Several times a year, we see the terrible news of a major plane crash that lingers in the memory and start to question just how safe is flying? How often do planes crash?
While plane crashes on commercial flights occur every year, the good news is that it has currently never been safer to fly on a commercial airline.
This is because not only has the chances of a plane crashing decreased each year relative to the number of passengers flying, but airline passenger fatalities have also fallen significantly compared to the previous decade.
If you’re wondering how often planes crash, you’ll find the following statistics that cover plane crashes in the US and worldwide very interesting.
Additionally, according to the statistics, you can find out the most dangerous airlines worldwide and in the USA, and the most dangerous planes to fly on.
We also cover how safe commercial air travel is compared to driving and flying on smaller planes.
How Many Plane Crashes Are There a Day?
According to an FAA study, there are approximately 5 plane crashes a day.
However, this statistic includes general aviation, with commercial planes very rarely crashing.
If we look at the numbers, there are 0.028 commercial plane crashes a day.
How Many Plane Crashes Are There a Year?
If we look at commercial aviation and look at the statistics for the last five years, we can see that there are approximately 10 plane crashes a year.
The Chances of Dying in a Plane Crash Are Extremely Low
The US National Transportation Safety Board concluded that 95% of passengers survived plane crashes, including 55% in the most serious incidents.
According to Arnold Barnett, who is an expert in the field of aviation safety and risk and Professor of Statistics at MIT, the odds of being killed in a plane crash are exceptionally low:
“If you take one flight a day, you would on average need to fly every day for 55,000 years before being involved in a fatal crash.”
How Often Planes Crash in the US
Since 1970, taking into account all airlines, there have been 76 plane crashes in the USA. This accounts for 14% of all plane crashes worldwide.
Deadliest Air Accidents in the USA
The deadliest plane crash in the USA occurred on May 25, 1979.
Loss of control caused by engine detachment due to improper maintenance caused American Airlines Flight 191 to crash, killing all 271 passengers and crew onboard.
The second-deadliest aviation accident in U.S. history occurred on November 12, 2001.
American Airlines Flight 587 crashed following pilot error, causing separation of the vertical stabilizer and loss of control.
All 260 passengers and crew onboard were killed.
Most Recent Plane Crashes in the USA
The most recent plane crash was in July 2021. If this doesn’t sound familiar, it’s likely because Trans Air was the airline, which is an air cargo provider.
Additionally, despite having crashed into the ocean, both pilots survived.
The most recent plane crash in the USA that involved a major commercial airline occurred in June 2019.
A United Airlines aircraft was damaged after a hard landing with no fatalities of the 166 passengers and crew onboard
How Often Planes Crash Worldwide
Since 1970, taking into account all airlines, there have been 528 plane crashes worldwide
However, it’s more interesting to look at the data since 2010.
Since 2010, there have been 158 plane crashes worldwide.
This is interesting because in 2010, the total number of passengers stood at 2.7 billion. In 2019, this increased to 4.7 billion.
Despite this substantial increase, you can see that the number of plane crashes a year has largely remained steady or even decreased.
- 2021: 5 accidents
- 2020: 10 accidents
- 2019: 14 accidents
- 2018: 18 accidents
- 2017: 5 accidents
- 2016: 11 accidents
- 2015: 17 accidents
- 2014: 14 accidents
- 2013: 16 accidents
- 2012: 14 accidents
- 2011: 17 accidents
- 2010: 17 accidents
Turbulence Almost Never Cause Planes to Crash
Turbulence is responsible for very few plane crashes, especially if we are talking about modern commercial airliners.
Aircraft are designed to withstand 1.5 times any forces on airframes, so can comfortably fly through turbulence, even though passengers in the moment might not see it that way.
Even when turbulence is severe, a pilot is trained to slow the aircraft to the appropriate “maneuvering speed” for the aircraft’s current weight to reduce the impact of turbulence.
Related: What Causes Turbulence?
Planes Very Rarely Crash Into Each Other
Planes crashing into each other is a very rare occurrence.
In the history of aviation, there have been 67 notable civilian and military-civilian midair collisions.
The world’s deadliest midair collision occurred in 1996 when Saudia Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 crashed into each other, killing all 349 people on board.
Planes Almost Never Crash Into Houses
Planes crashing into houses is exceptionally rare.
This is because pilots are very high-skilled and if they have at least some control of the aircraft, they will be able to avoid crashing in a civilian area to avoid additional fatalities.
A famous recent example of when there could have been a plane crashing into houses in residential areas was the plane piloted by Chesley Sullenberger, aka Sully.
Disaster struck, but Sully quickly calculated that if he attempted to divert to a nearby airport, there might not have been enough time and the plane could come down in a populated area instead. So he decided to land in the middle of the Hudson River.
An instance when a plane actually crashed into houses was on 16 January 2017.
A cargo plane flying from Hong Kong to Istanbul crash-landed just outside the main airport for Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, destroying 15 buildings in a village.
35 people on the ground were killed, in addition to all four crew members.
Airlines Involved in the Most Plane Crashes
Worldwide, Air France and American Airlines have both been involved in 11 plane crashes.
China Airlines and Korean Air have had 9 crashes, while Pakistan International Airlines has had 8, and United Airlines has had 7 plane crashes.
In the USA, besides American Airlines with 11 crashes, United Airlines have been involved in the most plane crashes with 7.
Only Southwest (3 crashes), Delta (2 crashes), Alaska Airlines (1 crash), and Horizon Air (1 crash) are the other airlines in the US that have been involved in air accidents.
In the USA, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines, have never been involved in a plane crash.
We go into more detail in the following article: What Airline Has Had the Most Crashes?
Number of Plane Crash Deaths a Year
Again, it’s more interesting to look at the data since 2010 considering the total number of passengers has almost doubled within this timeframe.
If we look at the data, we can see that relative to the total number of passengers flying, plane crash deaths have decreased.
- 2021: 74 fatalities
- 2020: 303 fatalities
- 2019: 214 fatalities
- 2018: 422 fatalities
- 2017: 12 fatalities
- 2016: 249 fatalities
- 2015: 471 fatalities
- 2014: 863 fatalities
- 2013: 188 fatalities
- 2012: 389 fatalities
- 2011: 145 fatalities
- 2010: 647 fatalities
The Boeing 747 is the Most Dangerous Plane
If we purely look at the numbers, we know that the Boeing 737 has been involved in 149 accidents with 4,360 fatalities.
We could therefore assume that the Boeing 737 is the plane that crashes most often.
However, over 10,000 Boeing 737s have been produced compared to 1,569 Boeing 747s, and 561 Airbus A300s, which explains the greater number of accidents and fatalities.
The Boring 747, with 49 accidents and 3,713 fatalities, is therefore arguably the most dangerous plane.
Airplanes That Crash Most Often
- Boeing 737: 149 accidents
- Boeing 747: 49 accidents
- Airbus A300: 33 accidents
- Airbus A320: 28 accidents
- Boeing 737 NG / Max: 27 accidents
Airplanes With the Most Plane Crash Deaths
- Boeing 737: 4,360 fatalities
- Boeing 747: 3,713 fatalities
- Airbus A300: 1,416 fatalities
- Boeing 737 NG / Max: 1,137 fatalities
- Airbus A320: 1,111 fatalities
Driving is Much More Dangerous Than Flying
Driving is much more dangerous than flying.
The odds of dying in a car crash as a driver are 1 in 114, and 1 in 654 as a passenger, according to the NSC (National Safety Council).
The odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 9,821.
However, note that this includes both general aviation and commercial aviation, which is why we need to refer to the following statistics…
Small Planes Are Much More Dangerous than Larger Planes
In short, yes, small planes are significantly more dangerous than larger planes that commercial airlines use.
For example, if we take the year 2017, which is the safest year on record for air travel, we can see that there wasn’t a single fatality on a passenger jet.
For general aviation, which is what small planes qualify under, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) recorded 1,316 accidents and 346 deaths.
Another way of looking at this is in 2017 general aviation aircraft logged a total of 21.7 million flight hours, with a fatal accident rate of 0.931 per 100,000 hours.
Compare this to US airlines that racked up 19 million hours without a single fatality.
We go into more detail in our Are Small Planes Safe article.