Serious aviation disasters are relatively rare and you are more likely to be run over by a bus crossing the street than you are to be involved in a plane crash. Nevertheless, when accidents do occur, they are invariably very serious with tremendous loss of life. In recent times, the Malaysian Airlines double tragedy has dominated the headlines, with clues as to what happened on the first doomed flight still few and far between. But it is important to remember that there has also been a number of serious aviation disasters in the U.S. over the years, some of them associated with many deaths. So if you have a macabre interest in plane crashes, here are some of the worst.
1979 – American Airlines
On Friday 25 May, American Airlines flight 191 came to a cataclysmic end around 4,000 feet from the end of the Chicago O’Hare runway, shortly after take-off. 269 passengers and crew lost their lives in the subsequent impact and fireball, and a further two people on the ground were killed. The crash was caused by the loss of the one of the engines during take-off, which led to the aircraft stalling and rolling out of control.
2001 – American Airlines
On November 12, an American Airlines flight 587 was scheduled to depart JFK Airport in New York City. The flight was cleared for take-off just behind a Japan Airlines flight heading to Tokyo. The flight crew were warned about wake turbulence and shortly after take-off the crew heard a rattling sound. The First Office called for excessive rudder pedal inputs to compensate for what is believed to have been turbulence, but the tail fin separated and the plane went into a steep descent, crashing into a residential area of Queens. Everyone on board died and five people on the ground were killed.
1996 – TWA
On Wednesday 17 July, TWA flight 881 was cleared for departure from New York JFK after being delayed for just over an hour. The flight was heading for Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. Shortly after take-off the pilot noticed a problem with the fuel flow indicator. Not long after the instrument stopped recording and a nearby aircraft saw TWA flight 881 explode into a mass of debris. The subsequent investigation found that one of the plane’s fuel tanks had ignited and blown up. Everyone on board – 230 people – lost their lives.
1987 – Northwest Airlines
On Sunday 16 August, Northwest Airlines flight 255 took off from Detroit-Metropolitan Wayne Country Airport en route for Phoenix, Arizona. Shortly after take-off, a stall warning activated and the plane rolled to the left, striking a light pole in an adjacent car park. The airplane rolled on, hitting the ground just outside the airport boundary, before bursting into flames when it hit a railway embankment. 154 out of 155 people on board died, plus a further two fatalities on the ground. Flight crew error was to blame.
Most serious air crashes lead to fatalities, but if you are involved in an aviation accident, speak to a helicopter crash law firm such as Slack & Davis to see if you are entitled to any compensation.