Most Common Causes of Aviation Accidents

Air travel is one of the most popular methods of transportation in the world, particularly for passengers traveling long distances. While many people have a fear of flying, air travel is actually a safer means of transportation than traveling by car. Unfortunately, while the odds of being involved in an aviation accident are extremely low, the injuries and number of fatalities resulting from such accidents tend to be far greater than other means of transportation.

Common Causes of Aviation Accidents

  1. Pilot Error – Pilot error is the most common cause of aviation accidents. While airline manufacturers can use technology to engineer as many risks as possible out of flying, it ultimately comes down to the pilot flying the aircraft to execute a safe takeoff and landing, respond to mechanical problems, and navigate the aircraft through inclement weather. In addition to those responsibilities, a pilot must also maintain proper fuels levels, utilize the plane's de-icing system, follow instruction from air traffic control, maintain proper speed and altitude during the flight, and perform a host of other tasks. Even a slight error or delay in handling any one of these tasks correctly could result in a disaster.
  2. Mechanical Error – Mechanical errors are the second leading cause of aviation accidents, accounting for 22% of all crashes. Mechanical errors could occur because of a flaw inherent in the aircraft's design or because a mechanical part was not properly installed or maintained. Outside forces such as birds flying into plane engines have also been known to cause mechanical failures.
  3. Inclement Weather – Inclement weather is the cause of 12% of aviation accidents. While pilots and airlines monitor weather conditions and avoid rough patches of weather or refrain from flying in extreme weather conditions, weather can often be unpredictable. Lightning strikes are a particularly dangerous hazard for airplanes, as they can cause electrical failures or ignite fuel tanks and pipes. Other weather conditions that can cause aviation accidents are strong winds, heavy storms, and thick fog that limit a pilot's line of sight during takeoff or landing.
  4. Air Traffic Controller Error – Air traffic controllers have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. They are responsible for controlling the flow of all air traffic and ensuring that aircraft maintain proper distance from each other and take off and land safely. They are often dealing with dozens of aircraft at once, all while making countless split-second decisions regarding variables such as equipment, configuration, weather, and traffic levels. Any misstep or failure to follow proper air traffic control procedures can lead to a fatal plane crash.

Determining the Cause of an Aviation Accident

The causes listed above are some of the most common ones, but they are far from the only factors that can contribute to an aviation accident. Given the complexities of air travel and the number of factors that can influence any particular flight, determining the cause of an aviation accident can be challenging. Generally, there is not a single cause for an accident, but a combination of several factors. That is why it is important to have an experienced personal injury law firm on your side if you or a loved has been injured or killed in an aviation crash. An experienced firm will hire aviation experts (many of whom are former pilots) to reconstruct the scene of the accident and conduct an investigation into the pilot and mechanics of the plane to determine what caused the accident. Our firm works with some of the top aviation experts in the world to make sure no stone goes unturned.

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