Plane crashes that shaped how we fly today


As Aloha Flight 243, a 19-year-old Boeing 737 on a trip from Hilo, Hawaii, to Honolulu, leveled off at 24,000 ft., a large section of its fuselage blew off, leaving dozens of passengers riding in the open-air breeze.

Even though flying seems so as-a-matter-of-fact these days, it was a different flying pattern almost 30 years ago.

As outlined by Popular Mechanics and Gerry Wingenbach of, he researched a number of terrifying plane crashes that completely altered how we view safety, flight procedures, landing practices and rescue efforts in the 21st century.

Back in 1956, a Trans World Airlines (TWA) jet and a United Airlines flight collided in mid-air over the Grand Canyon. The accident led to a major revamping of the nation’s air traffic control system and two years later the FAA was formed.

In 1978, a United DC-8 circled Portland while they tried to solve a landing gear problem. The aircraft ran out of fuel and went down. The accident changed cockpit training procedures and emphasized teamwork and communication, moving away from the traditional “the captain is god” hierarchy.

In 1983, an Air Canada flight bound for Toronto from Dallas developed a fire in the lavatory. In the midst of heavy smoke, the pilot made an emergency landing in Cincinnati but then a flash fire resulted in 23 deaths. As a result, smoke detectors and automatic fire extinguishers were mandated in aircraft lavatories.

In 1985, a Delta flight coming into Dallas encountered violent weather and wind shear that brought it down short of the runway. A seven-year research effort by NASA and the FAA resulted in “on-board forward-looking radar wind-shear detectors.”

In 1986, air traffic control didn’t really factor in small private aircraft. Then a Piper aircraft drifted into LAX airspace and collided with an Aeromexico DC-9. After that, the FAA required all private aircraft to use electronic devices broadcasting position and altitude to controllers. Commercial jets added collision-avoidance systems.

A plane that blew up in midair for no apparent reason. The explosion of TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 that had just taken off from JFK bound for Paris, killed all 230 people aboard and stirred great controversy.

In 1988, a section of the fuselage blew off an Aloha Airlines flight during a short flight from Hilo to Honolulu. The accident led the FAA to increase inspection and maintenance of “high-use and high-cycle aircraft.”

In 1994, a valve in the rudder-control system of a Boeing 737 jammed on approach to Pittsburgh and brought down the aircraft. Boeing then retrofitted about 2,800 737 aircraft and Congress passed the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act, which transferred survivor services to the NTSB.

In 1996, a ValuJet crashed in the Everglades after a fire resulted from chemical oxygen generators in the cargo. The FAA then demanded smoke detectors and automatic fire extinguishers in the cargo holds of all commercial airliners and rewrote the rules regulating hazardous cargo.

Also in 1996, a Boeing 747 bound for Paris took off from New York and then exploded mid-air. A lengthy investigation concluded that fumes in a fuel tank led to an explosion. The FAA mandated changes to improve wiring and diminish the chance of electrical sparks.

In 1998, pilots of a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 smelled smoke in the cockpit and crashed into the Atlantic off the east coast of Canada. Investigators believe the fire spread along “ flammable Mylar fuselage insulation” and the FAA ordered fire-resistant materials in about 700 McDonnell Douglas aircraft.

On Aug. 31, 1986, undetected by ground controllers, the four-seated Piper blundered into the path of an Aeromexico DC-9 approaching to land at LAX, knocking off the DC-9’s left horizontal stabilizer. Both planes plummeted into a residential neighborhood 20 miles east of the airport, killing 82 people.

About Author

Tracee Tuesday

Tracee Tuesday is a travel writer, radio and television personality.Her mission is to inspire, inform and equip you with information necessary to experience the most amazing trips that are fun, affordable and culturally broadening.In her pastime, Tracee enjoys: white water rafting, astrobiology, zoology, traveling, music, horseback riding, and is an all-out foodie.