Accident statistics

Causes of Fatal Accidents by Decade

The first table below was complied from the PlaneCrashInfo.com database, representing 1,085 accidents where a cause could be determined .

The following accident records qualified:
– Dates from 1/1/1950 to 6/30/2019
– Aircraft capable of carrying at least 19 passengers
– Accidents with at least 2 fatalities
– Military, helicopters and private aircraft excluded

The cause of accidents were broken down into five categories: Pilot Error, Mechanical, Weather, Sabotage and Other. Some examples of each category can be found below. Since most aviation accidents are caused by multiple causes the primary or initiating cause was chosen.

PILOT ERROR MECHANICIAL WEATHER SABOTAGE OTHER
Improper procedure Engine failure Severe turbulence Hijacking ATC error
Flying VFR into IFR conditions Equipment failure Windshear Shot down Ground crew error
Controlled flight into terrain Structural failure Mountain wave Explosive device aboard Overloaded
Descending below minima Design flaw Poor visibility Pilot suicide Improperly loaded cargo
Spatial disorientation Heavy rain Bird strike
Premature descent Severe winds Fuel contamination
Excessive landing speed Icing Pilot incapacitation
Missed runway Thunderstorms Obstruction on runway
Fuel starvation Lightning strike Midair collision caused by other aircraft
Navigation error Fire/smoke in flight (cabin, cockpit, cargo hold)
Wrong runway takeoff/landing Maintenance error
Midair collision caused by primary pilot
CAUSES OF FATAL ACCIDENTS BY DECADE
DECADE 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s All
Pilot Error 50% 53% 49% 42% 49% 50% 57% 49%
Mechanical 26% 27% 19% 22% 22% 23% 21% 23%
Weather 15% 7% 10% 14% 7% 8% 10% 10%
Sabotage 4% 4% 9% 12% 8% 9% 8% 8%
Other 5% 9% 13% 10% 14% 10% 4% 10%
RAW DATA
Cause 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s All
Pilot Error 82 119 112 67 77 48 28 533
Mechanical 43 62 45 36 35 22 10 253
Weather 25 15 22 22 10 8 5 107
Sabotage 6 9 20 20 13 9 4 81
Other 9 21 31 16 22 10 2 111
165 226 230 161 157 97 49 1,085

Source: PlaneCrashinfo.com

Source PlaneCrashInfo.com

Source: PlaneCrashinfo.com

Fatalities by Phase of Flight

Source: Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents, 1959 – 2008, Boeing

Which type of flying is safer

Type of Flight Fatalities per million flight hours
Airliner (Scheduled and nonscheduled Part 121) 0.00597
Commuter Airline (Scheduled Part 135) 6.10
General Aviation (private Part 91) 11.00

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Odds of being involved in a fatal accident

Odds of being on a fight that results in at least one fatality Odds being killed on a single flight
Flying on airlines with good safety records

1 in 10 million

1 in 19.8 million

Flying on airlines with poor safety records

1 in 1.5 million

1 in 2.0 million

Source: OAG Aviation & PlaneCrashInfo.com accident database, 20 years of data (1993 – 2012)

Survival rate of passengers on aircraft involved in fatal accidents
carrying 19+ passengers

Decade % surviving
1940s 24
1950s 25
1960s 21
1970s 25
1980s 36
1990s 39
2000s 28
2010s 27

Survival rate of passengers on aircraft ditching in controlled flight 42%

Source: PlaneCrashInfo.com accident database

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