Aviation and Plane Crash Statistics

Aviation and Plane Crash Statistics

In 2021, Texas had 98 aviation accidents involving airplanes and helicopters. While this might seem high, Texas averages over 470,000 car accidents per year. Because of rigorous training and inspections, you have a much lower chance of having an aviation accident than a car accident in Texas.

But people who fear flying are justified. The 98 aviation accidents in Texas in 2021 killed 17 people. This gives aircraft accidents a fatality rate of over 17%. By contrast, only 0.8% of Texas’s car accidents resulted in a fatality.

Here is a summary of aviation and plane crash statistics and how you can prove negligence if you ever experience a helicopter or airplane crash.

Aviation and Plane Crash Risks

Aviation and Plane Crash Risks

By almost any measure, flying is safer than driving. The overall number of aviation crashes is much smaller than the overall number of car crashes. Similarly, the overall number of aviation deaths and injuries is smaller than traffic deaths and injuries.

But many people perceive flying as more dangerous than driving for a few reasons:

Number of Passengers

A car accident involving a single vehicle may kill one to five occupants. The worst bus accident in the U.S. caused 27 deaths.

By contrast, airplanes routinely carry 120 or more passengers. The deadliest airplane crash in the U.S. happened near Chicago. The crash killed 258 passengers, 13 crew members, and two bystanders on the ground.

Most people tend to associate airplane crashes with mass casualty events. But in 2021, all 16 of Texas’s fatal accidents involved small planes with one or two fatalities. Even though commercial air accidents make splashier headlines, commercial airlines rarely experience fatal crashes. As a result, flying commercially is much safer than flying via general aviation.

Survivability of Aviation Crashes

The speeds and altitudes involved in flying make a mid-air aviation accident difficult to survive. As mentioned previously, over 17% of Texas’s aviation accidents in 2021 resulted in at least one fatality. Even a small airplane will cruise at speeds between 150 and 300 miles per hour at an altitude of around 10,000 feet.

By contrast, over half of traffic accidents cause nothing more than property damage. In many of the remaining traffic accidents, vehicle occupants suffer non-life-threatening injuries like bruises, fractured bones, strains, and sprains. As a result, fewer than 1% of car crashes cause fatalities.

Loss of Control

Many people correctly perceive air travel as highly complicated and dependent on several factors outside the flier’s control. When you fly, you depend on everyone from the pilot to the person who fueled the plane to do their jobs competently.

When you drive, you have much more control over your vehicle. At the same time, you also depend on pedestrians, cyclists, truck drivers, and other motorists to follow the rules to avoid an accident.

Why Do Aviation and Plane Crashes Happen?

The U.S. government maintains tight control over aviation in the U.S. It regulates how aviation accidents get reported and investigated. These investigations provide detailed insight into the causes of helicopter and airplane crashes in the U.S.

The most common causes of airplane crashes include:

Pilot Error

Pilot error causes about 57% of aviation crashes in the U.S. 

Examples of pilot errors include:

  • Failing to follow procedures
  • Flying without instruments in bad conditions
  • Misjudging the distance, the terrain, or the aircraft’s speed
  • Flying too low
  • Pilot disorientation
  • Descending too soon or too far from the runway
  • Excessive landing speed
  • Missed runway
  • Stalling the engine
  • Navigation errors
  • Using the wrong runway
  • Mid-air collision

Investigators have several tools to identify pilot errors, including the communication logs and the flight data recorder. The flight data recorder tracks the plane’s instrument readings and the pilot’s actions. Using this data, investigators can recreate what happened right before the crash.

Not all pilot errors amount to negligence. The standard of care for pilots allows for reasonable mistakes, even if someone gets killed or injured. But when pilots make a mistake when they knew or should have known better, the pilot and their employer may bear liability for any damages resulting from the crash.

Mechanical Failures

Mechanical failures cause about 21% of aviation crashes. Because of the severe consequences of mechanical failures, airplane maintenance and repair schedules typically replace parts before their rated failure time. This approach is supposed to ensure that mechanical failures do not happen during flight, take-off, or landing.

But mechanical failures do happen. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Defective aircraft
  • Defective replacement parts
  • Negligent repair work
  • False or delayed scheduling of maintenance

As aircraft become more complicated, greater reliance rests on computers. One of the problems addressed when countries around the world grounded the Boeing 737 Max included the flight control software that allegedly misinterpreted the plane’s angle and adjusted it automatically. This automatic adjustment sent airplanes into a dive that pilots could not override.


Weather caused about 10% of aviation accidents. The flight characteristics of an airplane can change drastically depending on wind, lightning strikes, and ice on the wings. Additionally, heavy precipitation and fog can reduce visibility and disorient pilots.


Deliberate actions by the pilot, ground crew, or passengers can cause an airplane to crash. While most people worry about hijackers, the greatest risk comes from suicidal or mentally unstable pilots.

Other Human Error

This category covers all of the other errors that can contribute to an aviation crash. The most obvious problem comes from air traffic controllers. Air traffic controllers must coordinate multiple planes on multiple flight paths at multiple altitudes. A mistake can put two planes close enough to collide.

Other errors that can cause a crash include those of baggage loaders, fuelers, ground crews, runway and airport maintenance crews, and de-icing crews.

How Do You Seek Compensation for Aviation and Plane Crashes?

You can seek compensation for injuries or deaths that result from negligence. Negligence means that someone failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Whether your accident resulted from incompetently-performed repairs or an avoidable pilot error, you may have a case for compensation for injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one.

To discuss the claims you might have from your aviation or plane crash, contact an experienced Houston aviation accident lawyer for a free consultation.