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.
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 miscommunication 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 on-board.
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.
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.