraft – one Saudi Arabian Airlines and one Kazakhstan Airlines, and is the worst mid-air collision in history, and was due to pilot error.


4.         Ermenonville Forest, near Senlis, France – 3 March 1974

Turkish Airlines flight 981 killed all 346 on board when it came down in the Ermenonville Forest, 9 minutes after taking off from Paris headed for London. The rear cargo hatch blew off and caused massive decompression, rendering the aircraft out of control. The pilot attempted a crash landing but to no avail.


5.         Atlantic Ocean, Ireland – 23 June 1985

All 329 on board the Air India flight were killed when a bomb exploded at 31,000 feet, at the hands of Sikh terrorists. Flying from Montreal to India, the plane went down in the Atlantic Ocean, in Irish airspace and is the worst aviation disaster to occur over water.


Image source

Image source

That all makes for grim reading, doesn’t it? However, it’s important to stress that the overwhelming majority of flights go ahead without a hitch, and should never put people off the wonderful experience of flying to far-flung destinations.

Our hearts go out to the families of those who have perished in these disasters, and others that have occurred over the years.

About Nicky Curtis

Nicky Curtis is a freelance writer of two years duration, although she has written for her own enjoyment for many years. Nicky specialises in all things travel and beauty, and she is currently writing her own book, set in Turkey, which has become her second home over the last few years. A typical "girly girl", Nicky writes about the topics that are dear to her heart, hoping readers connect in the same way.
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