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The 1996 Accident Statistics

Peter Ladkin

27 February 1997
1996 was the worst year for absolute numbers of fatal accidents, on-board deaths, and on-ground deaths on record. However, it is important to note that trends for rates, rather than absolute numbers, do not appear to be increasing. Fatality and fatal-accident rates are still much better than before high-technology aircraft were introduced.

There were 1,840 deaths from aircraft accidents in 1996. The previous highest figure is from 1985: 1,801 deaths. These figures exclude deaths from hijacking or other illegal interference with flight. Were these to be included, 1985 remains the worst year, because of the 329 deaths on the Air India B747 which crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland that year. In 1996, the only fatal such accident was that of the Ethiopian Airlines B767 off the Comoros Islands, which killed 128 passengers and crew. All-in total deaths are 1,967 for 1996 and 2,230 deaths for 1985.

The total number of fatal accidents, 57, was slightly larger than for 1995 (56) and was also the highest on record. 20 fatal accidents involved non-passenger airline operations (e.g., freight, aircraft repositioning). The UK CAA's Accident Analysis Group has confirmed that the accident rate for freighters is far higher that for passenger aircraft (1).

The total number of people on the ground who dies in air crashes was "by far the highest on record" at 364, with approximately the same number of serious injuries. However, most of these were caused by one event: the rejected take-off at Kinshasa by an Antonov An-32 which ran off the end of the runway and into a crowded marketplace, causing about 300 deaths and 250 serious injuries. The question of the wisdom of carrying on ground activities at the ends of runways arises continually, not only with large-aircraft operations but also, often in the United States, with light aircraft operations.

For details of all airline accidents in 1996, see (1), and for statistics 1959-1995 see (4). The following table summarises the accidents to commercial jet aircraft on passenger flights in 1996. I give the immediate `how', without specifying the cause. I use the following abbreviations:
CFITControlled Flight into Terrain (includes water)
LOCLoss of Control
FOBFire on Board
UBFUncontained (engine fan-)Blade Failure
MACMid-air Collision
When What Where Deaths (CRW/PX) Occupants (CRW/PX) How
6.2Birgenair B757-200Nr. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic13/176 sameLoss of Control
29.2Faucett B737-200Nr. Arequipa, Peru6/117sameCFIT on LNG
11.5Valujet DC-9-30Everglades, FL5/105sameLOC after FOB
13.6Garuda Indonesia DC-10-30Kyushu, Japan-/315/260Aborted TO
6.7Dealta MD-88Pensacola,FL-/25/142UBF
17.7TWA B747-100Nr. LI, NY18/212sameIn-flight breakup
29.8Vnukovo Airlines Tu-154Nr. Spitzbergen, Norway12/129same CFIT
5.9Air France B747-400Burkina Faso-/118/206Severe turbulence
2.10AeroPeru B757Off Lima, Peru9/619/61CFIT into ocean
31.10TAM F100Sao Paolo, Brazil6/90sameProbable LOC
7.11ADC Boeing 727Nr. Lagos, Nigeria9/134same Unknown
12.11Air India B747-100BNr. New Delhi, India23/289sameMAC
29.11Ethiopian Airlines B767-200 Comoros Islands10/117 12/163 Ditching after HJ


(1): David Learmount, Safety defeated (1996 Airline Safety Review), Flight International, 15-21 January 1997, pp31-38.

(2): Anonymous, Airline Fatalities Rise Dramatically in 1996, Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 13, 1997, p383.

(3): Anonymous, US airline fatalities are the worst since 1985, Flight International, 88-14 January 1997, p12.

(4): Anonymous Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Aircraft Accidents: Worldwide operations 1959-1995, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, Seattle, WA, 1996.

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Copyright © 1999 Peter B. Ladkin, 1999-02-08
Last modification on 1999-06-15
by Michael Blume