This is a warning: if you, or someone you know is about to get on a plane within 24 hours…don’t read this list. This is a counter-warning: there are thousands of flights all around the world that take off and land without any issues every day. If you end up reading this list anyway (which you almost certainly will), just know that you have a greater chance of dying in the car on your way to the airport than you do in even the worst of flying conditions. That was supposed to make you feel better. Having said all that, here are the 25 worst aviation disasters and plane crashes in history.
Lauda Air Flight 004 - 223 dead
On 26 May 1991 flight 004 from Bangkok to Vienna broke up in the air near the Burma-Thailand border after the thrust reverser on the left wing fired. Reports indicate that it’s subsequent dive could have exceeded mach 1 (the sound barrier). There were no survivors.
China Airlines Flight 611 - 225 dead
On 25 May 2002 flight 611 from Taiwan to Hong Kong disintegrated mid flight due to faulty repairs 22 years earlier.
Korean Air Flight 801 - 228 dead
Despite protests from the flight engineer that the captain was not detecting the correct signal for landing, he pressed on and guided flight 801 from Seoul, South Korea directly into the Guam mountainside leaving only 26 survivors.
Air France Flight 447 - 228 dead
1 June 2009 flight 447 disappeared on its way to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. Although the wreckage was found after 5 days the black box was recovered 2 years later. The cause was found to be an inappropriate pilot response to faulty air speed indicators due to bad weather conditions and ice.
Swissair Flight 111 - 229 dead
On 2 September 1998 Swissair flight 111 from New York to Geneva crashed into the ocean just off of Nova Scotia due to a rapidly spreading cockpit fire.
TWA Flight 800 - 230 dead
Trans World Airlines Flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on its way to Paris. The likely cause was determined to be a short circuit.
Garuda Indonesia Flight 152 - 234 dead
On September 26, 1997 Indonesian flight 152 crashed into a mountainous ravine just before landing due to miscommunications with the tower. Apparently there was another flight 152 approaching as well.
1996 Air Africa crash - 237 dead
On 8 January 1996 an Air Africa flight from Kinshasa to Kehemba airport in Democratic Republic of the Congo overshot the runway and ran into a marketplace. All 6 Russian crew members survived but there were numerous fatalities on the ground.
Arrow Air Flight 1285 - 256 dead
Arrow Air Flight 1285 carried US military personnel from Cairo, Egypt back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky via Cologne, Germany, and Newfoundland, Canada. On 12 December 1985 just after taking off from Newfoundland on the last leg of its flight it crashed and although Hezbollah tried to claim responsibility they were ruled out. The cause is still unknown.
Mount Erebus disaster - 257 dead
On 28 November 1979 an Antarctic site seeing flight that left from New Zealand in the morning and returned in the evening crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica killing everyone onboard.
Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 - 261 dead
On July 11, 1991 passengers started falling from the bottom of flight 2120 which was taking off from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia towards Sokoto, Nigeria. A fire had burned through the floor because a deflated tire had overheated on takeoff. The plane crashed shortly thereafter.
China Airlines Flight 140 - 264 dead
On April 26, 1994 flight 140 from Taipei, Taiwan to Nagoya, Japan crashed just before landing when the pilot accidentally hit the TOGA button (take-off, go around). This button raises the throttle position to the the same that is used during take offs. There were 7 survivors.
American Airlines Flight 587 - 265 dead
On November 12, 2001 shortly after the 9/11 attacks flight 587 from New York to Santo Domingo crashed just after takeoff. The cause was pilot error due to overusing the rudder in response to wake turbulence from the plane that took off before it.
Korean Air Lines Flight 007 - 269 dead
On September 1, 1983 a Soviet fighter pilot shot down flight 007 from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, South Korea when it temporarily entered restricted Soviet airspace.
Lockerbie Bombing - 270 dead
On 21st of December in 1988 a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York City. The plane crashed in a field near Lockerbie, Scotland killing 11 people on the ground. Two Libyan nationals were eventually convicted. Although Ghaddafi denied involvement there have been contradictory reports.
American Airlines Flight 191 - 273 dead
Just moments after takeoff the left engine of Flight 191 from Chicago to Los Angeles came off. The plane rolled, turned upside down and crashed into a field. A firefighter on the scene was quoted as saying that not a single complete body was found. Amateur photos of the crash sparked a media firestorm condemning the DC-10’s poor safety record.
Iranian Air Force - 275 dead
On the 19th of February, 2003 an Iranian Air Force plane carrying Revolutionary Guards on an unknown mission crashed into the mountains near Kerman leaving no survivors.
Iran Air Flight 655 - 290 dead
During the Iraq-Iran war on July 3, 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 665 going between Tehran and Dubai due to confused communications.
Saudia Flight 163 - 301 dead
This flight from Rihadh to Jeddah caught fire shortly after takeoff. It turned around and made an emergency landing but everyone on board died of smoke inhalation before fire crews could get inside. The fire was started due to butane stoves used by Muslim pilgrims because of their strict dietary restrictions. Saudi Arabia has since banned the stoves but some people still smuggle them onboard to make tea.
Air India Flight 182 - 329 dead
On the 23 of June, 1985 a bomb exploded onboard Air India Flight 182 as it was flying between London and Montreal. The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Ireland. A Canadian Sikh militant group was responsible.
Ermenonville air disaster - 346 dead
After a Moroccan baggage handler was unable to read the proper latching instructions in either English or Turkish on Turkish airlines flight 981, the latch blew off mid flight as the plane crashed into Ermonville forest near Paris, France. Furthermore, the latches had a known design flaw.
Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision - 349 dead
The deadliest mid-air collision in history, Saudi Arabian airlines and Kazakhstan airlines crashed just west of New Delhi killing everyone on both planes. An investigation found that once again a lack of English language skills on behalf of the Kazakh pilots was the primary cause.
Japan Airlines Flight 123 - 520 dead
On August 12, 1985 a flight from Tokyo to Osaka crashed into Mount Takamagahara leaving only 4 survivors.
Tenerife Airport Disaster - 583 dead
In terms of passengers and crew killed this collision between two Boeing 747s on the Spanish Island of Tenerife is considered the deadliest plane crash in history.
Although not a single air disaster, the four flights involved in 9/11 were responsible for the greatest single day loss of life in commercial aviation history. Two of the flights, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 each were responsible for thousands of casualties after being driven into the World Trade Centers and are considered the largest and second largest losses of life due to individual plane crashes in all of aviation history with 1700 and 1000 people killed respectively.