How Many Airplanes Crash a Year?

Aircraft Crash
Aircraft Crash

In this day and age, air travel has been at its safest. In fact, it is among the safest modes of transportation. The odds of you dying in a car on the way to the airport is greater than your odds of dying in a plane crash. As of 2020, the odds of the average American dying in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 101, while potential deaths caused by plane crash was too few to calculate.

The average number of airplane crashes over the last 15 years is estimated to be at 136 per year, although not all are fatal. The number of crashes has been in decline over the last several years, with 2017 recording only 2 fatal accidents that resulted in 13 deaths– making it the safest year in aviation history.

News of planes crashing often becomes major news worldwide, distorting our perception that crashes involving airplanes occur on a regular basis. This makes us start to wonder just how safe is flying? How often do planes crash? Which airlines and types of planes are involved in the most crashes? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we discuss these questions and several others– so keep on reading.

How Often Do Planes Crash?

The likelihood of planes crashing has decreased every year relative to the number of passengers flying. Airplanes don’t crash often, and when they do it’s usually because of human error. Accidents happen and cannot be avoided.

However, it is interesting to note that nearly half of all airplane crashes happen during landing or takeoff. It rarely happens during flight. This is because landing and takeoff are the most complex and crucial phases of flight, placing a heavy load on the pilots, their crew, and the team on the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board estimated that out of 24 million flight hours they analyzed, about 7 of every 100,000 flight hours resulted in a crash. Over 1.20 of every 100,000 resulted in a fatal one. These numbers are significantly lower than those in 1994 where a record of 9 crashes occur for every 100,000 flight hours.

How Many Planes Crash a Year?

In the past 15 years, there have been over 2,183 plane crashes reported worldwide. This makes the yearly average 145. We have compiled a list of the total number of plane crashes per year in the last 15 years and the corresponding number of deaths.

It’s interesting to note that while the number of crashes is significantly declining, the number of deaths tells a different story. This is because due to the nature of airplane accidents where only a few major crashes can completely change the data every year.

YearNumber of crashesDeaths
20061921,298
2007169981
2008189952
20091631,108
20101621,130
2011154828
2012156800
2013138459
20141221,328
2015123898
2016102629
2017101399
20181131,040
2019125578
202090463
202184359

The most recent commercial plane crash happened in July 2021 involving the air cargo provider Trans Air with no fatalities.

What Percentage of Plane Crashes Are Fatal?

As of writing, over 82,727 incidents of plane crashes have been recorded. Over 51% or 42,226 have caused fatal injuries. 21% caused serious injuries, while 34% caused only minor injuries. In 2020 alone, out of the 40 recorded accidents involving commercial passenger planes, 12% or 5 accidents were fatal. This resulted in 299 fatalities.

The greatest number of a single-aircraft fatality occurred in 1985 involving Japan Airlines Flight 123 where a reported number of 520 people died. 1977 was considered the deadliest year in aviation history when two Boeing 747s collided at a Tenerife airport runway. Over 583 people were killed as a result of the accident.

How Often Do Planes Crash in the US?

There have been a total of 76 plane crashes in the US since the 1970s. That’s about the average of fewer than 2 crashes per year. This number accounts for 14% of all incidents reported worldwide.

The last fatal airplane crash that happened in the United States occurred on February 12, 2009. Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed into a house near Buffalo, New York. It was reported that all 49 passengers on board were killed, along with a person on the ground. According to initial investigations, pilot error was the probable cause of the flight since the plane lost speed and stalled a few miles from the destination airport.

Since then, over 8 billion passengers have been flying on airplanes in the US without a single fatal crash. In the US, the most recent plane crash involving a major commercial airline occurred in June 2019. It involved a United Airlines aircraft that was damaged after a hard landing. There were no fatalities reported.

In 2020, there were over 1,139 accidents reported involving U.S. civilian aircraft. This is less compared to the 1,301 that occurred in 2019. The number of fatalities also decreased from 450 in 2019 to only about 345 in 2020 and none of these deaths involved a commercial airline.

How Often Do Planes Crash Into Each Other?

Planes crashing into each other, otherwise known in aviation as a mid-air collision, is very rare. In the rare event of it occurring, at least one of the aircraft almost always experiences total destruction due to the relatively high velocities involved.

The general causes of mid-air collisions are due to miscommunication, error in navigation, deviations from flight plans, lack of situational awareness, lack of collision-avoidance systems, or a combination of any of these factors. These collisions generally occur near or at airports where a large number of aircraft are in close range with each other.

There are 67 notable occurrences of mid-air collisions in history involving both civilian and military aircraft. One of these is the first ever recorded collision which happened on October 1, 1910 in Milan, Italy. The planes of René Thomas and Captain Bertram Dickson collided with each other but both survived.

Another notable incident was the 1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision, considered until this day as the world’s deadliest mid-air collision. There were no survivors of the total 349 passengers.

What Airline Has Been Involved in the Most Plane Crashes?

Some airlines are more likely to crash than others. We have made a list of the top 12 airlines worldwide and their corresponding number of crashes.

AirlineReported number of crashes
Air France11
American Airlines11
China Airlines9
Korean Air9
Pakistan International Airlines8
United Airlines7
Egyptair6
Ethiopian Airlines6
Thai Airways6
American Eagle5
Continental Airlines5
Lufthansa5

There are over 59 passenger airlines in the United States. Several of these airlines have been involved in crashes including United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, Alaska Airlines, and Horizon Air. American Airlines had the most crashes with 11 total incidents.

How Many Plane Crash Deaths Are There a Year?

In the last five years, there have been an average of 14 fatal plane crashes that resulted in an average of 345 deaths annually. The total number of plane crashes has been in a steady decline over the years, but the same can’t be said for the fatalities– which seem to bounce up and down at random. The number of fatalities in commercial passenger plane crashes rose to 299 in 2020 despite the number of crashes falling by more than 50%.

In 1982, only 18% of the total number of crashes were considered fatal. Now compare this to 2018 when 22.5% of all accidents worldwide were fatal. While one may think that fewer crashes would equate to less death, the nature of airplane accidents means that only a few major crashes can completely change the data every year.

We have compiled a list of the total number of plane crash fatalities per year in the last 12 years.

YearNumber of fatalities
202174
2020303
2019214
2018422
201712
2016249
2015471
2014863
2013188
2012389
2011245
2010647

What airplanes crash the most?

Worldwide, the type of airplane that crashes the most seems to be Cessnas and Pipers. In fact, over 9 types of Cessna planes have been involved in various crashes. The Cessna 152 alone has nearly 800 more crashes than any other aircraft.

We have compiled a list of the airplanes that have been involved in the most crashes and the total number of crashes recorded.

Make and ModelTotal number of crashes
Cessna 1522320
Cessna 1721521
Cessna 172N1141
Piper PA-28-140901
Cessna 172M781
Cessna 150773
Cessna 172P675
Cessna 150M584
Cessna 180581
Cessna 182574
Piper Pa-18571
Piper Pa-28-161557
Piper PA-28-180556
Piper Pa-18-150543
Piper PA-28-181518
Bell 206B503
Piper Pa-38-112464
Cessna 150L451
Beech A36397


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