Website Reveals Nine Most Common Airline Accidents

The website "24/7 Wall St." took airline accident data it recorded from the Aviation Herald and compiled a list of the top nine causes of airline accidents from January 1, 2010, on. It defines an "accident" as any occurrence that caused serious injury, death or significant damage to the aircraft. A "crash" is defined as any accident that has the potential to kill everyone on the airplane, and there have been no "crashes" by that definition among major U.S. airlines in the study period. So, here are the top nine causes of "accidents" listed by the website:

9. Tail strikes

Number of accidents: 3

This is caused by over-rotating on takeoff or excessive pitch-up on landing. In the worst case, the airplane involved dumped fuel and returned for landing at the departure airport.

8. Lasers

Number of accidents: 3

(aimed from the ground and injuring aircrew)

In recent years, the preponderance of cheap laser pointers has created a hazard for pilots flying at night. A number of individuals have received court convictions for pointing lasers at aircraft.

7. Engine Problems

Number of accidents: 4

(involving engine fires and in-flight shutdowns)

In some cases, the engine shutdown was a routine precautionary measure, but in two cases, there were engine fires associated with the shutdowns.

6. Taxiing Accidents

Number of accidents: 4

"Fender benders" on ramps between two airplanes or an airplane and a ground vehicle or obstacle are seldom dangerous, but usually very expensive. In one incident, a ground handler was injured when the nose wheel of an airliner ran over his foot.

5. Odors (aka "unknown substance on board")

Number of accidents: 5

(leading to passengers or crew being hospitalized).

This goes beyond leaving the door open to the lavatory, and includes odors from mold and even overheated electrical components.

**4. Decompression **

Number of accidents: 5

Loss of cabin pressure can be serious. In 2010, a Boeing 757-200 suffered a rapid decompression due to a sizable hole in the fuselage.

3. Bird strikes

Number of accidents: 7

The time period does not include the most famous bird-strike accident in history — the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight — but does include examples that led to emergency landings after serious damage to airframes.

2. Landing gear malfunction (includes brakes catching fire)

Number of accidents: 8

_This category covers a wide range of incidents, including brake failures. None of the accidents cited led to serious threats to life and limb, though earlier incidents involving nose wheels cocked sideways have made for spectacular video. _

1. Turbulence

Number of accidents: 71 incidents involving injuries

_If anyone needed reinforcement of the wisdom of keeping a seat belt on whenever possible, this should do it. Injuries ranged from broken wrists and ankles to passengers slammed against cabin ceilings. _

To make this list, the accident type had to occur at least three times. Though not exactly a scientific survey of the risks of airline flying, it does provide insight into what the real hazards are, and how passengers can avoid them whenever possible. It also serves to underline the minuscule risk associated with flying on today’s commercial airlines.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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