The 10 Deadliest Airplane Crashes in History

Naturally, a list of the deadliest airplane crashes in history should serve as a reminder that life is fragile. Airline travel is considered as being one of the safest means of transportation, with the least amount of deaths per miles traveled. However, from time to time, stories of horrific airplane crashes do make the news. History has had its fair share of aviation catastrophes and we have compiled the ten worst tragedies, according to the toll that each crash took.

Let’s take a look:

No. 10: 1983 – Korean Airlines Flight 007

Fatalities: 269

An incorrect use of the navigation system lead to the Korean Airlines Flight 007 being deviated from its route to Seoul and left it heading straight towards the Soviet Union. The flight was ultimately shot down by a Soviet fighter aircraft, which had allegedly mistaken the plane for a military spy.

No. 9: 1988 – Pan American Flight 103

Fatalities: 270

Following the explosion of a bomb, the Pan American Flight 103 blew up over Scotland. Some time after the incident, a Libyan agent was ultimately convicted for the act.

No. 8: 1979 – American Airlines Flight 191

Fatalities: 271

The 1979 flight of a DC-10 operated by American Airlines represents, to this day, the deadliest airplane crash on US ground. Upon takeoff, the engine fell off, cutting a large portion of the left wing, which left pilots unable to manage the aircraft that ultimately crashed into a field, killing everyone on board.

See the rest of history’s deadliest airplane crashes:

No. 7: 1988 – Iran Air Flight 655

Fatalities: 290

In one of the most controversial international military incidents, the Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by a US military helicopter somewhere over the Persian Gulf. The American helicopter had unfortunately mistaken the civilian flight for a military aircraft that appeared to be flying directly towards them.

No. 6: 1980 – Saudi Flight 163

Photo Credit: DearEdward

Fatalities: 301

Several minutes after taking off from the Riyadh airport, the airplane was forced to descend due to a fire that broke out in the cargo compartment. The crew failed to order an immediate evacuation, which led to 301 people being killed as a result of smoke inhalation.

No. 5: 2003 – Iran Ilyushin Il-76

Fatalities: 302

Little information is known about the crash of the Iran Ilyushin Il-76, despite the death toll. It is presumed that the main contributor to the crash was bad weather, as there are reports of fog and high winds on that day.

No. 4: 1974 – Turkish Airlines Flight 981

Fatalities: 346

The DC-10, operated by Turkish Airlines, was on course from Paris to London, when its cargo hatch blew off. The pilot lost all control and a little over a minute later the aircraft crashed into a forest. The plane virtually disintegrated upon impact.

No. 3: 1996 – Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabian Airlines

Fatalities: 349

The Kazakhstan Airlines plane was descending towards the Delhi airport just as the Saudi Arabian flight was taking off. The two planes collided midair, as a result of poor radio operator control, as well as due to an outdated radio system, that did not accurately display the location of the airplanes.

No. 2: 1985 – Japan Airlines Flight 123

Fatalities: 520

The Japan Airlines Flight 123 disaster represents the deadliest crash involving one single airplane. After losing all its four hydraulic systems, only a few minutes after take off, the plane wandered off aimlessly for some time before finally crashing in the mountains, killing nearly everyone on board.

No. 1: 1977 –  Pan Am and KLM

Fatalities: 583

The deadliest airplane crash in history occurred more than 3 decades ago on the Los Rodeos Airport in Tenerife, when two Boeing 747s, operated by Pan Am and KLM, respectively, collided on the runway. Several factors contributed to the accident, including weather conditions and confusing radio instructions.

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