This is a compilation of the worst plane crashes. From a mid-air airplane crash collision to a fatal pilot error, these aviation accidents are shocking!
These are the seven worst plane crashes in history. After hearing about these airline incidents, you may reconsider ever stepping onboard a plane ever again.
7: The 1972 Andes Flight Disaster
October 13th, 1972: Uruguayan Flight 571 crashes into the Andes mountains, immediately killing 12 of the 45 passengers on board. Several others would die before they could be rescued. Over the next two months, the survivors endured harsh winter weather, avalanches, & resorted to extreme measures to survive.
The chartered flight departed on October 12th while transporting the Old Christians Club rugby union team along with members’ friends & family from Montevideo, Uruguay heading for Santiago, Chile for a match. But due to bad weather conditions, the plane landed in Mendoza, Argentina to wait out the storm. It departed again the next day with its 45 passengers to finish its journey, which included flying over the Andes mountain range. Because of the weather, the pilot was unable to fly his plane over the mountains & instead, was forced to fly around them.
On that particular day, however, the cloud cover was so intense that it caused the pilot to miscalculate where the plane was in relation to the mountains. As a result, the plane crashed into the side of a mountain near Malargue, Argentina, instantly killing 12 of its passengers upon impact.
Within days, six more passengers—including the only doctor on board—died, leaving just 27 people alive. The survivors were left with very little food & water & virtually no winter clothing or footwear to protect them from the cold, snowy weather. Two medical students onboard the flight survived & were able to erect makeshift splints for various injuries, including broken arms & legs.
When the plane did not arrive to Santiago as expected, Chile, Argentina, & Uruguay sent out search parties to find the missing plane. But because the plane was white, it blended in with the snow, making it nearly impossible to find. The search team was called off after eight days, a fact that the survivors were aware of since they had a transistor radio & heard the news of the search team giving up.
Since the passengers had little food with no means of obtaining any more as there were no animals or vegetation to be found, the group resorted to eating the flesh of dead passengers to survive after much deliberation. Some of the passengers had reservations about doing this but eventually decided to do so in order to stay alive.
One more month had passed & the survivors were still stranded when suddenly, an avalanche killed eight more people. And by December 12th–nearly two months after the crash, two men from the group decided to take a dangerous journey seeking help for the group. The trek lasted over a week & involved scaling a mountain then hiking down into a valley. But Nando Parrado & Roberto Canessa ultimately succeeded in making contact with another human being.
On December 20th, 70 days after the crash, Parrado and Canessa came across three men on horseback, to whom they communicated their situation. The riders realized they were survivors of the crash & immediately sought help. In the end, the remaining survivors were rescued from the wreckage after an arduous rescue mission that concluded two days before Christmas. 16 passengers total survived 72 days after the crash.
Since this incredible event, books, movies, & documentaries have been published recalling the crash & the ensuing struggle for survival. A feature film entitled Alive: Miracle in the Andes was also produced in 1993.
6: China Airlines Flight 611
May 25th, 2002: China Airlines Flight 611 is leaving Taiwan for Hong Kong when it disintegrates in mid-air, killing all 225 passengers on board. To this day, it remains the deadliest aviation accident in Taiwan’s history.
The plane was flying at approximately 35,000 feet 20 minutes after takeoff when they lost contact with air traffic control. The plane disintegrated in mid-air soon after, with the wreckage crashing into the Taiwan Strait. The crew—which was comprised of Captain Ching-Fong Yi, first officer Yea Shyong Shieh, & flight engineer Sen Kua Choa—were all very experienced & did not appear to make any errors that led to the accident.
A recovery effort turned up the remains of 176 people, many of which were found floating in the ocean. An investigation into the accident made it clear that no distress signals were sent out by the crew, suggesting the accident happened very quickly. It was also discovered that the disintegration was the result of metal fatigue after insufficient repairs were made to the plane following a minor accident in 1980. Out of respect for the dead, China Airlines opted to discontinue flight 611.
5: Air France Flight 447
June 1st, 2009: Air France Flight 447 scheduled to fly from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashes into the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 228 crew & passengers on board, no one survived. The accident remains the deadliest crash in Air France’s history.
The crash was ultimately the result of icing conditions, as it was eventually discovered that the plane’s pilot tubes were obstructed by ice crystals. This caused the autopilot to stop working & after the crew overreacted, the plane entered an aerodynamic stall & fell straight into the ocean about three hours & 45 minutes after takeoff.
An extensive search effort was underway two days after the crash, with the Brazilian Navy being the first to discover wreckage from the site. After close to three years of recovering pieces of the plane & extensive investigations, it was finally concluded that when the autopilot function went out, the crew did not respond correctly, causing the plane to rapidly lose speed while gaining altitude before it stalled & lost altitude. Furthermore, they did not recognize that the plane was stalling and therefore, did nothing to correct the situation.
The incident has been the subject of several different documentaries, including a 2012 film called Fatal Flight 447: Chaos in the Cockpit. During this documentary, a black box recording revealed that the crew was concerned about storm clouds & lightning they were seeing. But many experts conclude that this should not have been a problem for such an experienced crew, which was flying under the command of Captain Marc Dubois & his two co-pilots.
4: September 11th, 2001
The September 11th attacks against the United States claimed the lives of 2,996 people, including firefighters & police officers as well as the 19 terrorists who hijacked the planes. The attacks, which were a highly coordinated event planned & carried out by members of Al-Qaeda, sparked the global war on terror. It ultimately led to the U.S.’s invasion of Afghanistan in an attempt to dispose of Al-Qaeda, who often found safe harbor in Afghanistan.
The series of attacks involved four different planes being hijacked & crashed into American landmarks, the most famous of which were the World Trade Center towers in New York City. American Airlines Flight 111 and United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center early that morning. Within minutes, American Airlines Flight 77 also crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Additionally, United Airlines Flight 93 was also hijacked with the intention of flying into the White House. Its passengers, however, were now aware at this point of the other terrorist attacks & attempted to subdue the hijackers. The plane crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township in Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people on board.
In addition to the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost that day, it cost the nation more than $3 trillion in damage to property, infrastructure, & the economy. Also, the ensuing “War on Terror” killed over 6,000 military personnel & injuring another 50,422 people.
3: The Ermenonville Air Disaster
March 3rd, 1974: Turkish Airlines Flight 981 from Istanbul to London crashes into the Ermenonville Forest near Paris, France killing the 346 people on board. It was caused by an improperly secured cargo door & remains the deadliest aviation incident to occur in France.
During the flight, the cargo door broke off completely, resulting in an explosive decompression. This caused vital cables to break apart, which were vital in controlling the plane. As soon as the cargo door blew off, six passengers were ejected from the plane while still attached to their seats. Their bodies were eventually recovered in a field. By this point, the pilots had no way of controlling the plane as it plummeted through the air towards the earth. The plane was traveling at 490 mph when it crashed into the forest. Upon impact, it shattered into millions of pieces, 20,000 of which were body fragments.
2: The Charkhi Dadri Mid-Air Collision
November 12th, 1996: Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 & Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 collide in mid-air over the village of Charkhi Dadri near New Delhi, India. The planes carried a total of 349 passengers, none of whom survived. The accident remains the deadliest mid-air collision of all time as well as India’s deadliest aviation accident.
The two flights were in fact scheduled to pass one another. But after a series of miscommunications, Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 was flying lower than planned. Air traffic control tried reaching the plane to warn them, but they received no reply.
When the two planes collided, Flight 1907’s tail cut through the left wing of Flight 763, breaking up the plane almost immediately. The other plane remained intact but quickly lost control & descended to Earth at a rapid speed. It finally crashed into a Charkhi Dadri field.
Investigators looking into the matter suspect that a language barrier between the pilot & air traffic control was what caused confusion about the plane’s altitude. When the pilot discovered he was flying too low, he began climbing, which was when the two planes collided. Experts believe the accident may have been able to be avoided had flight 1907 not attempt to correct its altitude.
1: The Tenerife Disaster
March 27th, 1977: 583 people are killed during an accident at the Los Rodeos Airport on Tenerife, an island in the Canary Islands. Two Boeing 747s collided on the runway, killing all but 61 people aboard the planes. To this day, it is the deadliest aviation accident ever to occur in the history of human flight.
Earlier that day, a bomb planted by terrorists exploded at the Gran Canaria International Airport, causing many flights to be redirected to Los Rodeos. The planes involved in the accident were two of the five flights being diverted to the small island, which had an airport that was incapable of handling that many planes at once. The airport has only one runway & KLM Flight 4805 & Pan Am Flight 1763 were attempting to take off at the same time.
Miscommunications between air traffic control & the KLM cockpit resulted in their takeoff before they were actually cleared to do so. Additionally, the air traffic controller was unable to see the runway that day due to heavy fog while at the same time, the crews of both planes could not see each other. As soon as they realized they were about to collide, KLM was already approaching at takeoff speed. The Pan Am crew attempted to turn the plane right to avoid a collision while KLM tried climbing early, causing its tail to strike the ground. As KLM began leaving the ground, its right-side engines crashed through Pan Am’s cabin. Both planes were destroyed by fire & explosions, killing all 234 passengers & crew members on KLM & all but 61 people aboard Pan Am.