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The Five Deadliest Airplane Crashes in Aviation History

Don’t read this before you head to the airport… unless you want an excuse to get those on-board cocktails. Below are five of the craziest crashes and other mishaps that are every pilot’s and passenger’s worst nightmare.

Note: 9/11 is not included in this list. This is, however, the airplane accident killing the most people ever in a single crash (yes, there were two planes), 2907 to be correct.

5 – Air India 182

The 23rd of June 1985, Air India flight 182 exploded in mid-air, when a bomb exploded in the cargo bay. It exploded at a height of 31,000 feet, which is about 10,000 metres, causing a massive decompression and causing the Boeing 747 to break apart in mid-air. It then crashed in the sea south-west of Ireland. Not a single person, passenger or crew, survived the crash, in which 329 people were killed.

The main suspect of the bombing was the Babbar Khalsa terrorist group.

4 – Turkish Airlines 981

After this DC-10, headed for Istanbul on the 3rd of March, 1974, made a landing in Paris, it continued its flight to Turkey. Only a few minutes after takeoff, one of the cargo doors which hadn’t been closed properly, was blown off. This, again, caused a decompression in the fuselage, sucking some passengers out of the plane. It also made the plane uncontrollable, after which it crashed just outside the village of Senlis, France. A total of 346 passengers were killed.

3 – Saudi Arabian 763 and Air Kazakhstan 1907

The 12th of November 1996, two planes smashed into each other while airborne. This accident happened over Charkhi Dadri, India. Saudi Arabian Flight 763, a Boeing 747-168B, crashed against Air Kazakhstand 1907, an IL-76. The Boeing was a commercial aircraft, the IL was a cargo plane. There were 349 fatalities in total. While the Boeing was taking off, the other plane was trying to land, ignoring the warnings from ground control. It than crashed into the Boeing, which disintegrated in mid-air immediately. The IL was still structurally intact, but still crashed being uncontrollable.

2 – Japan Airlines 123

Twelve minutes after Japan Airlines Flight 123 had taken of from Tokyo International Airport on the 12th of August 1985, the rear pressure bulkhead failed, the part that separates cabin and tail. It is meant to seal the aircraft and maintain the cabin pressure. When it failed, an explosive decompression blew the vertical stabilizer off the tail. This made the aircraft uncontrollable, and eventually making the Boeing 747-SR46 crash into Mount Osutaka. Only four people survived the crash. The four women were lucky to be seated in the rear part of the plane. All 520 other passengers and crew members were killed.

1 – KLM 4805 and Pan Am 1736

This crash, also referred to as the “Tenerife Disaster”, is the plane crash killing the most people in history (excluding 9/11). A total of 583 people were killed. The 27th of March 1977, KLM Flight 4805, a Boeing 747, was waiting to take off from Tenerife North Airport. It had to wait because Pan Am Flight 1736, also a Boeing 747, had to land first on the same runway. Interference in radio contact between the two Boeings and ground control, caused the pilot of KLM 4805 to misunderstand that they had clearance for takeoff. Due to heavy fog, he was not able to see Pan Am 1736 coming. KLM 4805 scraped off the upper fuselage of Pan Am 1736 when it took off. All 248 people aboard KLM 4805 were killed, and another 335 aboard Pan Am 1736. Only 56 passengers, all aboard Pan Am 1736, survived the terrible crash.

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User Comments
  1. william rodriguez II

    On June 1, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Nice article, very informative.

  2. Rana Sinha

    On June 1, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Good and informative article with nice pics. Thanks.

    I was just wondering about the classification – No.5 occurred due to terrorism. It was pre-planned. A great tragedy, of course. But is that an accident?

  3. The forgiver

    On June 1, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Good work….

  4. DwarfPope

    On June 1, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Rana Sinha, you are right, the Air India Flight 182 crash was a terrorist attack and not an accident.

    Thanks for pointing me at the error :) , I’ve just posted a fix for the title.


  5. Sandra L. Petersen

    On June 2, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Excellent article and excellent pictures to go with it. Nice job at research!

  6. sintmichiel

    On June 3, 2008 at 8:29 am

    great article!

  7. deepbluesea

    On June 3, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Wonderful article. Very informative.

  8. DwarfPope

    On June 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The recent Air France flight AF447 (highly suspected) crash ranks 20th in the worst aircraft accident list.

  9. DwarfPope

    On June 5, 2009 at 9:31 am

    For more information on the Air France flight AF447 crash, check out

  10. DwarfPope

    On July 1, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    For more information on the recent (second) Airbus crash off the coast of Africa, visit:

  11. Will

    On August 22, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I recently saw a special program on Discovery Channel concerning the collision of the KLM and Pan Am Jets in 1977.

    The explanation of the crash differs significantly from the explanation given in this article.

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