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Plane Accident Statistics

Major airline crashes — involving airplanes that are carrying hundreds of passengers — only occur a few times a year around the world. However, just because jumbo jets and 737s don’t often cause injuries or deaths doesn’t mean plane accidents and plane crashes are rare. Smaller aircraft — planes that carry a handful of people — crash much more often, which can lead to serious injury and death. One engine planes, cargo planes and propeller planes are involved in accidents each day.

For example, just last week a Maryland man died while flying his ultralight aircraft; the man’s plane went down for unknown reasons, hitting a tree and fence and killing the pilot.

Here are some plane accident statistics:

  • In 2008, the Air Crash Record Office (ACRO) reported 876 deaths due to airplane accidents and 147 separate airplane crashes. The worst year for airplane crash deaths was 1972 when 3,214 people died in plane crashes. The safest year for plane accidents was 2007 when 766 people died in plane accidents.
  • If calculated by distance, planes are 62 times safer than cars and trucks. However, if calculated by each journey, planes are three times more dangerous than cars.
  • Popular Mechanics determined that the safest place to sit in an airplane is near the tail. However, the FAA has put forth that no one seat is safer than any other in a commercial plane.
  • Small aircraft crashes are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the United States.
  • Half of all plane accidents are caused by pilot error. Pilot error can either be based on a pilot making a mechanical mistake while flying or on a pilot making a poor decision based on weather conditions.