9 Tragic Aviation Disasters

It’s every travellers worst nightmare.

You think it will never happen to you or anyone you know, but it happens to someone, sometime.

Aviation disasters terrify us because they are so completely and absolutely out of our control. If you crash a car you may survive, if you get into a ferry accident at least you can swim, but with an aeroplane accident it’s all so final and fatal.

There have been a few occasions when a lucky one or two survived, but they are few and far between. Let’s take a look at some of the worst aviation disasters in history in this latest 9stein list post.

If you’re going to fly anytime soon, it’s best you don’t read this post!

9 Tragic Aviation Disasters

9/11 Attacks

It is impossible to talk about aviation disasters without mentioning the September 11th 2001 attacks on America.

This is one moment in history that everyone person, who was old enough to comprehend what was happening, will remember exactly where they were when they first heard news of this devastating act.

These co-ordinated attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qeada militants. 4 aeroplanes were hijacked, two of which were flown in to the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City respectively. A third plane had its target set on America’s department of Defense building, the Pentagon.

However, the fourth plane that was hijacked had been delayed in taking-off from Newark International Airport bound for California, this delay meant that the passengers on-board the aircraft had become informed of what had just happened in New York and at the pentagon. The passengers knew that this was the end game and a group of them tried to gain back controlled of the hijacked plane. This aircraft crashed in a field in Pennsylvania killing everyone on-board. Although its intended target is not clear, many people believe it may have been heading for the White House.

In total more than 3,000 people died from a result of these attacks making this by far the worst aviation disaster and with the following invasions in to Iraq and Afghanistan as a direct result of 9/11, we can probably say that this day changed the world forever.

All of us here at 9stein would like to express our sympathies for those who lost their lives in this horrific event and to those families and friends who had loved ones taken from them.

Tenerife Airport Disaster

Outside of terrorist attacks, the Tenerife airport disaster, on March 27 1977, is the single most fatal accident in aviation history killing 583 people and injuring 61 others.

This disaster was the result of a catalogue of unfortunate events, bad weather, poor communication and pilot error in which two Boeing 747s, Pam Am Flight 1736 and KLM Flight 4805, collided on the small airport’s single runway.

The unfortunate events began when a bomb exploded at Gran Canaria Airport, this was meant to the destination for the two aircraft involved in this tragic aviation incident. Due to this explosion, all flights were diverted to Los Rodeos Airport in Tenerife.

By the time Gran Canaria airport was operational again a thick fog had set in at the Tenerife airport making it impossible for the airport’s air traffic control operators to see what was going on. To make matters worse, the airport did not have ground radar so the only way of knowing the two aircraft’s locations was via verbal communication between the cockpits and tower.

With both planes taxiing on the runway, the Pam Am flight was asked to branch off at the third exit post to allow the KLM flight to depart, a series of misunderstandings and miscommunication followed and with the Pam Am flight still on the runway searching for the exit it was told to use, the KLM was given the all clear to take-off. Not knowing that 1400 metres away the other plane was still on the runway, the KLM pilot thrust up his engines and started his take-off.

Coming down the runway at more than 150 mph, the KLM was just starting to lift into the air when right in front of it stood the Pan Am flight. The KLM’s engines ripped through the other plane’s fuselage and soon nosed-dived back down to the tarmac fully laden with jet fuel, it exploded and everyone on-board the KLM flight died.

The Tenerife airport disaster forced the aviation industry to look at its procedures and a number of safeguards were introduced as a result of what had happened. Sadly, this was too late for 583 people.

Lockerbie Bombing

This aviation disaster, which happened on the 21st of December 1988, involved another Pan Am aircraft, this time it was flight 103. The scheduled flight was from Frankfurt to Detroit, with stops at London and New York in between.

A terrorist bomb caused the explode in mid-air, killing all 259 people on-board. Huge sections of the aircraft, falling from the sky, smashed into residential areas of Lockerbie, in Scotland, killing another 11 people, hence this disaster became known as the Lockerbie bombing.

Muammar Gaddafi confessed to Libya’s involvement in this horrendous act. Libya paid compensation to the victim’s families; however, he claims to have never directly ordered the attack but other sources, namely Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the former Minister of Justice have said the opposite.

To this day, the search for exactly who carried out this terrorist act goes on, and the latest reports are that Libya has granted Scottish and American investigators the right to interview two suspects about their involvement in the Lockerbie bombing.

Japan Airlines Flight 123

On August the 12th, 1985, A Boeing 747SR left Toyko’s Haneda Airport bound for Osaka International Airport carrying 509 passengers and 15 crew members.

After just 12 minutes in the air, the 747 suffered explosive decompression and 32 minutes later the plane crashed into two ridges of Mount Takamagahara killing all the 15 crew members and 505 passengers – amazingly 4 people survived.

The cause of this disaster was later discovered to be a from a repair which did not conform to Boeing’s approved standards after the plane had suffered a tailstrike incident upon landing several years prior.

To this day, Japan Airlines Flight 123 is the single worst aviation disaster on record, killing a total of 520 people. 9/11 and the Tenerife airport disaster claimed more lives but they both included multiple planes.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

This has got to be the most well-known flight number in history – sadly for the wrong reasons.

Departing from Kuala Lumpur heading towards Beijing on the 8th March 2014, this plane suddenly disappeared from air traffic controller’s radar while flying over the South China Sea. It was tracked by Malaysian military radar for another hour after its disappearance in which the plane deviated from its flight path and crossed the Malay Peninsula.

A mammoth multinational search effort began in an attempt to find the missing plane yet nothing was found until a flaperon from flight 370 was found on Reunion Island on the 29th of July 2015.

Still, today, the vast majority of this aircraft has not been discovered which is sad news for the friends and families of the 239 people on-board who would at least like some closure on what happened on that fateful night.

Due to this unusual event, every man and his dog has come up with their own conspiracy theory about MH370 but we here at 9stein don’t want to delve into those. Let’s hope one day, the truth is uncovered.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

The last thing an airline company needs when they are in the middle of the biggest aviation mystery this century is to be faced with another disaster. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to Malaysia Airlines.

Only 4 months had passed since the disappearance of Flight 370 and they were in the news again. This time, it was a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the date was the 17th of July 2014. The Boeing 777-200ER was flying over the Ukraine – Russia border, this was around the time when there was a lot of tension in the country with the government being overthrown, when it was shot down by a surface to air missile – killing all 298 people on-board.

This deplorable act was, by most accounts, carried out by pro-Russian insurgents using a Buk (SA-11) missile fired from the Eastern Ukraine.

Words kind of fail me at this point when trying to fathom the reason for this. Surely a passenger aeroplane couldn’t be mistaken for an enemy plane or a drone or are the some of the people who are given such powerful weapons really that f****g stupid that they believed it was.

Charkhi Dadri Mid-Air Collision

Back to 1996 now, over the village of Charkdi Dadri, just west of New Delhi, India. A mid-air collision between a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 and a Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin occurred.

The Saudi Arabian flight was on its way out from New Delhi and it was cleared to climb to 14,000 feet; this was around the same time the Kazakhstan airliner was approaching New Delhi on the exact same flight. The Kazakhstan flight was cleared to descend to 15,000 feet but it turns out the plane had come down to 14,500 feet and was still descending.

Then, the unthinkable happened, the two planes collided in mid-air. The smaller Ilyushin plane sliced through the Boeing’s left wing which sent the huge airliner spiralling to the ground at more than 700 mph. Amazingly, 2 people managed to survive this gigantic impact but they both died of severe internal bleeding soon after. The Kazakhstan plane was sent into a rapid, uncontrolled descent too and that crashed in a field – killing all on-board.

In total, 349 lives were lost making this the worst aviation disaster to happen in India and the 4th deadliest aviation disaster in history.

Turkish Airlines Flight 981

Yet another explosive decompression event caused this tragic event in the Ermenonville forest outside Paris on the 3rd of March 1974.

This time it was caused by a cargo door not being locked correctly which tore off the plane while in mid-air. The cargo doors not locking correctly was an actual, known design flaw in the DC-10 aircraft and manaual procedures were required to double check the doors had engaged themselves in the locks correctly.

Regrettable, this time it had obviously been over-looked and it resulted in 346 lost lives which in 1974 made it the worst aviation disaster ever, at that time.

Germanwings Flight 9525

Although there are many other aviation disasters which have a much higher body count, we here at 9Stein have included this one because it, to us, is one of the saddest of them all.

The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 was deliberately caused by the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who was known to have had a history of mental illness and had shown suicidal tendencies in the past. Upon locking the pilot out of the aircraft’s cockpit, Lubitz systematically initiated the plane’s descent, causing it to crash into a mountain – killing all 150 people on-board.

The writers here at 9Stein fully appreciate and accept the reality of mental health issues but come on, this is way above and beyond that. To us, there is a marked difference between someone who wants to end his/her life and someone who wants to do it and take another 149 victims with them.

The 24th of March 2015 was a truly sad day and one that will long live in the memory, and we hope and pray that such an event is not seen again.


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