World Facts

Deadliest Plane Crashes In History

A bomb set off a series of events that led to almost 600 deaths at Los Rodeos Airport in Tenerife, Canary Islands in 1977.

10. American Airlines, Chicago, Illinois, May 25, 1979 (273 dead)

On May 25, 1979, disaster struck the Los Angeles-bound American Airlines Flight 191, killing all of the passengers on board. The incident occurred soon after take-off from Chicago's O’Hare International Airport. At that time, the left engine of the plane fell off, causing it to roll over and plummet to the ground. The flight crashed just a few miles away from the runway, and burst into a ball of flames that could be seen up to eight miles away. The fatalities involved all of the 271 passengers and crew and 2 persons on ground.

9. Iranian Military plane, Shahdad, Iran, February 19, 2003 (275 dead)

On February 19, 2003, 275 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard were killed in a fatal air crash when their Ilyushin II-76 Iranian military aircraft, flying from Zahedan to Kerman, crashed in the mountains near Kerman. Strong winds in the region were believed to be responsible for the incident.

8. Iran Air, Hormuz Strait, July 3, 1998 (290 dead)

One of the worst human-induced air crashes in history was the shooting down of the Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes (a United States Navy guided missile cruiser) on the Bandar Abbas-Dubai route. The incident occurred on July 3, 1998, and claimed the lives of 290 innocent civilians, including 66 children. 38 of the dead passengers had a non-Iranian background. According to the U.S. Government, the shooting was a case of mistaken identity, wherein the U.S. crew wrongly identified the Iranian passenger flight as an attacking F-14A Tomcat Fighter.

7. Malaysia Airlnes, Hrabove, Ukraine, July 17, 2014 (295 dead)

295 innocent lives were lost when the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by militant forces on July 14, 2014. The flight was flying between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was brought down by assailants near the Ukraine-Russia border. The plane crashed near Torez, Ukraine, 40 kilometers from the border. After the incident, Russia and Ukraine held each other responsible for the disaster. Investigations led to the inference that separatist militants were responsible for this incident.

6. Saudi Arabian Airlines, Riyadh Saudi Arabia, August 19, 1980 (301 dead)

One of the most unfortunate (and freaky) flight accidents occurred on August 19, 1980. Tis event was onboard the Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 163, headed from Karachi, Pakistan to Jidda, Saudi Arabia via a stopover in Riyadh. The flight’s journey from Karachi to Riyadh was uneventful but, shortly after it left the Riyadh airport, a fire broke out within the flight. The fire was caused by passengers cooking food on a portable butane stove. As strange as it may sound, Middle Eastern airlines often flex their laws to allow their Muslim passengers to follow their strict dietary regimes while flying, and this time that involved cooking. The flight crew sent alarm messages to the ground staff at Riyadh, who then prepared for an emergency landing. What was worse was that even though the flight landed on the runway and managed to reach the end of the runway, and having ground crew members waiting with emergency firefighting supplies, at the end of the runway the flight erupted into flames. Shockingly, there were no survivors, and all 301 passengers died, and their bodies found piled up near the escape hatches. Various reasons have been suggested to explain the absence of any survivors, such as a possible stampede that prevented the doors from opening, and a failure on the part of the crew to depressurize the cabin.

5. Air India, Irish coastal waters, June 23, 1985 (329 dead)

Another tragic intentionally induced flight disaster occurred on June 23, 1985, when Air India flight AI 182, flying from Montreal, Canada towards London, United Kingdom, exploded at a height of 31,000 feet and crashed 120 miles off the coast of Cork. All of the 329 passengers and crewmembers, including 268 Canadian citizens (the majority of which had Indian lineage) and 27 Britons, with the rest belonging to other nationalities, died in the incident. Canadian law enforcement authorities blamed a Sikh militant group for this bombing. Only one individual, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was convicted for the crime, and the investigation and prosecution on this case continued for 20 years, and proved to be the most expensive trial in Canadian history.

4. Turkish Airlines, Bois d' Ermenonville, France, March 3, 1974 (346 dead)

March 3, 1974, was marked as a dark day in the history of aviation. This was the day when Turkish Airlines Flight 981, flying between Istanbul Atatürk Airport and London Heathrow Airport via the Orly Airport in Paris, crashed into the Ermenonville forest near Paris. This freak accident occurred due to a technical fault, wherein a cargo door at the back of the plane dislodged, causing excessive decompression and loss of cables necessary to control the aircraft. All of the 346 passengers and crew on board the flight lost their lives in this unfortunate incident.

3. Saudi-Kazakh Air Lines, New Delhi, India, November 12, 1996 (349 dead)

Yet another terrible disaster occurred due to human error on November 12, 1996, when two flights collided in midair in the skies over the Charkhi Dadri village in India. The ill-fated flights involved in the accident were the Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763, which was leaving New Delhi, and the Kazakhstan Airlines flight 1907, which was about to land at the same airport at about the same time. Miscalculations and inefficiency on part of the ground staff led to the collision of the two aircrafts, which killed all of the passengers on board the two flights, with the total number of resultant ,fatalities amounting to 349.

2. Japan Air Lines, Mt. Osutaka, Japan, August 12, 1985 (520 dead)

With 520 people dying on the fateful day of August 12, 1985, the flight accident involving Japan Air Lines Flight 123 was one of the worst aircraft disasters in history. The flight was flying from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Osaka, when it started facing technical difficulties just 13 minutes after takeoff from Tokyo. As the aircraft approached an elevation of 24,000 feet, an explosion was heard from the aircraft, which was seen diving behind Mt. Osutaka. The technical snag that led to this disaster was a result of a faulty repair activity executed almost seven years prior following a tailstrike incident. The Japan Airlines Flight 123 accident is regarded as the deadliest "single plane" aircraft accident in history.

1. Pan Am, Tenerife, Canary Islands, March 27, 1977 (583 Dead)

The worst disaster in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977, when fate led two aircrafts and their 583 passengers and crew into the mouth of death. A bomb explosion at the Gran Canaria Airport on that same tragic day triggered an alarm which led to a diversion of the routes, and subsequent emergency landings, of KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736, at the small Los Rodeos Airport (currently known as Tenerife North Airport) in Tenerife, Spain. A number of factors, including dense fog, an absence of proper ground radar facilities and miscommunications between the aircraft crew and ground staff, led to the collision of the two aircrafts as they headed towards each other on the runway, each unaware of the other’s presence till it was too late. The disaster shook up the aviation world like never before, and led to the immediate implementation of a large number of reforms to prevent such occurrences in the future, which could save hundreds of innocent lives from being lost due to human errors. The bomb that triggered the event had been planted by the Guanche Armed Forces, a Canary Islanders' separatist movement especially hostile to the regime of the Spanish dictator in power at the time, Francisco Franco.

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