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Top 10 Most Devastating Plane Crash Videos

Last updated Thu, 02 Aug 2018 18:19:51 GMT
Originally posted on Tue, 17 Jul 2012 05:59:59 GMT

There have been a number of devastating airline disasters and crashes caught on video over the years. One day we sifted and sorted, viewed and reviewed tons of hair-raising, harrowing airplane crash video footage. Warning--don't watch any of this before you go on your next flight!

All heeding aside, here are the 10 most devastating plane crash videos we selected:

1. Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center

An aircraft engine rotor at the Pentagon crash.

One of the aircraft engine rotors at the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks.

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 is the most devastating plane crash video of all time. The final death toll, including airline passengers, crew, terrorists, and people on the ground numbered almost 3000.

American Airlines Flight 11 was a Boeing 767-223ER flying from Boston’s Logan international to Los Angeles. It crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 AM. United Airlines Flight 175 was a Boeing 767–222 flying from Logan international to Los Angeles International in California. It crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 AM.

At first, the impact of Flight 11 appeared to be an accident. However, when Flight 175 was seen live on TV impacting the South Tower, it confirmed that the crashes were being done deliberately by then unknown enemies. The jaw-dropping video from several angles by different people remains as shocking today as that fateful morning years ago.

The effects of what September 11th brought on the world are still being felt today. it’s one of the most infamous aircraft crashes in recent history and has brought the world to a period of immense struggle and war between the East and the West. Western societies believe that this was a the work of the Al-Qaeda, whilst the East blame the West for engineering a war that allows them to harvest the East of their resources.

Conspiracy theories aside, there is only one thing to say – the two aircraft definitely hit those towers and caused untold devastation around them. The World Trade Center still stands as a monument to the thousands of lives that were lost.

The wars and conflicts that have ensued since the crash are some of the most poignant in history, and point to a new chapter in the way that the world is working. It was the genesis for a fractured East/West divide that looks like it’s no closer to finishing up than it ever was – in fact, with the rising force of militant groups like ISIS it’s probably fair to say that everything leads back to the events of the 11th of September.

2. “Pierced Heart” Routine Spills Blood of Hundreds Of Spectators

Chaos and pandemonium swept through the crowd during the Flugtag ‘88 air show in Ramstein, West Germany in 1988 when the Italian Air Force’s “Pierced Heart” routine ended in a midair collision. One of the aircraft crashed onto the runway and tumbled into the spectators in a giant fireball of aviation fuel.

The result was the second deadliest air show accident in history. Three of the pilots died along with 67 spectators. Over 340 spectators suffered serious burns and other major injuries. Things proceeded to get worse as the rescue efforts were hampered by differences in medical equipment between German and American medical teams, an initial lack of recognition of the seriousness of the crash by authorities, and a lack of planning for major disasters.

Because of the variety of recordings that were able to capture the brutal scenes that took place during the event, the actual reasons for the cash have been investigated more than you could possibly imagine. It’s was found that the aircraft that “pierced” was coming in too fast and too low when the other two groups, making up the rest of the heart, were going at differing speeds. The pilot of the Pony 10, the main perpetrator in the accident, was unable to get out of the way and this was the main cause of the crash occurring.

The event takes on more significance when the talks of foul play started to emerge – there were suggestions that sabotage could have been a part of the problem. This is because it was noticed that one of the aircraft brought down their landing gears just before collision, perhaps in an attempt to slow themselves down.

However, the wreckages that were left behind make this all but impossible to confirm – it goes down as one of the most harrowing days in flight show history, as many good people and pilots lost their lives for a reason which – in 2015 – we don’t know. 

3. Hijacked Ethiopian Airliner Crashes Into Ocean

On November 23, 1996 three Ethiopian hijackers seeking political asylum hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight 961. It was scheduled to travel from Addis Ababa to Nairobi and then on to Bombay. The hijackers wanted the pilot to fly them to Australia. The Boeing 767-200ER ran out of fuel and the pilot attempted a water landing near Grande Comore, Comoros Islands, in the Indian Ocean near Mozambique.

Traveling at over 200 miles per hour as it hit the water, the plane's left wing made contact first. The jet engine acted as a big scoop, jerking the entire aircraft to the left and breaking it apart. Of the 175 passengers and crew, 125 died along with the three hijackers.  Many of the passengers died because they inflated their life jackets before they were able to extricate themselves from the cabin, pinning them against the ceiling as water flooded the plane.

As far as harrowing goes, there are few flight crashes that carry the same emotional significance and pain as this event. It was stated only four people made it out of the crash without any injuries, whilst everyone else already had suffered. This served as the most harrowing flight accident to take place until the 9/11 bombings, and at the time brought forth incredible media coverage from all across the world.

The investigation was eventually handed over to the ECAA and AAIB, who fund that the crash had been the source of a series of horrible incidents that all took place at once. The abduction of the plane, the way it landed in the water and the fact that nobody had their life jackets properly prepared are all a series of events that lead to the death of many people.

People from more than 36 nations were on the flight, with 19 Nigerians perishing in the flight – the highest number of foreigners to have died on the flight, albeit 4 survived.

This was one of the most harrowing stories of its time, and provides everyone who needs it a dark backdrop to remember just how important flight safety is. 

4. Russian MiG-29's Collide During Royal International Air Show

Two MiG-29s collided in mid-air during the 1993 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) air show at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. The cockpit was cut completely off the first plane. Both pilots, representing the Russian Air Force, were able to eject and land safely. 

Miraculously, they escaped with minor injuries. An investigation found that pilot error was at fault. As one pilot performed a reverse loop into a cloud bank, his comrade lost sight of him and decided to end his participation in the demonstration. Shortly after that, they collided.

Whilst this incident is quite positive in that nobody died, it’s still one of the most devastating crashes ever to happen because of the close margins that were involved. It was speculated that whilst the pilots adhered to safety protocol and both made it out with just minor injuries there was definite blame on the part of the pilot. The majority of the time, with incidents like this, the blame is attached to the aircraft rather than the pilot.

Another reason this was so big at the time was because flight show incidents were very rare until this point – usually, they passed without a hitch. This was one of the first times that people had seen such modern aircraft and pilot make an error that could have cost many lives.

It’s a useful barometer for how dangerous flying can be without ever actually taking anyone’s lives – despite the face there was no injuries, it showed just how important it was that pilots were able to retain their concentration when up in the sky and deliver the right kind of performance on the day, otherwise accidents can happen that put many people in the face of danger! 

5. Boeing B-52 Crashes at Fairchild Air Force Base

A perfect storm of pilot overconfidence, restricted air space and a “turning flight stall” led to the crash of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress at a demonstration air show at Fairchild Air Force Base in the state of Washington on June 24, 1994. The pilot, “Bud” Holland, was known for taking risks, often breaking standard flight safety rules and procedures.

On that day he was attempting a low-speed 90° turn. The aircraft tipped pass 90°, descended quickly, snapped a grid of power lines, and exploded on the ground. All four crew members died. One crew member attempted to eject but was only partially able to complete the maneuver.

This is arguably the most poignant story in aviation history about the folly and stupidity of breaking any kind of flight protocol set for you. If an officer sets the right kind of flying standards that you should be following – it probably does nobody any favors if you break these protocols and start flying at your own style and pace. Despite being captured on video by literally everyone, the video rarely is shown anymore due to just how brutal the scenes are.

 The investigations found that a lack of reaction from senior leaders had been partially responsible, as Holland should never have been in the cockpit of a plan. Today, the crash has become a go-to case study for many teaching resources within the aviation industry – mainly as things that you shouldn’t do. It’s used by the US Air Force as well as an example of why breaking the rules and flying like a movie star will get you killed.

6. F-16 Thunderbird Crash At Mountain Home Airbase

Eject! Only a second before he smashed into the earth in a tumble of fire and molten steel, Air Force Captain Christopher Stricklin ejected from his F-16 Falcon during the Sept. 14, 2003 USAF Thunderbirds show at Mountain Home Air Force base in southwestern Idaho. 

Stricklin was attempting to perform a difficult maneuver called a Reverse Half Cuban Eight. He climbed, rolled, and started to loop when he realized his calculations were off. He angled his aircraft away from the crowd of 60,000 and ejected. He was travelling at over 260 miles per hour and was only 140 feet off the ground when the ejection system released the canopy and his seat shot up. As it hit the airflow, it tore away from the crashing jet, saving his life.

It’s been proven that flight shows can be very dangerous to both the people and the pilots, and its therefore very important that directions are followed to ensure that everyone can stay as safe as they possibly can – this airshow is one of the reasons why these directions exist in the first place. Having tried an advanced maneuver, the chances of crashing were always higher, but it still was far too close to call – the pilot only escaped with is life by a matter of seconds.

This should stand as one of the main stories that is used to put off aspiring pilots from not paying attention. As a performer, it’s vital that a pilot can keep control of their aircraft and ensure that they are able to land it properly time and time again. In the case of Stricklin, it might be the case that he was put forward to take on the show ahead of time. Whatever the reasons were, it’s fairly obvious that taking on such an incredible series of events is something that should only be done with the utmost raining and confidence in your ability to actually land the trick in the end!

7. Commuter Plane Crashes During High Performance Landing

Flight demonstrations are often used by manufacturers to give potential buyers a good idea of the capabilities of an aircraft. As a result, many of the maneuvers push aircraft up to and possibly beyond their limits.

The pilot of this commuter aircraft was apparently pushing the envelope too hard when he attempted a high performance landing that did not work out so well. The aircraft comes in hard, smashes into the ground, and skips along its belly as fire erupts and the wings break off completely.

It’s been proven that flight shows can be very dangerous to both the people and the pilots, and its therefore very important that directions are followed to ensure that everyone can stay as safe as they possibly can – this airshow is one of the reasons why these directions exist in the first place. Having tried an advanced maneuver, the chances of crashing were always higher, but it still was far too close to call – the pilot only escaped with is life by a matter of seconds.

This should stand as one of the main stories that is used to put off aspiring pilots from not paying attention. As a performer, it’s vital that a pilot can keep control of their aircraft and ensure that they are able to land it properly time and time again. In the case of Stricklin, it might be the case that he was put forward to take on the show ahead of time. Whatever the reasons were, it’s fairly obvious that taking on such an incredible series of events is something that should only be done with the utmost raining and confidence in your ability to actually land the trick in the end!

8. Pilot Ejects From F-16 Fighting Falcon At 23,000 Feet

On a routine training mission at Kunsan Air Base in the Republic of Korea in 1982, Captain Jack Hower’s F-16A Fighting Falcon suddenly collided with a Marine Corp F-4 Phantom II. The wing of the Phantom sliced down the middle of the belly of the F-16.

Pay attention as the contact happens within the first few seconds of the video. At the speeds they travel, it's amazing they didn't smash into a million small pieces instantaneously. You can hear the pilot call, "Mayday, mayday!” and "I'm on fire! I'm on fire!"

Immediately the F-16 caught fire and Capt. Hower began the ejection procedure. He launched out of aircraft strapped to his seat at approx. 23,000 feet. He fell face down for 9,000 feet and separated from the chair, parachuting the rest of the way down, landing safely on a strip of land.

It’s a minor miracle that anyone came out of this alive, or with anything left to actually talk about! The sheer monstrosity of the crash mixed with the tiny events that saved their lives if absolutely insane. The small little things that happened to ensure they never both died – the slice, the speeds and the way that he escapes from the chair could all probably be put down as miraculous without too much argument from other people.

It’s one of the most stunning videos ever show that can give you a genuine idea of just how dangerous aviation can be when you are flying at such speeds.

This aircraft video is one that barely even got mentioned elsewhere – it’s just so common to see aircraft crashes that people barely even pay attention at times. This video, though, shows you just how close people can come to being finished simply by a millisecond of control being lost over the aircraft. 

9. Airbus A320 Crashes into Forest at Mulhouse-Habshiem

Crashing and killing three of the 130 passengers is not the way to demonstrate a new plane. That’s exactly what happened on June 26, 1988 when a brand new Airbus 320 was performing a low-speed fly-over for an air show at Mulhouse-Habsheim Airport near Habshiem, France.

The Airbus was supposed to come in at 100 feet above ground level but descended to 30 feet before crashing into trees at the end of the runway, causing a fireball. As passengers struggled to exit the plane, a young girl was trapped in her seat. A woman trying to help her was unsuccessful and both died from smoke inhalation. Another child, a boy, died when he was hit by part of the wreckage.

It took Airbus many years to recover from this travesty, as it helped many of their competitors and critics find the perfect tool to beat the company with. Official investigations by the BEA made sure that the aircraft was investigated thoroughly, and it was fond that there was some serious issues with the flight itself. For example, the actual flight was far too close to the ground and the flight was going too slow to be able to actively move out of the way. Additionally, it was expected that the pilots had lost track of their bearings in the sky and had since stopped reading their flight information  - thus, they would have believed they were much higher in the sky than they actually were. It was also found that the crew were negligent in their duties, having failed to follow typical French aviation protocols throughout the flight.

The captain, the first officer and two Air France officials were all charged with involuntary manslaughter, and all five were found guilty receiving a mix of probation and imprisonment. It was also claimed at one point that it might have been a sabotage job and that someone from the inside had crated this issue – this was debunked by Air France, however, when they released an analytical series of reasons why this simply was not the case.

A drama of the incident was made in 2010, and was sown across various parts of the world – you can find out more information about the event here

10. TNT Airways Boeing 737 Lands Without Landing Gear

A Belgian-owned TNT Airways Boeing 737–300 freighter attempted to land at Nottingham unsuccessfully. Originally scheduled to land at London Stansted, it was diverted to Nottingham due to poor weather.

As they prepared to land at Nottingham, the captain accidentally turned off the autopilot's while trying to answer air-traffic control communication. As they descended, the aircraft made contact with the grass near the runway, tearing off the right main landing gear, and damaging the right inboard flaps and hydraulic system. Amazingly, they were able to get airborne again. They declared an emergency and were sent to Birmingham where better weather welcomed them.

After a skidding, scraping landing in Birmingham, the plane settled onto its starboard engine due to the absence of any landing gear on the right side. There were two crewmembers on board and neither of them was injured.

It’s insane to think that these pilots actually survived this – they were put under incredible pressure by the weather and actually managed to get back into the skies after a damaging hit on the wings that should have effectively finished off the plane. Thankfully they avoided this and created one of the few air disasters in flight history that has actually gone on to be a positive, as people were able to escape with their lives.

Once the aircraft had landed in Birmingham, the staff were evacuated from the plane and it has since gone on to be one of the great stories of flight adversity. It’s a miracle that nobody died, for sure, and gives plenty of pilot’s inspiration about how to deal with degrading circumstances at any point in an event. Instead of being hit with the usual problems that can make flying easy, this aircraft had to deal with immense pressure and damage – and still survived. 

As devastating as these videos are, some good did come about in the end. Each disaster resulted in improved safety procedures for pilots, crew, passengers, ground rescue crews and emergency personnel. 

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Ian Stephens

About Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens is a flight simulation enthusiast also with a keen interest in aviation and technology.  Ian spends a lot of his time experimenting with various simulator packages but has a love for Microsoft Flight Simulator X because of the huge selection of add-ons available.  However, Ian also has copies of Prepar3D and X-Plane installed. 

Ian has been writing for Fly Away Simulation for over 9 years.  Should you wish, you can contact Ian via email at ian.stephens@flyawaysimulation.com.

20 comments

Leave a Response
Stuart MillerTue, 17 Jul 2012 15:28:09 GMT

Nice list Ian. I don't mean to be a pedant but what is your source for the photo of the "9/11 engine"? This is a picture I have never seen before and i'm struggling to see how it relates to shanksville or the pentagon!

Pro MemberIan StephensWed, 18 Jul 2012 14:56:39 GMT

Stuart,

Thank you for your comment. You're right, I mistakenly used that image as I thought it was the wreckage from the Shanksville crash, however after doing some more in-depth research I realised it was from a crash here in the UK a number of years ago.

I've updated the image to now show the controversial engine rotor found at the pentagon.

Thanks for the information!

PatrickWed, 18 Jul 2012 16:23:20 GMT

I'm surprised United Airlines Flight 232 DC-10 didn't make the list.

SteveWed, 18 Jul 2012 18:01:31 GMT

Interesting videos. Looks to me like an F-15 hit Captain Hower's F-16 though...

DiegoWed, 18 Jul 2012 18:16:21 GMT

It's an incredible compilation... However, as a tip, next time use Youtube to embed the videos, you can't go wrong with that.. Videos streamed awfully slow with the host you chose..

MarcoWed, 18 Jul 2012 18:57:45 GMT

As Diego said, the choice of video player was very frustrating. Stopped and skipped every 4 seconds. Youtube or Vimeo are a much better option.

Other than that, awesome compilation.

MIKE OLIVEWed, 18 Jul 2012 18:58:27 GMT

Amazing footage Ian. I was at the 1993 Fairford display and I was amazed to see parachutes, after the two Mig 29's collided.

Having worked on ejector seat design, I wrote to congatulate the two Russian Pilots. I received a reply from them with lovely Russian stamps on the envelope. The 380 display at Farnborough last Friday was mind blowing. Enjoyed seeing the Osprey.

Tyler BuckleyWed, 18 Jul 2012 22:01:57 GMT

I noticed that the picture from the Pentagon is supposed to be the wheel hub to hold the fan blades from a 757. The piece is actually the fan blade hum from E-A-66 B model Sky warrior made by McDonnell Douglas - that hub is too small to be from a Boeing 757 notice the size of that piece and plus the fact Boeing already said it did not come from a Boeing aircraft.

skepticWed, 18 Jul 2012 22:02:59 GMT

How was an engine rotor found at the Pentagon when clearly a missile penetrated the building. What a coincidence that "whatever" ah hum, hit the Pentagon, it took out the computers that held the answers to where trillions of dollars were that the Pentagon was being or was about to be investigated for.

Do these people in Washington actually think We The People are stupid? We Are Not!

Jay D LevineWed, 18 Jul 2012 22:45:55 GMT

I was there front and center at Flugtag in Ramstien Airforce Base, Germany. It was a hell of a day; I had nightmares for 6 months after that; I was then SGT Levine 5-3 ADA, 8th Inf Div, McCully Barracks Mainz Wackernheim.

Pro MemberpelicanbeakWed, 18 Jul 2012 23:54:58 GMT

Steve's correct, that was an F-15.

Edward MugwanyaThu, 19 Jul 2012 06:40:31 GMT

Amazing footage, thanks Ian.

Martyn ColesThu, 19 Jul 2012 10:13:30 GMT

No 7 in your list, just to be pedantic, was a De Havilland Buffalo, not a commuter aircraft, as you suggest.

MJThu, 19 Jul 2012 19:15:58 GMT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIkv3outg7U

sb004Mon, 23 Jul 2012 04:42:22 GMT

And in regards to the Rammstein crash, the medevac helicopter itself was destroyed by debris, and its pilot killed. We could also include (even though there is no direct footage of it), the 1977 Tenerife Disaster between KLM 4805 and Pan Am 1736...

JavierMon, 30 Jul 2012 21:17:41 GMT

Don't forget the Tenerife KLM / Panam crash named "The crash of the century"

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xa18wu_crash-of-the-century-flight-klm-480_shortfilms

Brian MTue, 31 Jul 2012 10:07:01 GMT

With regards to 10. TNT Airways Boeing 737 Lands Without Landing Gear

Despite the error on the first landing attempt, You have to admit when it comes to emergency landings that has to be one of the best. A remarkable bit of flying..

Terry UrbanisSun, 11 May 2014 18:03:29 GMT

Re Malay Boeing 777: I forgot to mention that a defective auto pilot had occurred on a prior 777 belonging to the Malay airline.

CPT.PriceFri, 20 Jun 2014 09:57:31 GMT

United airlines 232????

KaahThu, 02 Apr 2015 22:34:06 GMT

Hello. Didn't you forget the crash of the su 27 at Kiev in 2002 ?

Really horrible videos on it...

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