Airplane Crashes

Just a couple of random questions on airplane crashes

Have their been any major ones (large planes, lots of passengers) in the US since 9/11?

What is the historical rate of plane crashes over time? I know that a rate won’t show that we are “due” but I was wondering if it has been a statistically long time since the most recent major crash.

There was the American Airlines crash into Queens nine weeks after 9/11 - easily forgotten for obvious reasons. Glancing through, there’s been no other big accidents in N America since 9/11. I can only find two in the three years before then, another AA crash in Little Rock, and the EgyptAir one which crashed into the Atlantic after leaving NY.

There was the Sheepshead Bay crash of American flight 587, just two months after 9/11. It was an Airbus A300, and over 260 people died.

Not a precise answer to the OP’s question, as the list linked below is not specific to the US, but it appears total losses of commercial aircraft worldwide are trending down in recent years:

One stat I’d be interested to see as well would be number of incidents in flight that require an emergency landing. For example, two days ago the British Airways flight from Houston to Gatwick suffered an engine fire five minutes into the flight that forced a hasty return to IAH and evacuation of the passengers via the emergency slides. These sorts of things don’t seem to get much play; I knew about it mainly because one of our employees happened to be on the flight, although there was a very small item on the incident in a back page of the Houston Chronicle the next day.

Statistically, it’s relatively easy to predict there will be plane crashes, but damn near impossible to predict when. There are just too many variables. Was a design flaw that contributed to a crash fixed in a later version of that plane? Did pilots receive better training in handling the factors (like weather) that contributed to an earlier crash?

I don’t know what percentage of crashes are directly related to weather, but I’d look for either a wintery day with ice on the runways of major airports or a summer day with a lot of thunderstorms near them to be the next time we’re statistically “due” for a crash.

El_Kabong There are a lot of “emergency” landings that turn out to be not really emergencies. A typical example is smoke in the passenger cabin that turns out to be from a short-circuit in the ventilation system. Even if the flight continued, the problem wouldn’t be serious enough to start an actual fire.

21 people died last year in a crash in North Carolina.

I’d venture to say you’re absolutely wrong about that. If I’m on a plane and something catches fire/short circuits/WHATEVER, especially in a place not accessible to a fire extinguisher, I would be very upset if the plane did not land. Just because a situation isn’t an emergency, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to become one.

Anyone got a link to FAA or airline policy on events such as these?

I believe that this could have been related to 9/11. One unusual thing about 9/11 was that the terrorists committed suicide without being under supervision just before the act. The Egyptian pilot in the above crash committed suicide under the same circumstances. I can imagine that right after hearing the news, a group of terrorists somewhere were celebrating while yelling “He did it, he did it!”

I work for a medium sized general aviation company that operates some small airline type aircraft. Smoke in the cabin is certainly a “go-home” occurance. There is normally no way to tell where the smoke or fumes may be comming from and an actual fire on an aircraft is a very bad thing if not dealt with.

Engine fires/failures and returning home due to other aircraft faults don’t normally make the news, and they shouldn’t make the news*. They are incidents that occur on a regular basis throughout the world and airline aircraft are designed to handle it as are the pilots flying them.

You can rest assured though, that any incident like that will get a thorough internal investigation by the airline and sometimes the aircraft manufacturer to ensure that steps are taken to prevent a similar malfunction in the future, and also to improve procedures used by the crew in dealing with the situation.
*Unfortunately these type of incidents do seem to get significant airplay in Australia. Even an aircraft aborting a landing gets airplay. Usually accompanied by quotes from ignorant passengers saying how they thought they were all going to die.

Conspiracy theory for table seven

There’s only tenuous evidence that the EgyptAir crash was suicide. And what does ‘without being under supervision’ mean? And as for ‘a group terrorists, somewhere’…

This site has everything you will ever need to know about air disasters.

FAR Sec. 91.3 - Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.

Basically, the PIC is required to act appropriately in response to any emergency situation. Anything that threatens the safety of a flight can be deemed an emergency by the PIC. Whether it is an actual emergency or not can be sorted out once the aircraft is safely on the ground. Reporting procedures are outlined in NTSB Part 830. Smoke or fire in the cockpit is definitely an emergency.

It means that suicide bombers are traditionally accompanied by other terrorists right up until they are sent out. This means they are brain washed until the last, leaving almost no time to change their minds. This was not true for those terrorists participating in the 9/11 attack. If The Egyptian crash was a suicide it was also committed without close supervision. IMHO the Egyptian plane was the result of a suicide commited under very strange circumstances. I used words like “I believe” and “could have”, which should have indicated that it was open to question whether it truly was a suicide.

This site ( has everything you want to know about airplane crashes. Of course the site itself seems to have crashed right now, but it was up last week so hopefully it’ll work for you.

Are you willing to bet your life on that?

Because that’s exactly what you’re doing if you detect smoke on board and don’t seek a safe landing.

Fire on an airplane, quite frankly, scares the spit out of me. I’d rather have power failures, engine failure, puking passengers, almost anything rather than a fire on board (well, OK, the wing falling off would probably be marginally worse).

See, once a fire gets going - there’s nowhere for YOU to go. It’s just the daring young aviators and their flaming machines. Also keep in mind that airplane fuel (either avgas or jet) is quite flammable and will explode under conditions involving heat/open flame and ample air supply - like while aloft. Having the fuel tanks in the wings blow could knock the wings entirely off - hey, you’ll have TWO emergencies for the price of one!

Fact is, if there’s smoke there is usually no way to determine exactly what’s causing it, and in many areas of an airplane no way to get to it to put it out. You don’t know until you’re back on the ground.

Which is why smoke almost always means a declared emergency and a landing - because you can’t be sure. And as a general rule, the FAA and other folks would prefer many “false” alarms to an ignored actual threat.

Old aviation saying #27: The only time you have too much fuel is when you are on fire.

Actually, i was under the impression that the evidence for suicide in the EgyptAir crash, while not conclusive, was still pretty good. There was a long article about it in the Atlantic Monthly a year or so back; i’ll see if i can dredge it up from the pile.

Still, kniz’s whole conspiracy theory is way out of left field. As far as i know, even those who believe the suicide theory contend that it was probably mental instability rather than an orchestrated act of terrorism.

Okay, I didn’t mean to say smoke in the cabin shouldn’t be treated as an emergency. I only meant, to address El Kabong’s point, that publishing statistics on emergency landings could be misleading, as many emergency landings are caused by situations that would not have prevented continued safe flying.

I have flown many, many times on everything from 747s to small turboprop commuter planes so loud you couldn’t have a conversation. I always prefer the one last de-icing, the fly-around because they aren’t 100% sure the landing gear is all the way down, the diversion to another airport, even the cancellation of the flight because that one warning light just won’t turn off.

In EgyptAir 990, the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder showed that Batouti had locked the door behind him, shut both engines down, pushed the yoke forward into a dive (and held it there even after the captain broke back in and tried to pull it back), and was repeatedly chanting “I trust in God. I trust in God” all the way to impact. Draw your own conclusions.