Accidents and incidents in aviation

From Academic Kids

An aviation accident (as per the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board definition) is an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage, while an aviation incident is an occurrence other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operations.

Other countries adopt a similar approach, although there are minor variations, such as to the extent of aviation-related operations on the ground covered, as well as with respect to the thresholds beyond which an injury is considered serious or the damage is considered substantial.

 Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejected from his USAF Thunderbirds aircraft at an air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, on , . Stricklin was not injured.
Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejected from his USAF Thunderbirds aircraft at an air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, on September 14, 2003. Stricklin was not injured.


"Flying is not inherently dangerous, but to an even greater extent than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incapacity, or neglect" - anon. quotation

Since the birth of flight, aircraft have crashed, often with serious consequences. This is due to the unforgiving nature of flight, where a relatively insubstantial medium, air, supports a significant mass. Should this support fail, there is limited opportunity for a good outcome. Because of this, aircraft design is concerned with minimising the chance of failure, and pilots are trained with safety a primary consideration. Despite this, accidents still occur, though statistically flying is nowadays an extremely safe form of transportation. In fact, the relative rarity of incidents, coupled with the often dramatic outcome, is one reason why they still make headline news.

Many early attempts at flight ended in failure when a design raised to a height for a launch would fail to generate enough lift and crash to the ground. Some of the earliest aviation pioneers lost their lives testing aircraft they built. See List of early flying machines.

Otto Lilienthal died after a failure of one of his gliders. On his 2500th flight (August 10, 1896), a gust of wind broke the wing of his glider, causing him to fall from a height of roughly 56 ft (17 m), fracturing his spine. He died the next day, with his last words being reported as Opfer mssen gebracht werden! ("sacrifices must be made"). Percy Pilcher was another promising aviation pioneer. Pilcher died testing The Hawk (September 20, 1899). Just as with Lilienthal, promising designs and ideas for motorized planes were lost with his death. Some other early attempts experienced rough landings, such as Richard Pearse who is generally accepted to have crash landed (survived) a motorized aircraft in some bushes, unable to gain altitude after launching from it from some height.

The Wright Flyer nearly crashed on the day of its historic flight, sustaining some damage when landing. Thomas Selfridge became the first person killed in a powered airplane on September 17, 1908 when Wilbur crashed his two-passenger plane during military tests at Fort Myer in Virginia.


Missing image
The 1984 Controlled Impact Demonstration of a Boeing 720 aircraft using standard fuel with an additive designed to supress fire. (The experiment was a failure.)

An accident survey [1] ( of 2,147 airplane accidents from 1950 through 2004 determined the causes to be as follows:

  • 37%: Pilot error
  • 33%: Undetermined or missing in the record
  • 13%: Mechanical failure
  • 7%: Weather
  • 5%: Sabotage (bombs, hijackings, shoot-downs)
  • 4%: Other human error (air traffic controller error, improper loading of aircraft, improper maintenance, fuel contamination, etc.)
  • 1%: Other cause

The survey excluded military, private, and charter aircraft.

Some well-known aviation accidents

See List of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners grouped by year.

Commercial airliner accidents

Lists of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners are available sorted:

See also

External links

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

de:Katastrophen der Luftfahrt fr:Catastrophe arienne ja:航空事故 pl:Katastrofa lotnicza


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