Here are 5 of the worst aviation disasters that were caused by mechanical failure, human error, or climatic conditions.
What is important to note is that each disaster ushered in new developments and standardizations in aviation safety and technology, making it the safest mode of travel today.
Tenerife Airport Disaster (1977)
This was one of the worst disasters in aviation history that occurred as a result of a series of unfortunate events, starting with an explosion at Gran Canaria airport in Spain. This resulted in a number of flights being diverted to Tenerife Airport, including the ill-fated KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736.
Due to dense fog, the absence of ground radar, and miscommunication, the two Boeing 747s collided with each other on the ground, claiming the lives of all 583 passengers on board in both flights of which only 61 passengers from the Pan Am flight survived.
Japan Airlines Flight 123 (1985)
The Boeing 747 was carrying 524 passengers, including crew when it crashed into mountainous terrain at Mount Takamagahara, north-west of Tokyo.
The flight, which departed from Tokyo”s Haneda Airport, was en route to Osaka. Just 12 minutes into the flight, the unthinkable happened, the aircraft suffered explosive decompression. This resulted in the loss of the rudder and hydraulic systems, effectively crippling the pilot’s control over the aircraft. Despite this, the crew managed to keep the plane airborne for another half an hour, but it finally crashed into a ridge, killing 520 passengers, leaving just 4 survivors.
Charkhi Dadri Mid-Air Collision (1996)
The collision occurred soon after the Saudia flight took off from New Delhi, while the Kazakhstan flight was readying for its arrival. As a result of poor English communication skills on the part of the Kazakhstani pilots and the absence of secondary surveillance radar at Indira Gandhi International Airport the flight paths crossed and the pilots were unable to avert a collision. All 349 people on both flights perished in the disaster.
Turkish Airlines Flight 981 (1974)
As a result, the latch of the rear cargo hatch blew open mid-flight. This caused rapid decompression and severed cables that left the pilots with no control over the aircraft. The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 plunged into the Ermonville forest, just outside of Paris, France, claiming the lives of all 346 souls on board.
Turkish Airlines Flight 981 crashed outside of Paris because of a design flaw and the failure of Moroccan baggage handlers to properly read and understand instructions provided to them in both English and Turkish language.
American Airlines Flight 191 (1979)
The American Airlines Flight 191 crash remains the worst airline accident within the United States and it also brought disrepute to the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Disaster struck just moments after takeoff as one of the engines from the left-wing of the plane separated from the aircraft, flipping over the top of the wing. This caused significant damage and it also resulted in severing the hydraulic fluid lines. The aircraft instantly went into a roll, turned over and plummeted into a nearby field. Investigations revealed that the disaster was caused by faulty maintenance procedures followed by the aircraft personnel, claiming the lives of all 273 people on board, as well as 2 on the ground.