Accidents and incidents in aviation
From Academic Kids
An aviation accident (as per the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board definition) is an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage, while an aviation incident is an occurrence other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operations.
Other countries adopt a similar approach, although there are minor variations, such as to the extent of aviation-related operations on the ground covered, as well as with respect to the thresholds beyond which an injury is considered serious or the damage is considered substantial.
- "Flying is not inherently dangerous, but to an even greater extent than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incapacity, or neglect" - anon. quotation
Since the birth of flight, aircraft have crashed, often with serious consequences. This is due to the unforgiving nature of flight, where a relatively insubstantial medium, air, supports a significant mass. Should this support fail, there is limited opportunity for a good outcome. Because of this, aircraft design is concerned with minimising the chance of failure, and pilots are trained with safety a primary consideration. Despite this, accidents still occur, though statistically flying is nowadays an extremely safe form of transportation. In fact, the relative rarity of incidents, coupled with the often dramatic outcome, is one reason why they still make headline news.
Many early attempts at flight ended in failure when a design raised to a height for a launch would fail to generate enough lift and crash to the ground. Some of the earliest aviation pioneers lost their lives testing aircraft they built. See List of early flying machines.
Otto Lilienthal died after a failure of one of his gliders. On his 2500th flight (August 10, 1896), a gust of wind broke the wing of his glider, causing him to fall from a height of roughly 56 ft (17 m), fracturing his spine. He died the next day, with his last words being reported as Opfer müssen gebracht werden! ("sacrifices must be made"). Percy Pilcher was another promising aviation pioneer. Pilcher died testing The Hawk (September 20, 1899). Just as with Lilienthal, promising designs and ideas for motorized planes were lost with his death. Some other early attempts experienced rough landings, such as Richard Pearse who is generally accepted to have crash landed (survived) a motorized aircraft in some bushes, unable to gain altitude after launching from it from some height.
The Wright Flyer nearly crashed on the day of its historic flight, sustaining some damage when landing. Thomas Selfridge became the first person killed in a powered airplane on September 17, 1908 when Wilbur crashed his two-passenger plane during military tests at Fort Myer in Virginia.
An accident survey  (http://www.planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm) of 2,147 airplane accidents from 1950 through 2004 determined the causes to be as follows:
- 37%: Pilot error
- 33%: Undetermined or missing in the record
- 13%: Mechanical failure
- 7%: Weather
- 5%: Sabotage (bombs, hijackings, shoot-downs)
- 4%: Other human error (air traffic controller error, improper loading of aircraft, improper maintenance, fuel contamination, etc.)
- 1%: Other cause
The survey excluded military, private, and charter aircraft.
Some well-known aviation accidents
- The zeppelin LZ129 Hindenburg on landing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey - the crash of the largest airship ever built effectively ending the era of commercial lighter than air travel.
- A De Havilland Comet crashed in Jalalogori, India soon after take-off from Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 2 May 1953 - first of a series of crashes that led to Comet 1 fleet being grounded and eventually scrapped.
- The Andes flight disaster of 1972, in which the passengers who survived the crash had to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.
- The Air Canada Flight 143 (a.k.a the Gimli Glider) landed in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada in a crash on July 23, 1983 after the airplane ran out of fuel because of a metric conversion error during refueling. They used a different math formula. However, only a few passengers were slightly injured, and no one killed.
- The Mount Erebus disaster: an Air New Zealand DC-10 flew into Mount Erebus, Antarctica.
- The USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, claiming to have mistaken it for an F-14 fighter. All 290 passengers on board were killed.
- Japan Airlines Flight 123 - The worst single-aircraft disaster in history, killing 520 people.
- Korean Air Flight 7 - Shot down by Soviet Union fighters.
- The Tenerife disaster which killed almost 600 people is often regarded as the worst-ever accident in Aviation history.
- Air France Flight 4590 was a Concorde flight from Charles de Gaulle International Airport near Paris, France to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, New York, which crashed on July 25, 2000, in Gonesse, France shortly after takeoff, killing all on board and four on the ground. The crash led to the end of Concorde flights.
Commercial airliner accidents
Lists of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners are available sorted:
- Aircraft hijacking
- List of deaths by aircraft misadventure
- List of people who died in aviation-related incidents
- List of space disasters
- Cavalese cable-car disaster (Marines jet cut off ski-lift cable)
- Kegworth air disaster (Boeing 737 G-OBME crashed after an engine failure)
- Lockerbie disaster (Boeing 747 exploded in mid-air, caused by sabotage)
- Manchester air disaster (Boeing 737 caught fire on the ground after an engine failure)
- Munich air disaster (Airspeed Ambassador crashed attempting take-off during a blizzard)
- Staines air disaster (Trident stalled and crashed shortly after takeoff)
- Superga air disaster, aircraft crashed into the Superga hills outside Turin
- Air safety
- Aviation Safety Network (http://aviation-safety.net/index.shtml), large database of accidents and incidents
-  (http://www.airlinesafety.com/editorials/HumanErrorVsTerrorism), editorial citing examples of most severe consequences of pilot error and other human error
- airsafe.com A comprehensive American-oriented website on air safety issues and disasters (http://www.airsafe.com/)
- airdisaster.com A comprehensive website on air disasters (http://www.airdisaster.com/)
- Check-Six.com (http://www.Check-Six.com), offering aviation history and adventure first-hand