Damage caused by shot-down aircrafts

We all know how much damage can an aircraft cause, examples include 911, kamikaze, Lockbee etc.

However, I don’t find much information about the damage caused by fallen bombers or fighters during wars, such as WW2. In Germany, where the air defense was the heaviest and most sophisticated, there were shot-down bombers during almost every air raid, so where did they go? Is there any detailed information about the damage they cause?

I would assume the added destruction of shot-down bombers wouldn’t really register much on the radar of the German populous in the wake of a massive bomber attack on a given area, given the already massive damage the bombs dropped would have caused.

I do however remember reading about incidents during the Battle of Britain, where shot down British fighters would hit houses and kill people, leading to a note from RAF higher-ups, that any pilot who had to bail out over populated areas, should try to steer his kite away from that area prior to jumping, if at all possible. I’ll see if I can remember were I read this.


Another hazard is all the shootin’ that misses. The modern US military has recently started using small missiles in urban areas in preference to cannons, because cannon shells travel far downrange striking indiscriminately, and thus tend to cause more civilian casualties/collateral damage. I’ve read that there were concerns during the Battle of Britain about machine-gun bullets dropping into populated areas, but I don’t know the specifics.

Factor in all the falling AA shells and shrapnel too.

I can’t remember the source, but someone once noted that all the civilian casualties during Pearl Harbor were caused by falling AA ammunition.

The Gulf War air-war phase was notorious for this. Iraq’s military subscribed to the “Golden BB theory,” the concept of pumping as much AA into the air as possible and hoping the resulting curtain of fire would bring down aircraft with lucky hits. A great deal of ammunition must have landed all over Baghdad.

I remember seeing the pictures afterward – while both sides were trying to spin what we were seeing. In one case, the plywood roof of a fruit stand was sagging and the plywood had cracked, and the bystanders solemnly informed the American reporters that an American cruise missile had hit the fruit stand.

Considering the Tomahawks carried 1,000-pound high explosive warheads, I think that might have been damage from stray AA instead.

Not a biggie - they follow a ballistic trajectory for a bit and them just fall at a terminal velocity. Like a bullet fired straight up it isn’t a big deal; my one uncle related how their gun sometimes caught so much falling flak that it locked in the gears and gear. Now the bullets fired on target from planes and missing mentioned before were a really big deal to AA crews and a friendly fire that drove them nuts sometimes.

On the OP; not all of anywhere is urban. The targets are often urban but the velocity and glide rate of a destroyed aircraft would often carry the planes into more rural areas before they hit earth. If a tree falls in the woods and no one ios there to hear it does anyone care about the B-17 next to it? And the few that didn’t glide and fell in the city had a fair chance of landing in already damaged property, rivers, and the like.

I can recommend this fascinating and somewhat haunting website:

It’s the Lancashire Aircraft Investigation Team, who go around checking out WW2 wreck sites, usually in locations where there wasn’t any military action. The pilots died on some bleak hill in the fog far away from the war, trying to get home before their fuel ran out; seventy years later the only thing that remains are engine components, fasteners, bits of metal buried where the wreck came to rest, an overgrown grave marker in a local churchyard.

Some of them hit towns. Blackpool, August, 1941:

It appeared that a flight of Boulton Paul Defiants had been ordered to make mock attacks on a Blackburn Botha flying beneath them; but they didn’t warn the Botha, and the pilot tried to evade, unfortunately straight into a Defiant. The Botha was chopped in two, sending it crashing onto Blackpool Central Station.

“At that point there was a terrific crash and the sound of tearing metal, the aircraft hit the floor of the station about four yards behind us, and near to the booking office. We were showered with aviation fuel and everywhere around us was a mass of flames. At that point my young mind was thinking that I would not see my young friends at home anymore. My mother who had a long coat on at the time due to the chilly day, held me close to her side as we ran towards where we thought the entrance was. I saw a woman in a flimsy dress engulfed in flames running, then she fell, I don’t know what became of her. Had it not been for mum’s big coat I don’t think we would have made it. My dad who was outside by then heard the explosion and turned around to see the station entrance a mass of flames, he was on his way in to find us just as we were emerging from the fire. He picked up a small injured baby from a pram on his way out. The blast of the explosion had blown the skin from the back of my hands and as I had short trousers on at the time, my legs were burned from the upper legs down to the ankles.”

The Defiant crashed into a house. The two householders survived; the two aircrew died. Amazing and thankfully only eighteen people in total lost their lives. Presumably this kind of thing was happening in Germany all the time, but worse, because the Botha was much smaller than a B-17 (it was roughly the size of a Douglas Havoc). And I imagine that some of those low-flying P-47 strafers from later on the war must have clipped rooftops and come to grief, spiralling into houses and market squares. And this happened every day for years.

I remember a plane crash near where I live in 1966 – briefly described here. A jet fighter crashed into a house in a medium density suburb, and only one person was killed (the pilot). In addition, only one house was damaged. Google Maps will give you an idea of how densely populated the area is – and it would have looked much the same from the air 46 years ago.

An aircraft going in anywhere near vertical makes a fairly small mark, in the scheme of warfare. Private aircraft that crash into forested areas can be very hard to locate even when the crash site is known to within a couple sections. The engines and landing gear will do some damage, but the aluminum skin isn’t very substantial at all. Recall that in WW-II many of the aircraft still had fabric skin, and some even still had wood structure under that.

If the jets on 9/11 had been carrying water instead of JP-1, there would have only been about 1/10 the casualties. Maybe far less than that even.

Not really. Anti-air artillery does not shoot normal shells that explode on impact, they shoot shells that explodes after a certain time, or a proximity shell that has a small radar and explode when it detects the aircraft and explode on time if it fail to detect.

Moreover the US switching to missile might be because missiles are more accurate.

A suburb is hardly defensely populated, considering the dominate structures are single-unit houses.

Lockerbie bombing by Libya for example, killed 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie in Scotland.

Recently there was a crash in Nigeria, killing at least 10 people on the ground.


Stray bullets are in fact a big deal.

You could also add in the El Al Flight 1862 crash, a cargo 747 which crashed into an apartment block in Amsterdam and killed 39 residents, along with the 4 people on the plane. (I think this has the highest on-the-ground death toll of any accidental air crash.) But in all of these cases, the crashed plane was a passenger jet, much larger than your average warplane; which means more debris, more fuel to set things on fire on the ground, and just generally more destruction.

A more pertinent example: this past April, a Navy Jet crashed into an apartment complex, but caused no fatalities (though this was primarily through luck.)

I do not know much gun-related vocabulary; I have been unable to parse this sentence. Please explain again.

The crash after a failed takeoff of a Air Africa Antonov An-32 into a very full market in Kinshasa, Zaire, probably has a higher death toll. FTA, an estimated 225-350 people lost their lives.
Surprisingly, four of the crew survived the crash, as well as the reaction from the surviving shoppers. Two of them ended up in Zairean prison. I don’t know their eventual fate.

His uncle was an AA gunner. They fired enough shells into the air above their gun that falling pieces of shells jammed the gearing that enabled the gun to traverse. Apparently without injury to the gun crew.

I’ve read that during the bombing campaigns in North Vietnam, most of the damage to residential areas was due to destroyed aircraft and SAMs falling back to earth. The SA-2 is a BIG missile and the NVA fired over a thousand of them, most of which missed and fell back to earth. The bigger issue with the destroyed aircraft was that in addition to just cratering into the ground, they would sometimes disintegrate in midair and if they were still carrying their payload, bombs would fall indiscriminately.

These were all intentional crashes. So they wanted to cause as much damage as possible.

In the WWII cases, most of the planes still had a living pilot, who was trying to achieve a survivable landing somewhere. So they tried to find open fields, roadways, etc. without anything to hit. Even if they crashed instead of landing, there was a lot less on the ground to be damaged.

Of course, the planes where the pilot was killed in mid-air, or the plane so damaged that it couldn’t flay anymore just crashed wherever, but that was not the majority of planes.

I dunno about that. Many many pilots and crews bailed out and left the plane to crash… wherever chance took it.