Thousands of people travel to airports every day to catch their flights. It’s an incredibly convenient form of transportation with very little danger. One study from MIT found flying is 19 times safer than driving. Yet even with modern-day planes, disasters like the ones in this post still occur.
We will look at the locations and data from more than 550 of the worst airplane crashes on record. You’ll learn which were the deadliest and what causes were discovered. You needn’t locate each plane’s black box for a flight recording. You’ll find the answers on the map below.
View 550+ Major Plane Crashes in a full screen map
The data comes from the list of plane crashes with 50+ fatalities on Wikipedia. You can sort the map by the total number of deaths, or get more specific with your inquiry about the deaths of crew members, passengers, or people on the ground. Additional sortable groups include type and date, which we’ll also cover below.
While the map displays aircraft accidents resulting in 50 or more fatalities, many go beyond that (529 of the 553 total disasters fall into the “or more” category). Some even resulted in hundreds or thousands of deaths. For instance, the Japan Airlines Flight 123 is often mentioned when discussing the deadliest aviation accident (520 people died). But three incidents fared worse, as you’ll see below.
- American Airlines Flight 11
- United Airlines Flight 175
- Pan Am Flight 1736 and KLM Flight 4805
- Japan Airlines Flight 123
- Saudi Arabian Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907
- Turkish Airlines Flight 981
- Air India Flight 182
- Saudia Flight 163
- Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
- Iran Air Flight 655
Two of the deadliest plane collisions in world history took place on September 11th, 2001. The hijacking of American Airlines Flight 11 resulted in 1,700 deaths, most of which were people inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center. All 81 of the passengers and 11 members of the crew aboard the plane also passed away. The United Airlines Flight 175 hijacking on the same day saw 1,000 people lose their lives. The plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center, killing the 56 passengers, nine crew, and countless folks inside the building. These two 9/11 incidents are the only ones with death tolls in the thousands.
After 9/11, the deadliest air crashes include the two flights of Pan Am 1736 and KLM4805 in 1977 along with Japan Airlines Flight 123 (JAL 123) in 1985. While both accidents had death counts in the 500s, the KLM Pan Am crash (also known as the Tenerife airport disaster) was unique in that it involved two planes in a single collision. The two Boeing 747 planes collided on a runway in one of the Canary Islands, resulting in 583 lives lost. As for Japan123, 520 people died aboard the Boeing 747 when, 44 minutes into the flight, it went down near Mount Osutaka in Ueno.
The rest of the 10 deadliest plane crashes saw deaths ranging from 290-349. Notably, Air India Flight 182 (329 deaths) failed due to a bombing. Both Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (298) and Iran Air Flight 655 (290) were attacked using ground-based weapons. What were some other reasons these jets fell? Let’s find out.
The reasons behind these plane crashes can be divided into six categories or “Types” on the map. Most were accidents or incidents, though 42 were attacks. Let’s break down the specifics of each.
There have been 442 commercial accidents or incidents that brought planes down. The Pan Am 1736 and KLM4805 flights along with Japan Airlines Flight 123 are the two deadliest examples of this type of crash. There have been 44,757 deaths from this most common accident type. There have been 69 accidents or incidents of the military variety, which have combined for 5,989 fatalities. The most deaths in one instance (275) occurred with the Iranian Air Force (15-2280) in 2003.
While less common, attacks such as bombings, ground-based weapon attacks, hijackings, or by other aircrafts can be equally, if not more devastating. Of these attacks, internal bombings, are the most frequent—15 have occurred. The deadliest was the 1985 Air India Flight 182 in which 329 lives were lost. The second-most common aviation attack uses ground-based weapons like ground-to-air missiles or the destruction of the aircraft while on the runway. Thirteen have taken place throughout the years, perhaps most notably were the 298 deaths of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. To learn more about the 10 hijackings and four attacks by other aircrafts, check out those groups on the map.
Along with total deaths and the type of incidents that brought them down, you can sort the map by the following:
- Deaths of crew members, passengers, or ground members
- Survivor count
- Aircraft info
- Phase of fall
These are called groups, as when you map a spreadsheet with BatchGeo, you often have more information than just locations. With additional data, we find the best home. You and users of your map will be able to select only the markers that meet certain requirements, filtering out the rest. Groups can be combined to zero in on very specific results, giving you insight into the story behind the map.
What can you learn from grouping your BatchGeo maps? In addition to understanding the 9/11 attacks were the deadliest in history and that most crashes are commercial, we also discovered the time period(s) that saw the most attacks. 1973 had the most frequent plane collisions, 18 to be exact. Perhaps most relevant today is the month: 58 in December, though July is a close second with 57 accidents.
We also learned most of the planes fell while en route (251 crashes). See the statistics of other phases of flights by grouping the map by that additional data. And for fewer sky-bound accidents, check out 569 Shipwrecks in International Waters.