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.The Tenerife Disaster
in 1977 was the worst accident in aviation history of any kind, after 9/11. Two loaded Boeing 747s collided, one attempting take off and the other coming in to land at the same time on the same runway. A total of 583 people died, including people on the ground.
Heavy fog and communication problems between the KLM captain on the ground and the control tower were the primary causes. The captain and the air traffic controller couldn't understand each other's heavy accents, and the captain thought he was cleared for take-off when he was being told to get into position and await clearance. The fog prevented him from seeing the Pan Am Boeing 747 coming in for landing right in front of him until it was way too late.
The accident triggered the standardization of communication between the control tower and flight crews so this would never happen again.
Japan Airlines Flight 123
in 1985 was the worst accident in aviation history that involved a single aircraft, killing 520 people on board and leaving only 4 survivors.
In simple English, the tail was blown off the plane, taking along with it not only one of the most critical control surfaces of any aircrat (the tail), but also severed all four main hydraulic lines that serve the entire aircraft, leaving the 747 without a tail and completely paralyzed aside from just engine control.
To put that in perspective, it's like driving your car down the freeway and your steering wheel comes off in your hand, taking with it your brakes, and all you have to use to control your car is the gas pedal. That's basically what the brave pilots did with their doomed 747 for half an hour before it plowed into a mountainside.
The cause was determined to be a rushed maintenance and repair job when the tail was damaged in an earlier flight, causing the rear pressure bulkhead to be weaker than normal, eventually blowing open and tearing off the tail and hydraulic lines in the process.
The president of Japan Airlines resigned, and a maintenance manager working for the company committed suicide to "apologize" for the accident.Turkish Airlines Flight 981
in 1974 was the worst accident of all time in aviation history, until the above two accidents occurred later. Flight 981 was a DC-10 flying over France when the cargo door burst open, causing explosive decompression but also severing control cables for the tail and the tail engine. The plane crashed into a field at high speed, killing all 346 passengers and crew.
The cause was a known design defect in the cargo door. Throwing scandal and outrage into the tragedy was the revelation this had happened before with a DC-10 on United Airlines Flight 811
, where the cargo door blew off in a similar fashion and 9 passengers were blown out of the plane and killed. At that point in time, McDonnell Douglas told the FAA they'd fix it, but then didn't do a thing about it.Air India Flight 182
in 1985 was blown up over the Atlantic Ocean by a terrorist bomb, and was the worst airborne terrorist action prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, killing all 329 passengers and crew.
American Airlines Flight 191
was the worst aviation accident on American soil after 9/11 and the deadliest aviation accident involving a single aircraft on US soil. A total of 271 people were killed, including two on the ground. There were no survivors.
The cause was a bad maintenance job on the left engine, leaving it poorly attached to the wing. On takeoff, with the engine at maximum thrust, it basically broke off and shot forward, and then flipped back over the wing, taking off a foot of the wing's leading edge. All multi-engine aircraft are capable of flying on only one engine, but in this case, the engine tore off a section of the front edge of the wing, drastically changing the aircraft's overall aerodynamics, and it also tore off critical hydraulic lines in the wing.
This was also the fourth fatal accident involving the infamous DC 10 at the time. The 1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision
over Charkhi Dadri, Haryana stands as the worst mid-air collision to date. 349 people were killed when a Saudi Arabian Boeing 747 headed towards New Delhi collided head-on with an Air Kazakhstan aircraft that had just left New Delhi.
The cause was attributed to the Air Kazakhstan aircraft not understanding or obeying the air traffic controller's warnings to change altitude to avoid the collision.Iran Air Flight 655
was a civilian passenger airliner that was shot down by a missile launched from a US Navy cruiser, the USS Vincennes, in Iranian waters while the flight was in Iranian airspace. All 290 passengers and crew perished, making it the seventh deadliest aviation accident of all time.
Needless to say the cause is up for much debate. According to the US government, the Vincennes mistakenly identified the Iranian airliner as an attacking military fighter. According to the Iranian government, the shooting down of IR 655 by the Vincennes was an intentionally performed and unlawful act.
In August 1988, Newsweek quoted the Vice President as saying; "I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever, I don't care what the facts are." in regard to the shoot down or any other mistakes. Bush Sr. used the phrase frequently during the 1988 campaign. The United States has never formally apologized or admitted any wrongdoing, although as part of a settlement at the International Court of Justice they paid $61.8 million in compensation for those killed on the flight.