Notable Aircraft Mishaps
Volanti Subvenimus - We Support the Flyer!
Although the aviation industry has demonstrated an unparalleled safety record over the past few decades, occasionally mishaps still occur. Whether the aircraft crashes during civilian or military operations, a mishap investigation will be conducted to determine responsibility and prevent future accidents. In the modern era of aviation, aircraft mishaps are almost exclusively caused by human factors. This differs considerably from the earlier periods in aviation when actual structural or mechanical failure of aircraft would commonly be the cause of tragedy (see ‘The First Aircraft Mishap‘ below).
Flight Surgeons, Aviation Medical Examiners (AME’s) and aerospace physiologists are considered human factors experts. They can expect to be consulted during mishap investigations for this expertise. In the military, flight surgeons often assist or lead the mishap recovery and response. Although these occurrences are tragic, they do lead to improvements in flight safety as the sequence of events leading up to the mishap are evaluated. Being involved in a mishap response or investigation is one of the most challenging, but rewarding duties for any flight medicine professional.
Lastly, we are highly sensitive to the fact that these tragic mishaps have, and still do, have significant impact on loved ones of the victims. Focusing on the cause analysis and lessons to improve flight safety in NO WAY should eclipse the memories of loved ones lost in aviation accidents.
Leave Requests for Future Mishaps in the Comments Below.
‘Fitness for Flight’ – Mental Health & Antidepressants
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Investigating Pilot Error in Plane Crashes: A Human Factors Analysis
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The Risk of Flight – Training Accidents
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KLM-Panam Tenerife Disaster
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Tarnak Farm – Reckless Pilots, Speed, or Fog of War?
On 17 April 2002, as the Afghanistan conflict was escalating, a friendly-fire incident swept the headlines. An American F-16 being flown by an Air National Guard pilot mistook Canadians training in a live fire drill for Taliban insurgents and dropped a 500-pound laser guided bomb (LGB) directly on target. The result[...Click Below to Read More]read more
United Airlines 173 – The Need for CRM
In late December 1978, a United Airlines commercial aircraft DC-8 carrying 181 passengers and 8 crew crashed outside Portland, Oregon. 8 passengers and 2 crew members died. Although the crew did encounter a real malfunction of the aircraft, ultimately the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) investigation concluded it was the[...Click Below to Read More]read more
JFK Jr Piper Saratoga Mishap
On 16 July 1999, the son of former President John F. Kennedy took off in his privately-owned Piper Saratoga from New Jersey bound for Martha’s Vineyard. Although he held a private pilot’s license without an instrument rating, he departed in marginal weather at night. Accompanied by his wife, Carolyn Bessette[...Click Below to Read More]read more
First Fatal Mishap in Powered Flight – Orville Wright & Lt Selfridge
Almost 5 years after the historic birth of controlled flight at Kitty Hawk, an updated version of the Wright Flyer was involved in the first fatal aircraft mishap in powered flight. Many early pioneers in aviation, like Otto Lilienthal, had already sacrificed their lives in lighter-than-air and glider ventures, but powered[...Click Below to Read More]read more