Yello wreck of airplane in trees

The chance of a passenger dying in an airplane wreck is 1 in 11 million. A fatal accident only occurs once in every 2 million flights across all sizes of aircraft. Commercial planes can fly with only one engine and a skilled pilot can land them even if no engines are working. Even with all the safety measures, 12 deadly flights in the United States have greatly increased the safety of airplanes. Whenever a plane fails in the United States, the National Transportation Safety Administration makes a detailed determination of the cause, and that information is used to make airplanes even safer.

Mechanical Failure

Air Canada 797 was flying at 33,000 feet on June 2, 1983, when smoke was reported coming from the plane’s lavatory. While the pilot managed to land the plane safely in Cincinnati, Ohio, when the emergency doors were opened, a flash fire occurred killing 23 people. Planes must now have smoke detectors and automatic fire-retardant systems. Additionally, more flame-resistant materials are used in the interior of planes and they now have emergency lighting.

On September 8, 1994, USAir Flight 427 crashed as it approached its landing at Palm Beach International Airport. It took five years for the National Transportation Safety Administration to determine that a faulty rudder was to blame; Boeing ultimately replaced the rudders on all of this style of plane. Furthermore, Congress passed a law so that the National Transportation Safety Administration could help victim’s families.

It took the deadly crash of ValuJet Flight 592 on May 11, 1986, before Congress passed laws that smoke detectors were required in the cargo area of all passenger airplanes. Unfortunately, the crash killed 110 people.

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 literally blew up shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy Airport. While there were 230 people killed, the government finally concluded that it was a spark that started a fire in the center fuel tank. All planes have since been rewired and natural gas is now put in fuel tanks to reduce the likelihood of fires.

Fire-resistant insulation was retrofitted into about 700 McDonnell Douglas Jets after the crash of Swissair Flight 111 on September 2, 1998. The new insulation was designed so that planes would burn slower giving pilots more reaction time.

Human Failure

On June 30, 1956, TWA Flight 2 and United Airlines Flight 718 ran together above the Grand Canyon killing all 128 passengers aboard both flights, but the result was the creation of the Federal Aviation Agency two years later.

Just three days after Christmas in 1978, a captain flying United Flight 173 refused to listen to his crew who tried to warn him that they were running out of fuel. While the plane crashed killing 10, it changed policies inside the cockpit so that all crew members have equal power.

On August 31, 1986, a small aircraft ran into Aeromexico DC-9 above the Los Angeles airport killing 82 people, but the result was that all small aircraft flying above major airports must have a transponder.

On July 19, 1989, United Flight 232 the back engine fell off the plane severing the hydraulic line. The plane crashed killing 111 aboard. The result, however, was that a crack in the fan caused the wreck and it should have been detected by mechanics on the ground. The way that engine inspections before takeoff were changed along with increased redundant safety equipment installed on planes.


On August 2, 1985, Delta Flight 191 was on its final approach to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport when it was caught in wind turbulence causing the plane to crash killing 134 people aboard and more on the ground. After an extensive investigation, wind shear warnings were installed in all airplanes along with colored radar that was easier for pilots to see.

On June 1, 2009, Air France 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean during a severe thunderstorm. Investigators later determined that frozen pitot tubes were causing the pilot to receive false information. Pilots were retrained to fly the airplane regardless of what the instrument panels were telling them.

No one knows what brought down Malaysia Flight 370 on March 8, 2014. In fact, no one is sure where the plane crashed because no mayday was ever heard from the plane. Despite the fact that millions have been spent trying to find the wreckage, major parts of it still remain missing. As a result of the crash, all airplanes must now have tracking equipment installed on them.

Flying in an airplane is extremely safe. While there has not been a major airplane crash since 2014, investigators stand ready to investigate another one if it should occur. Then, they will make recommendations to make flying even safer.