How Common Are Plane Crashes: Flight Crash Data [2023]

Aug, 11, 2023

Flying is a modern marvel, and there are now hundreds of commercial airlines around the world. But with thousands of commercial flights zooming through the sky every day, there is always a risk that a plane crash could occur. This post will dive into the question “how common are plane crashes?”, referencing recent statistics about aviation accidents in the United States and around the world.

Note that this post references third-party data that was sourced directly from reputable agencies and cited appropriately. There is always a chance of a plane crashing, despite the very low probability. This post also contains affiliate links that may earn a commission on purchases made at no additional cost to you.

​Airplanes Have Made Traveling Easy

Thanks to the invention of the airplane, the world has become more connected than ever. A trip that used to take weeks by sea can now be completed in just hours. The airplane has ensured that no two points on the planet are more than 24 hours apart from one another. 

We have flown on some of the longest flights in the world. We flew from New York to Hong Kong, which was a direct flight that took 16 hours. We’ve also flown from Los Angeles to Sydney, which is about the same.

In all of our travels, there are few things we’ve become more grateful for than the airplane. The invention of the airplane is what allows us to use a week of vacation time to see an entirely different part of the world. This journey would have taken months in the past, meaning that a trip from the United States to Europe or Asia would be nearly impossible for most people.

We Always Find Flights Through Kayak

Not only is traveling easier than ever thanks to the airplane – It’s also very affordable. While plenty of people lament the rising costs of flights, there’s no denying that airfare is actually affordable when you know where to look.

In our travels to over 50 countries, we always use to find flights. Kayak compares prices from every airline and considers every flight route option to your destination. You can even click a box that automatically includes nearby airports that may offer a cheaper flight, like Baltimore if you are flying out of DC or Newark if you are flying out of New York.

​Fear of Airplanes Is Very Common

While the dawn of air travel has brought countless benefits, it’s also spurred fear. Stories of large commercial airplane crashes are hard to dismiss. A large number of people swear to never board an airplane because of the chance that it could end in a fatal crash.

Between bad weather, pilot error, and even terrorist activity, there are plenty of things that could, in theory, cause a plane to crash. It is very easy to point to examples of fatal accidents to support the fear of flying and the risk of death.

While there is rationality behind every fear, flying is not nearly as dangerous as it may seem. Plane accidents are incredibly rare, especially ones that involve commercial aircraft. In fact, the chances of dying on a commercial flight are thousands of times smaller than the chances of dying in a car crash.

black Ford car beaten up after a bad accident

Cars Are More Dangerous than Airplanes

Many of those who are afraid to fly will happily get in a car and drive along the highway. However, according to research done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this is more dangerous. The NHTSA estimates1 that 42,795 Americans died in car accidents in 2022* 

According to International Air Transport Association (IATA) data2 , only one fatal plane crash occurred in the United States in 2022, killing ten people. This means that in 2022, about 4,280 people died in a motor vehicle crash for every one person that died in a commercial plane crash.

Summary of Recent Commercial Airplane Crash Data

The below statistics are sourced from the IATA’s 2022 Airline Safety Performance Release. It is important to note that these plane crashes do not include private planes, which are much more likely to crash. Small planes operated by individuals crash significantly more than commercial planes, but these crashes are irrelevant to the fear of flying that most people have.

The Chance of Dying in a Commercial Plane Crash Is Almost 0%

Per the same IATA release, there was about a one in ten million chance of dying in a commercial plane crash around the world in 2022. Represented as a decimal, that number looks like this: 0.00001%. While it is not actually zero, it is incredibly low.

There were 39 total plane crashes in 2022 and 158 fatalities. Around the world, one in every 830,000 flights crashed.

The number of accidents is also decreasing when you consider a five-year average. The lower the number of air crashes, the lower the number of fatalities.

Where You Fly Plays a Major Role in Likelihood of a Crash

The IATA release detailed the likelihood of a crash happening in different parts of the world. As a takeaway, North America, Europe, the Asia Pacific and Australia, and North Africa and the Middle East were incredibly safe, while Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the CIS (area covering part of the former Soviet Union) and Northern Asia were more dangerous, depending on the type of crash being examined. 

Per the data, 0.00 of every one million departures in North America, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific and Australia region ended in a crash last year.

red and white southwest airplane on airport during daytime

How Many Plane Crashes Are There Per Day in the United States?

Per data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics3 , there were almost 1,200 plane crashes in the United States in 2021, which is the most recent year available. This would mean that roughly 3-3.5 planes crash per day in the United States.

However, this data represent all general aviation accidents in the USA, which includes private aircraft. Private airplanes are more likely to crash, as most private pilots don’t have nearly the same number of flight hours as most commercial pilots. The fatal accident rate for small aircraft is also much higher because there is less protection compared to larger planes.

Per the data, there was only one fatal plane crash in North America in 2022, killing ten people. Per the IATA release, there were 7 total commercial plane accidents in North America in 2022, meaning one crash roughly every 52 days.

The American Federal Government Has Strict Safety Standards for Commercial Airlines

The federal government plays an active role in keeping the skies safe. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the United States’ official governing body for all air traffic. This includes all airplanes, including major airlines, cargo planes, and private general aviation aircraft.

Per the FAA’s website, there are 45,000 flights in the United States each day, including 5,400 at a time during peak hours. There are 520 air traffic control towers staffed with air traffic controllers actively monitoring every commercial air carrier and smaller aircraft in US air space. Air traffic controllers are aviation experts trained to help airplanes in the event of an aircraft accident.

How Likely Are You to Die in a Plane Crash?

If you are unlucky enough to actually be in a commercial plane crash, there is still a very small chance that you will die. According to an old study by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)4 , 95% of passengers, flight attendants, and crew members survived commercial plane crashes. Further, the chances of survival were 55% in commercial plane crashes that would be considered more severe. 

This data shows that even in the highly unlikely event of being in a commercial plane crash, you’re more likely to survive than you are to die. It’s important to recognize that the majority of news reporting about the aviation industry is negative. But the truth is that flying is very safe compared to other travel methods.

Study after study shows that flying is actually the safest form of mass transportation.

red and white cessna airplane on gray concrete ground during daytime

Most Common Causes of Plane Crashes

If you brainstorm, you’d probably think of inclement weather conditions, strong winds, pilot errors, and mechanical failures as the most likely causes of plane crashes. Generally, these categories are correct! However, some are much more common causes than others.

The #1 Cause of Plane Crashes

According to the Pilot Institute, about half of crashes are a result of human error. While commercial aviation pilots are trained extensively, flight hour requirements vary greatly from airline to airline. Pilot training is even less intense for recreational pilots.

Even if they are trained properly, pilots are human. Humans make mistakes! From fuel mismanagement to bad landing angles, there are plenty of bad things that can happen if a pilot fails to pay close attention for just a few minutes.

Other Common Causes of Plane Crashes

Per the same source, about 20% of plane crashes are a result of mechanical problems. Airplanes are one of the greatest inventions of modern times, but they are not fully immune to error. No aircraft manufacturer can be expected to create an uncrashable plane. Just like no car manufacturer has created an uncrashable car!

Beyond human error and mechanical failure, the most likely cause of plane crashes is the loss of control of the airplane due to inclement weather conditions. This could include strong winds, turbulence, fog, rain, and snow.

Don’t Let Fear of Flying Limit Your Adventures

At the end of the day, flying on a commercial flight is one of the safest ways you can get around. The world is filled with incredible places to see, and you owe it to yourself to seek out those adventures.

Whether you want to see the Eiffel Tower or walk along the Great Wall of China, you’re bound to have a great time once you get past your fear of flying. And if you remember to shop for your flights on Kayak, you’ll have a lot of money left over, too!

Thanks for reading my post answering the question “how common are plane crashes?”. Hopefully, this post answered any questions you have about the chance of being caught in a plane crash. If you have any questions or thoughts, drop a comment below.


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Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.

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Meet The Author - Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.