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Watch An aviation accident is defined by the Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft, which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until all such persons have disembarked, where a person is fatally or seriously injured, the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure or the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible. If the aircraft is destroyed or severely damaged so that it must be written off, it is further defined as a hull loss accident. Annex 13 further defines an aviation incident as an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft which affects or could affect the safety of operation.
The first fatal aviation accident was the crash of a Rozière balloon near Wimereux, France, on June 15, 1785, killing its inventor Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier as well as the other occupant, Pierre Romain. The first involving a powered aircraft was the crash of a Wright Model A aircraft at Fort Myer, Virginia, USA, on September 17, 1908, injuring its co-inventor and pilot, Orville Wright, and killing the passenger, Signal Corps Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge.
583: The Tenerife airport disaster, which occurred on March 27, 1977, remains the accident with the highest number of airliner passenger fatalities. 583 people died when a KLM Boeing 747 attempted to take off without clearance, and collided with a taxiing Pan Am 747 at Los Rodeos Airport on the Canary Island of Tenerife, Spain. There were no survivors from the KLM aircraft; 61 of the 396 passengers and crew on the Pan Am aircraft survived. Pilot error was the primary cause as the KLM captain began his takeoff run although he did not have ATC clearance. Another cause was dense fog. The KLM flight crew could not see the Pan Am aircraft on the runway until immediately prior to the collision. The accident had a lasting influence on the industry, particularly in the area of communication. An increased emphasis was placed on using standardized phraseology in air traffic control (ATC) communication by both controllers and pilots alike. Furthermore, all members of the cabin crew are now able to question the captains judgement concerning the safety of the airliner.
JAL Flight 123
520: The crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 on August 12, 1985, is the single-aircraft disaster with the highest number of fatalities: 520 people died on board a Boeing 747. The aircraft suffered an explosive decompression from an incorrectly repaired aft pressure bulkhead, which failed in mid flight, destroying most of its vertical stabilizer and severing all of the hydraulic lines, making the 747 virtually uncontrollable. Pilots were able to keep the plane flying for 32 minutes after the mechanical failure before crashing into a mountain. All 15 crew members and 505 of the 509 passengers on board died. The death toll was exacerbated by delays in the rescue operation. Although a number of people survived, by the time the Japanese rescue teams arrived at the crash site all but four had succumbed to their injuries.
1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision
349: On November 12, 1996, the worlds deadliest mid-air collision was the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision involving Saudia Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 over Haryana, India. The collision was mainly the result of the Kazakh pilot flying lower than the assigned clearance altitude. All 349 passengers and crew on board both aircraft died. The Ramesh Chandra Lahoti Commission, empowered to study the causes, recommended the creation of air corridors to prevent aircraft from flying in opposite directions at the same altitude. The Civil Aviation Authorities in India made it mandatory for all aircraft flying in and out of India to be equipped with a Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), setting a worldwide precedent for mandatory use of TCAS.
Controlled Impact Demonstration by NASA and the FAA.
Main article: Aviation safety
In over one hundred years of implementation, aviation safety has improved considerably. In modern times, two major manufacturers still produce heavy passenger aircraft for the civilian market: Boeing in the United States of America, and the European company Airbus. Both place huge emphasis on the use of aviation safety equipment, now a billion-dollar industry in its own right; for each, safety is a major selling point—realizing that a poor safety record in the aviation industry is a threat to corporate survival. Some major safety devices now required in commercial aircraft involve: