The 5 Most Disastrous Airplane Collisions

Written by on October 24, 2012 in Lifestyle - No comments | Print this page


Airplane travel is far safer than automobiles and pedestrian traffic, but that doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen. When a plane crashes, the consequences are dire. They travel so much faster than cars, and carry far more people. When two planes crash in the air, it’s even worse. Here are five of the worst mid-air collision incidents in human history.

5. Mato Grosso, Brazil

Computer-generated image of Flight 1907 and N600XL about to collide. Source: Wikipedia

Gol Transportes AĆ©reos Flight 1907 was a Boeing 737 on a scheduled passenger flight on September 29, 2006. It was struck in the air by an Embraer Legacy 600 business jet. The cause of the collision was under heavy investigation, and eventually was traced to an inaccurate order of altitude for the Embraer jet, putting it on the same level as the Boeing. This combined with the modern anti-collision system malfunctioning and a communications transponder in the Embraer turning off. All 154 passengers and crew of the Boeing were killed, while the executives in the Embraer survived to land in dense rainforest. Due to the recent nature of the collision, it was well- documented and passed through many legal battles before a conclusion could be reached.

4. Shizukuishi, Japan

Where most of the collisions on this list involve multiple passenger airplanes, this one involves a Boeing 727 and a Japanese F-86F air defense fighter jet. The Boeing, All Nippon Airways flight 58, was flying on July 30, 1971. The fighter jet was piloted by a trainee with under 25 hours of flight experience in the jet. He ended up in the commercial corridor while executing training maneuvers, and was unable to avoid the passenger plane. He ejected, and consequently survived, but his jet still struck the passenger aircraft. The Boeing disintegrated in the air, and all 162 people on board were killed in the crash.

3. Vrbovec/Zagreb, Yugoslavia

Airplane remains following the 1976 Vrbovec mid-air collision. Source: Wikipedia

This particular collision happened in 1976, just before noon on the 10th of September. The Zagreb collision involved a British Airways flight 476 and a Inex-Adria flight 550. The accident happened because the Zagreb airspace was one of the most crowded in the world while simultaneously being one of the most poorly staffed. The Inex-Adria flight was ordered to climb to a certain height, and had to pass through the height at which the British Airways flight was cruising. Because of miscommunication between overworked air traffic controllers, communication between the aircraft and control was sporadic. Because of the controller reverting to his non-English language, the British flight had no chance to understand their danger before they were struck. All 176 passengers and crewmen were killed, along with one child on the ground.

2. Dniprodzerzhynsk, USSR

In 1979, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic saw the second worse mid-air collision in history. Taking place over Dniprodzerzhynsk, the collision occurred on August 11th. Two Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-134s aircraft collided in mid-air. The air traffic controller recognized that both of these passenger aircraft were traveling at the same altitude and ordered one of them to ascend by 600 meters to avoid any possible collision. The controller heard a muffled reply and assumed that it was a message of assent. Instead, the message was from another plane, and the two Aeroflots collided in the air. All 178 people aboard both planes were killed.

1. Charkhi Dadri, India

On Tuesday, November 12th, 1996, the Saudi Arabian flight 763 and the Kazakhstan Airlines flight 1907 met in mid-air. The two flights were using the same runway. The Saudi Arabian flight was departing the Indira Gandhi International Airport and was given clearance to ascend to 14,000 feet. Meanwhile the Kazakhstan Airlines flight was landing, and was told to descend to 15,000 feet. With a difference of 1,000 feet between them, the two planes should have had plenty of clearance to maneuver. The Kazakhstan flight had actually descended to 14,500 feet, and the two planes met in the air.

The Saudi Arabian flight was carrying 312 people, while the Kazakhstan Airlines flight carried only 37. All 349 people died during or moments after the crash, making the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision the deadliest in human history.

This guest post was contributed by Andrew Handley, a technology writer for, in remembrance of all the victims of these tragedies.

Image courtesy of David Castillo /


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