Why Planes Crash – 5 Major Reasons
Adrian Pingstone / Public Domain
Commercial flights are incredibly safe. However, when a plane does crash, a lot of people die. Big numbers are always big news.
So if they are so safe, what’s going on when something does go wrong?
Here are 5 reasons why planes crash:
5. Human Error
Sometimes a pilot just doesn’t have the experience or the proper training. And even if he does have the experience, it’s possible to get too comfortable. The pilot might forget to do something, like turning on or off a switch. Even the experienced Richard Bong was killed testing out a P-80 jet because he forgot to switch the auxiliary fuel pump.
Or the pilot could also just make the wrong decision altogether. It takes a lot of steel nerves to keep a level head when your life is on the line and snap decisions have to be performed!
4. Lack Of Sleep
A shocking number of pilots don’t get enough sleep. In fact, in a study of 435 pilots, 95% experienced fatigue. Also, the more duty time they have, the higher the probability of accidents.
In addition to being a problem all on it’s on, inadequate sleep definitely contributes to poor decision making or neglecting a check on the checklist.
Weather accounts for 25% of crashes. It may be easy to get annoyed when flights get delayed due to weather, but those delays could very well be saving lives. December and January are reported as the worst months to fly, thanks to all the precipitation, low cloud cover, and fog.
These conditions can cause pilots to take risks that they normally wouldn’t, such as “skud running” where a pilot lowers altitude below the clouds, or “get-home-itis” where the pilot pushes the limits to get through the flight as quickly as possible.
2. Mechanical Errors
Mechanical errors are more likely in private planes, but are also a big contender in commercial flight crashes. They account for 23%. An engine going out or the instruments not functioning correctly could all spell disaster for a plane that needs to have all its different parts in perfect order to stay afloat.
Sabotage is one of the more frightening reasons for crashes. We all know what happened on 9/11. However, it only accounts for 7% of crashes and you might be surprised that the majority of cases happen in China.
There have been a few recent cases of Chinese travelers tossing coins into engines for good luck. Obviously that produces exactly the opposite of good luck – just a lot of delays, angry passengers, and heaps of money spent on maintenance. Yikes!