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The Most Common Causes of Aviation Accidents

There is perhaps no other type of passenger vehicle crash more frightening or devastating than an aviation accident.  Aviation accidents are more often than not catastrophic and devastating for more than just the people on the plane. And while the total number of aviation accidents has decreased since the 1980s, when they happen, the results are utterly detrimental.

What causes these crashes? Frustratingly, this is never an easy question to answer. However, it’s an important one to ask right away if you or a loved one have been involved in an aviation crash. Here are some of the most common reasons:

Pilot Error

Pilots are involved at every stage of the flight, and pilot errors can occur at any one of them. Pilot error refers to an action or decision (or failure to make a decision) on the part of the pilot that leads to the accident. Poor training, a lack of experience, fatigue, and intoxication are all factors that can contribute to pilot error. 

Mechanical Failure

Equipment failures account for about 20 percent of aviation crashes. This can be anything from engine failure to poor repairs. For example, a government investigation body deemed the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 in 1985 to be the result of “improper repairs” by Boeing Co. on the plane’s pressure bulkhead. Improvements in design and manufacturing have made planes much more reliable in this day and age. Nonetheless, equipment and/or mechanical failures still happen.


Flying becomes more dangerous in bad weather. In fact, a National Transportation Safety Board study shows that more than two-thirds of all weather-related aviation crashes have been fatal. Snow, fog, heavy rainstorms, and other natural elements can all make flying more difficult, which is a big reason planes often get delayed because of bad weather. 

Other Human Error

Pilots are not the only ones responsible for ensuring the safe arrival of the plane. Air traffic controllers, dispatchers, and maintenance engineers all play a role. 

The above examples are only a few examples of catastrophic disasters that have happened in aviation history over the decades, and they only account for some of the causes of these accidents. Sabotages, terrorist attacks, unexplained disappearances, and other events have also played a role in aviation accidents over time.

Surviving family members of aviation crash victims are often entitled to damages, but due to the traumatic nature of these accidents, the prospect of searching for an attorney and going through a claims process can feel completely overwhelming.

© 2023 by Clifford Law Offices PC. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 343

About this Author

Clifford Law Offices prides itself on tackling complex cases and seeing them through to the end. Our commitment to these difficult cases has led to many notable verdicts and settlements — many of them record-setting — in a variety of practice areas.

We have been named in the National Law Journal's Top 50 "America's Elite Trial Lawyers," the only Chicago law firm to be awarded this honor. We have also received first-tier rankings in such practice areas as medical malpractice, product liability and class action work in U.S. News & World Report...