Why do Airplanes crash? Can it be avoided?

Why does a flight end up in a catastrophe sometimes? What can possibly go so wrong?

Over the last 50 plus years we have seen many aircraft accidents occur in this world for a variety of reasons. Often it is a chain of several things that come together to create that final catastrophic moment so it is never an easy task for investigators to simply point to a single cause of accident. Sometimes, it is very obvious and the reason for a plane crash can be quite quickly blamed onto a certain element, however most of the times, an investigation will require carefully studying the black boxes (Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder) to analyse further and deeper to the cause. As travellers, we are fearful about air crashes as most of the time the chances of survival in one are close to zero!

An aircraft can come down for many reasons. These could be a single or combination of things like: sabotage, weather, human error, mechanical problems, ATC, engineering, training, culture, suicide, etc.


Decades ago, aircraft technology was not as advanced as it is today and so mechanical faults played a larger role in many aircraft accidents. Today we have the opposite shift as we see technology improve constantly. A study done some years ago by NASA concluded that almost 70% of air accidents were directly or indirectly caused by human error. As humans, we are going to be vulnerable to the very rapidly changing technology and the use of complex computerised machines. Many of the possible causes of accidents above can be no doubt avoided if the correct human action or procedure is carried out. Flying intentionally into bad weather, operating when unfit or medically not advised, carrying out tasks in a haste to simply meet deadlines or ATC slots, lack of training or a dangerous company culture, work complacency, negative training methods, lack of CRM as a whole, etc. can all contribute to things going wrong and an accident becoming inevitable.


As Pilots, we have a number of non technical skills that play a crucial and important role in our everyday flight operations. These include things like, team-work & leadership, communication, threat & error management, CRM, etc. If we apply such skills in moments that really require them at optimum, then we can find solutions and answers to possible problems ahead of the flight or aircraft. Flying an approach when weather is marginal or close t