The Most Unlucky Planes In History

1. Emery Worldwide Flight 17 Loses Control

The plane took off safely before exploding

Emery Worldwide Airlines Flight 17 was a regularly scheduled domestic cargo flight, flying from Reno to Dayton with an intermediate stopover at Rancho Cordova. On February 16, 2000, the DC-8 crashed onto an automobile salvage yard shortly after taking off from Sacramento Mather Airport, resulting in the deaths of all three crew members on board. The crew reported control problems during takeoff and attempted unsuccessfully to return to Mather airport.

The aftermath of the terrifying explosion

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that during the aircraft’s rotation, a control rod to the right elevator control tab detached, causing a loss of pitch control. An incorrect maintenance procedure, which was implemented by Emery Worldwide Airlines, introduced an incorrect torque-loading on the bolts that were supposed to connect the control rod. The NTSB released its final report in 2003, three years after the accident.

2. China Air Flight 120 Runway Explosion

China Airlines flight 120 burns at Okinawa Naha Airport.

China Airlines Flight 120 was a regularly scheduled flight from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan County (now Taoyuan City), Taiwan to Naha Airport in Okinawa, Japan. On August 20, 2007, the Boeing 737-800 aircraft operating the flight caught fire and exploded after landing and taxiing to the gate area at Naha Airport. Four people—three from the aircraft and one ground crew—sustained injuries in the accident. The fire had been caused by a loose bolt puncturing a fuel tank.

3. Rogue Learjet Goes Down

Pictures of the ill-fated plane

On October 25, 1999, a chartered Learjet 35 business jet was scheduled to fly from Orlando, Florida, United States to Dallas, Texas, United States. Early in the flight, the aircraft, which was climbing to its assigned altitude on autopilot, lost cabin pressure, and all six on board were incapacitated by hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the brain and body. The aircraft continued climbing past its assigned altitude, then failed to make the westward turn toward Dallas over North Florida and continued on its northwestern course, flying over the southern and midwestern United States for almost four hours and 1,500 miles (2,400 km). The plane ran out of fuel over South Dakota and crashed into a field near Aberdeen after an uncontrolled descent.

The plane that lost control quickly plunged into the field creating a big explosion

The two pilots were Michael Kling and Stephanie Bellegarrigue. The four passengers on board were PGA golfer Payne Stewart; his agent, and former Alabama football QB, Robert Fraley; president of the agency, Van Ardan; and Bruce Borland, a golf architect with the Jack Nicklaus golf course design company.

4. NationAir Flight 2120 Catches Fire Mid-Flight

1991, Nigeria Flight 2120 suffers a catastrophic in-flight fire over Jeddah

Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 was a chartered passenger flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Sokoto, Nigeria, on 11 July 1991, which caught fire shortly after takeoff from King Abdulaziz International Airport and crashed while attempting to return for an emergency landing, killing all 247 passengers and 14 crew members on board. The aircraft was a Douglas DC-8 operated by Nationair Canada for Nigeria Airways. Flight 2120 is the deadliest accident involving a DC-8 and remains the deadliest aviation disaster involving a Canadian airline.

5. Concorde Flight 4590 Destroys A Brand

Concorde Flight 4590 Destroys A Brand

As the Concorde prepared to take off from Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris on the afternoon of July 25, 2000, nothing seemed amiss. Air France Flight 4590 was scheduled to fly to New York City at speeds of up to 1,350 miles per hour, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in just three and a half hours. In 24 years of service, the Concorde had never experienced a single fatality. That was about to change. The plane’s four Rolls-Royce engines came online with a terrific roar, and the Concorde began to hurtle down the runway. But midway through the takeoff, in an astonishing scene witnessed by dozens of people, the Concorde caught fire and was soon blasting the tarmac with a plume of flames longer than the airliner itself. Transformed into a careening fireball, the Concorde barely managed to get airborne, reaching an altitude of just 200 feet. The crew valiantly attempted to save it, but after a minute of flight, the raging fire overtook the aircraft, and it crashed into a small hotel six miles from the airport.
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