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Home > Air Crash > What are the most common causes of mid-air crashes?
What are the most common causes of mid-air crashes?
Aviation - Air Crash
Monday, 28 August 2006 23:52

Hi Captain Lim,

Thanks for all the information on your site! It is very reassuring to read that turbulence cannot cause a plane to nose dive, flip or spin out of control! Hard to digest/comprehend for the layperson, but very reassuring!

After reading your site, I'm left wondering: What are the most common causes of mid-air crashes?


Hi Marie,

Plane crashes are rather rare! Many would disagree with me because they continue to read or see them in the news whenever one occurs somewhere in the world. Nevertheless, as rare as air crashes are, there is no denying that they do happen as Murphy Law testifies.

Let us look into some major accidents in the past - starting from the worst case to get a sampling of their causes:

On 27 March 1977, 583 people were killed when two Boeing 747s, operated by KLM and Pan Am, collided on a foggy runway at Tenerife. The KLM airliner took off without permission, striking the Pan Am jet as it taxied along the same runway. Confusion over instructions and a blockage of radio transmissions contributed to the crash. Main causes: Human error and miscommunication.

On 12 August 1985, 520 passengers were killed when a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 crashed near Mount Fuji after takeoff from Tokyo on a domestic flight. The rupture of an aft bulkhead, which had undergone faulty repairs following a mishap seven years earlier, caused the destruction of part of the aeroplane*s tail and rendered the jet uncontrollable. A JAL maintenance supervisor later committed suicide, while the president of the airline resigned, accepting full responsibility for the crash - Main cause: Negligent maintenance.

On 12 November 1996, 349 people were killed when an Ilyushin IL-76 cargo plane from Kazakhstan collided in midair with a Saudia 747 near Delhi, India. The Kazakh crew had disobeyed instructions, and neither aircraft was equipped with collision-avoidance (TCAS) technology - Main causes: Human error and deficient technology.

On 3 March 1974, 346 people were killed when a Turkish Airline DC-10 crashed near Orly airport outside Paris. A poorly designed cargo door burst from its latches, leading to rapid depressurization, failure of the cabin floor and impairment of cables to the rudders and elevators. Out of control, the plane slammed into woods northeast of Paris. Main cause: Manufacturer design.

On 19 August 1980, 301 passengers of a Saudia L-1011 bound for Karachi returned to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when a fire broke out on board shortly after takeoff. For reasons never fully understood, the crew delayed evacuation after a safe touchdown and the aircraft rolled to the far end of the runway before finally stopping. No evacuation was initiated and the plane then sat with its engines running for more than three minutes. Before the doors could be opened by the inadequately equipped rescue workers, everyone in the wide body plane were killed by a flash-fire. Main cause: Probably human error.

When I read the papers this morning, a US regional passenger crashed in Kentucky, USA, killing 49 of the 50 people aboard. A *preliminary review * of the flight data recorder showed the plane took off on the wrong runway - a shorter one built for smaller general aviation planes - main cause: Possibility another human error!

The classic mid air crash with numerous contributory causes was the one over the Swiss airspace between the DHL Cargo Boeing 757 and a Russian TU154. Please see FAQ 34 Q3 here.

The causes of air crashes can be any of the following:

Engine failures
Mid-air collisions
Pilot error
Negligent maintenance
Air traffic control errors
Defective onboard computers or software
Fuel tank explosions
Loss of Control (airplane or crew caused)
Manufacturing defects
Equipment failure
Structural or design problems

So it is really not easy to pinpoint the most common causes of any air crashes, as they almost never happen because of just one or two problems. Yes, the true story is more complicated. It usually involves more than four or five contributory causes. What I can say is that, one of the major weaknesses is attributed to human error - whether by the flight crew, air traffic controllers or mechanics. Hence very rigorous training is vital all round and airplane manufacturers are looking into improving computerization to eliminate further human failings.

Well, even though flying is one of the safest forms of transportation, there are risks involved - as everything we do in life (whether crossing the road or climbing up a ladder) involved some form of dangers. Just remember, the odds of you getting involved in a fatal air crash in the USA is about one in eight million in domestic flights or one in five million in international flights. (Yes, you have a better chance in winning in many lotteries!)


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Comments (6)

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The JAL crash bothers me. There has got to be a way for several layers of people to verify maintenance is solid.
Derek , 19 May, 2009
thank you
Thank you,

4 sharing this information with whole world.smilies/cheesy.gif

And what is the main cause of airplane crashes?
simrat , 13 May, 2010
smilies/cheesy.gif thx for the info
ryan , 20 Jan, 2012
nice and useful info!!!!
Thanks for sharing dese news!!! i wanna agree with u dat plane crashes are very rare and whenever one takes place its becomin a big news or ppl are makin it big fuss!!!! anyways thankie a lot!! smilies/smiley.gif
abi , 26 Sep, 2012
i want just u send me some sms about the comment of aircrash because i have to know it send the picture and the common like aircrash for jet of france
jeko , 04 Apr, 2013
information which i couldn't get in other site i get in this one .........
priyans , 29 Jun, 2013

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