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Watch: Top 10 aircraft disasters of all time

Explosion on the runway/YouTube-Smithsonian
June 10, 2021

These examples of air disasters vary from miraculous outcomes to terrible endings. They are a reminder of the amount of skill and training that pilots require, and the coordinated effort between the ground crews, safety crews, and pilots that keep planes in the sky.

Smithsonian Channel Aviation Nation

1. Emory Worldwide Flight 17 Loses Control

A cargo plane was conducting a routine flight cross country from Reno to Dayton in 2000. As the plane lifts off, the center of gravity inside the plane is clearly wrong, and the plane becomes unstable. The pilots immediately attempt to return the flight back to the airport to conduct an emergency landing. The DC-8 plane crashed onto an automobile salvage yard short of the runway, killing all three pilots onboard.

Trouble after takeoff/YouTube-Smithsonian

2. China Air Flight 120 Runway Explosion

China Air 120 is on its final approach for landing and is less than one minute away from landing. The flight lands and the pilots begin shutdown procedures after the airline reaches its final destination. However, the fire warnings sound and ATC notified the pilots of a engine fire on engine number two. The pilots begin their emergency checklist and passengers attempt to disembark the plane. Miraculously, all passengers and crew members were able to get off of the plane before the plane continued to burn.

The aftermath/YouTube-Smithsonian

3. Rogue Learjet Goes Down

An unresponsive small Learjet taking off from the southeast is flying towards the Dakotas when calls are made the National Transportation Safety Bureau that the pilots are not responding to calls. An F-16 is scrambled to provide escort and confirms no visual confirmations on activity onboard the small plane. All that anyone can do on the ground is trying to anticipate where the aircraft will crash and make conditions safe on the ground. The jet ultimately crashed into a hayfield in South Dakota, resulting in the death of both pilots and all passengers.

Unresponsive plane/YouTube-Smithsonian

4. NationAir Flight 2121 Catches Fire Mid-Flight

NationAir Flight 2121 had an onboard fire and quickly begins to lose basic functioning, limiting the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft. Hydraulics fail and smoke begins to consume the cabin. Unfortunately, the pilots are unable to land the plane and 247 passengers and 14 crew members were killed in the crash, the worst accident recorded for a Canadian airline.

5. Concorde Flight 4590 Destroys A Brand

Concorde Flight 4590 was one of the early flights in the famed-technologically advanced jet liners lifespan. This aircraft was notorious for how fast it flew, specifically for its oceanic flights. As the jet gains speed, it reaches a threshold where it can no longer abandon takeoff due to the remaining amount of airstrip left to reduce speed. Suddenly the plane catches fire in its rear engines as it lifts off. The plane ultimately crashes into an airport hotel nearby.

6. FineAir Crashes in the Heart of Miami

On August 7th, 1997 FineAir Cargo Flight is traveling from Miami to the Dominican Republic. At 1213 p.m., the light begins taxing to its runway and receives approval at 12:34 p.m. for take-off. As the plane lifts off, engine failure causes the plane to loose lift dramatically, slamming the plane back to the ground and sending it into the urban city of Miami. All crew members are killed. 3

Landing mishap/YouTube-Smithsonian

7. Cathay Pacific Flight 780 Engine Fails on Approach

Cathay Pacific Flight 780 is cruising high above the South China Sea from Indonesia to Hong Kong. As the AirBus begins to leave its cruising altitude, the planes monitoring system sends alerts for issues with

engine 2, and then engine 1. The pilots put both engines into “idle” attempting to save the integrity of the engine, but engine 1 is not responsive and continues to thrust the plane along at high speed. The plane is now cruising too fast to land safely. Regardless, the pilot slams the aircraft down onto the ground and begins to apply brakes. The plane safely comes to a stop, almost at the end of the runway, near the waters edge. The flight officer, David Hayhoe, said “There was a feeling that once the aircraft did stop, ‘what the hell just happened?’”

8. Thunderstorm Cause a Plane to Lose Power

The pilot of Flight 110, Carlos Dardano receives notification from the air traffic control tower to do whatever he needs to get the plane on the ground when his plane loses all power in the middle of a thunderstorm. He plans to put the plane down in a canal across the water, but instead chooses a soft strip of grass adjacent to the canal. The pilot expertly makes course corrections and safely puts the plane down. The flight attendant in the back of the plane remarkably said “it was a perfect landing with no turbulence.”

9. U.S. Airways Miracle on the Hudson

In January 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 hit a large gathering of birds immediately after takeoff. As a result, he makes a quick decision to put the flight down on the Hudson River, safely. Water begins to fill the plane and the passengers move onto the wings and are brought to shore safely. All crew and passengers survive without incident.

Water landing/YouTube-Smithsonian

10. Asiana Air Crashes on San Fran Runway

Asiana Flight 214 is nearing the end of its overnight flight from Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco. The plane receives clearance to land and is less than one minute away. However, the pilots misjudge the landing and land too short. The tail of plane is ripped off and the front half of the plane is sent skidding across the runway. It comes to a stop, and its only a matter of time before the plane becomes engulfed in flames.

Some airplane crashes result in catastrophic casualties, and some have miraculous endings. The amount of fuel required to move these massive platforms from start to finish usually result in a very thin line between safe landings and destructive outcomes. This video is a somber reminder of how both circumstances can exist.