10 Deadliest plane crashes in the world

19 Jan 2023  Read 45137 Views

In the past 30 years, the world witnessed 720 aeroplane crashes, where the death toll from crashes in the mountainous country is the highest. The situation worsened with another recent airline crash in Nepal, with at least 69 of the 72 passengers dying onboard in the Yeti Airlines flight 691. This had been Nepal’s third deadliest aviation disaster in the last three decades.

Overall, Nepal ranked 33 out of the 207 countries based on the number of plane crashes with 52 plane crashes, India ranking at 13 with 99 plane crashes, and the US topping the list with 1,578 plane crashes, followed by Russia (464 plane crashes) and Canada (369 plane crashes) in 30 years. This article discusses the deadliest plane accidents, crashes and attacks in the world.

Deadliest plane crashes

Credit: Wikipedia
Credit: Wikipedia

1. The Tenerife Airport Disaster (1977)

The deadliest accident in aviation history, where around 583 passengers on board were killed. The incident took place after the plane captain, mistakenly believing that he had been cleared for takeoff, went ahead. This led to other tragic incidents as well, like flights Pan Am 1736 and KLM 4805 from Gran Canaria Airport in Spain were diverted to Tenerife Airport due to an explosion at the airport & as the weather was also foggy, there was no ground radar, so, Pan Am 1736, Boeing 747 and KLM 4805 collided with each other.

Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

2. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (2014)

This was a major airline shootdown which took place on 17th July 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17/MAS17) was a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine. 283 passengers and 15 crew on board were killed. Its contact with the aircraft, Boeing 777-200ER, was lost about 50 km from the Russia- Ukraine border, and pieces of the aircraft landed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which was 40 km from the border. The area in which the crash occurred was administered by the Donbass People's Militia during the Battle in Shakhtarsk Raion, part of the ongoing war in Donbass. This was Malaysia Airlines' second aircraft loss in 2014 after Flight 370 on 8th March.

Credit: The Print

3. Air India Flight 182 (1985)

The incident took place on June 23, 1985 with 329 fatalities. This is considered as the deadliest terror attack, which included a plane at the time, the Air India Flight 182 crashed off the coast of Ireland while flying from Toronto to Sahar International in India. A bomb was placed in the cargo held by Canadian Sikh terrorist which exploded over the Atlantic. The passenger responsible is said to be 'M Singh' who checked himself onto the flight with a suitcase but did not board. On the other hand, a second bomb that was intended to go off in tandem on a different flight exploded early in the terminal building at Narita Airport, Japan. After the investigation, it was found out that the bombing of Flight 182 had numerous failings in the security processes in Canada that resulted in the terrorist attack.

Credit: admiralcloudberg

4. Japan Airlines Flight 123 (1985)

This is also known as the Mount Osutaka airline disaster. Japan Airlines Flight 123 was a scheduled domestic Japan Airlines passenger flight scheduled to take off from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Osaka International Airport, Japan. The plane had left Tokyo airspace & reached 24,000 feet when the first distress calls came from the plane’s pilot, who reported losing altitude and later difficulty controlling the plane. Then, the plane fell to around 10,000 feet, and the pilot continued with his distress signals and asked to be rerouted to the Tokyo airport. But about 45 minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed into Mount Takamagahara near Mount Osutaka, hence the name of the disaster

Credit: Gizmodo

5. Saudi Arabian Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 (1996)

The deadliest mid-air collision took place on 12th November 1996 known as the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision over the village of Charkhi Dadri, to the west of New Delhi in India. The aircraft involved were a Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763, flying from Delhi to Dhahran (in Saudi Arabia), and a Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 flying from Chimkent, Kazakhstan, to Delhi. This airline crash killed all 349 people on board in both planes, making it the world's deadliest mid-air collision & the deadliest aviation accident to happen in India, and the third-deadliest aircraft accident in aviation history.

Credit: Burearu of Aircraft Accidents Archives

6. The New York Collision (1960)

A deadly plane collision impacted the whole of New York killing at least 128 passengers and six bystanders on the ground. The collision took place between a United Airlines Douglas DC-9 and a Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1049 (TWA) on 16th December 1960. The TWA flight was heading for La Guardia Airport whereas the United Airlines plane was about to land at Idlewild, now known by the name, John F. Kennedy Airport. So, as soon as it approached the city, the United Airlines plane was told to take a holding pattern at 5,000 feet over Preston, New Jersey, until it could be cleared for Idlewild (his landing spot) and the TWA plane was told to stay at 6,000 feet over Linden, New Jersey, until it was cleared for landing at La Guardia. While in the air, one of the air controllers at La Guardia suddenly called out to the TWA pilot that he had jet traffic (another plane) nearby on his right but there was no response. At the same time, the United Airlines told Idlewild that it was at 5,000 feet. It was given landing instructions from the tower but there was no response and it crashed in Brooklyn. 

Credit: The New York Times

7. Iran Air Flight 655 (1988)

A civilian airline flying from Tehran to Dubai was shot down on  July 3rd, 1988, resulting in 290 fatalities. The flight was shot down by surface-to-air missiles fired from US military cruiser USS Vincennes, killing everyone on board. The flight was in Iranian airspace, over Iranian territorial waters on its usual flight path, but as per the US government, cruiser USS Vincennes mistook it for an F-14A Tomcat fighter plane. This American ship’s crew made 10 attempts to contact the Iran Air Flight on military and civilian radio frequencies before firing and on receiving no response, they opened fire. In 1996 the US & Iran reached a settlement at the International Court of Justice with the former expressing “deep regret over the loss of lives” but did not admit any legal liability. The US agreed to pay $213,103.45 compensation per passenger.

Credit: HistoryNet

8. The Grand Canyon Mid-Air Collision (1956)

The first devastating plane crash which happened in the 1950s (30th June, 1956) wherein 128 people were killed on board. In this incident, a United Airlines Douglas DC-7 collided with a Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1049 in Arizona. These two airliners came together at 21,000 feet over the Grand Canyon, sending both planes spiraling into the abyss. There were no flight recorders, no witnesses, no radar records, and no survivors, and it was one of the most inhospitable crash sites in the history of commercial aviation. It got impossible for the investigators to determine what exactly happened and why, but with the help of forensic analysis, they arrived at a conclusion that the accident was not the fault of either crew but of the air traffic control system that was increasingly unable to guarantee the safety of the growing number of airplanes flying over the United States.

Credit: Chicago Tribune

9. American Airlines Flight 191 (1979)

American Airlines Flight 191 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight operated by American Airlines flying from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago to Los Angeles International Airport. What happened was that a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 used for this flight on 25th May, 1979, crashed in a few moments after takeoff from runway 32R in Chicago when its left engine detached. There were 258 passengers and 13 crew on board who got killed, along with two people on the ground making it one of the most deadliest aviation accident to have occurred in the United States.

Credit: Popular Mechanics

10. United Flight 232 (1989)

United Flight 232 departed from Denver on 19th July 1989 for Chicago but the tail engine exploded. The pilots lost all flight controls. The odds of such a failure were one in a billion, and also the odds of survival were even worse. However, miraculously an unprecedented show of skill and ingenuity by the pilots combined with an excellent coordinated response by an army of rescue workers on the ground saved 184 people out of 296. It has been the pilot’s efforts that saved so many lives.


Is it safe to fly? The reasons for every plane crash vary, and we know that such tragic incidents can be traumatising, but there are very few chances of such deadliest plane crashes. So, don’t fear flying via aeroplane. On average, it is said that the risk of being killed in a plane crash can be 1 in 11 million. So, aviation accidents are pretty rare. Hence, we conclude that Airways is the most preferred mode of transportation for people travelling long distances as it is comfortable & time-saving. But talking about the fear of a plane crash, many studies have proved that this fear is purely psychological and the chances of dying in a plane crash are less than walking in a park & a car crash. 

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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