Facts + Statistics: Aviation and drones

World Aviation Accidents

There were 25.7 million flights taken in 2021, up from 22.2 million in 2020, but still under the 5-year average of 36.6 million flights according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The global all-accident rate (measured in accidents per one million flights) decreased to 1.01, down from 1.58 in 2020 and below the 5-year (2017-2021) average of 1.23. The global all-accident rate includes substantial damage and hull loss accidents of aircraft built anywhere in the world and is the most comprehensive accident rate calculated by IATA. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired.

The deadliest world aviation accident was the collision of two Boeing 747 passenger planes on the runway of an airport in the Spanish island of Tenerife in 1977. The crash resulted in the deaths of 583 out of 644 passengers according to the Geneva-based Aircraft Crashes Record Office’s list of Worst Aviation Accidents.

United States

In the United States the National Transportation Safety Board compiles data on aviation flight hours, accidents and fatalities for commercial and general aviation, which is private transport and recreational flying.

Commercial airlines are divided into two categories according to the type of aircraft used: aircraft with 10 or more seats; and aircraft with fewer than 10 seats. Nonscheduled commercial aircraft with more than 10 seats are also called charter airlines. Commercial airlines flying aircraft with fewer than 10 seats include commuter (scheduled) airlines and on-demand air taxis. General aviation includes all U.S. noncommercial or privately owned aircraft.

In fiscal year 2020 about 463 million passengers flew on commercial airlines in the United States, down 43 percent from 813 in 2019, reflecting the significant decrease in demand stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people flying is expected to drop again, to 439 million in 2021, down 5 percent from 2020. The Federal Aviation Administration projects that about 883 million people will fly on commercial airlines in the United States in 2025, returning to pre-pandemic levels, and that 1.3 billion people will fly on commercial airlines in the United States in 2041.

Aircraft Accidents In The United States

  • There were 1,302 civil aviation accidents in 2019, down from 1,347 civil aviation accidents in 2018. However, total fatalities rose to 414 in 2019 from 379 in 2018.
  • In 2019 there was one fatality on a large scheduled commercial airline, same as in 2018. There were three fatalities on large nonscheduled airlines (charter airlines), breaking a five-year trend with no fatalities.
  • Small commuter airlines had two accidents in 2019, while there were none in 2018. There were nine fatalities in 2019 and two in 2018.
  • The number of small on-demand airline (air taxi) accidents fell to 34 in 2019, from 40 in 2018. There were 32 fatalities on air taxis in 2019, up from 16 in 2018.
  • There were 1,220 general aviation (noncommercial) accidents in 2019, down from 1,275 in 2018. 2019 accidents resulted in 414 deaths, up from 379 in 2018.

Aircraft Accidents In The United States, 2019 (1)


    Number of accidents  
  Flight hours (000) Total Fatal Number of
fatalities (2)
Total accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
Commercial airlines          
     10 or more seats          
          Scheduled 19,180,620 36 1 1 0.188
          Nonscheduled 605,927 4 1 3 0.660
     Less than 10 seats          
          Commuter 415,162 9 1 2 2.168
          On-demand 3,765,242 34 12 32 0.903
General aviation (3) 21,800,689 1,220 233 414 5.592
Total civil aviation NA 1,302 248 452 NA

(1) Preliminary data. Totals do not add because of collisions involving aircraft in different categories.
(2) Includes nonpassenger deaths.
(3) Private transport and recreational flying.

NA=Data not available.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board.

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Large Airline Accidents In The United States, 2010-2019 (1)


Year Flight hours Total
fatalities (2)
Total accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
2010 17,750,986 30 1 2 0.169
2011 17,962,965 33 0 0 0.184
2012 17,722,236 27 0 0 0.152
2013 17,779,641 22 2 9 0.124
2014 17,742,826 31 0 0 0.175
2015 17,925,780 28 0 0 0.156
2016 18,294,057 30 0 0 0.164
2017 18,581,388 33 0 0 0.178
2018 19,288,296 31 1 1 0.161
2019 (3) 19,786,547 40 2 4 0.202

(1) Scheduled and unscheduled planes with more than 10 seats.
(2) Includes nonpassenger deaths.
(3) Preliminary.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board.

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World Aviation Accidents, 2017-2021 (1)


Year Total Fatal  Fatalities  Accident rate (2)
2017 46 6 19 1.08
2018 62 11 523 1.36
2019 52 8 240 1.11
2020 35 5 132 1.58
2021 26 7 121 1.01

(1) On Eastern and Western built jet aircraft.
(2) Includes accidents for all aircraft (jets and turboprops) for substantial damage and hull loss per million sectors.

Source: International Air Transport Association (IATA).

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Top 10 Deadliest World Aviation Crashes


Rank Date Location Operator Fatalities
1 Mar. 27, 1977 Tenerife, Spain Pan Am, KLM 583
2 Aug. 12, 1985 Mt. Osutaka, Japan JAL 520
3 Mar. 3, 1974 Ermenonville, France Turkish Airlines 346
4 Jun. 23, 1985 Atlantic Ocean Air India 329
5 Nov. 12, 1996 New Delhi, India Saudi Arabian Airlines,
Kazakhstan Airlines
6 Aug. 19, 1980 Riyahd, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabian Airlines 301
7 Jul. 17, 2014 Shakhtarsk, Ukraine Malaysia Airlines 298
7 Jan. 8, 1996 Kinshasa-Ndolo, Democratic Republic
of Congo
African Air 298
8 Jul. 3, 1988 Persian Gulf, Iran Iran Air 290
9 Feb. 19, 2003 Kerman, Iran Islamic Revoluntionary
Guard Corps
10 May 25, 1979 Chicago, Illinois, U.S. American Airlines 273

Source: Copyright B3A – Ronan HUBERT – Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.

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Drones are unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are remotely controlled and include small hobbyist models and commercial and military aircraft. The number of recreational drones registered in the United States totaled 526,100 units in December 2021, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Commercial drone registrations totaled about 334,300 at the same time. Since December 2015 the FAA requires owners of hobbyist and commercial drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds to register them and mark them with a registration number. Larger drones—weighing more than 55 pounds—must register using the FAA's aircraft registry.

In December 2020, the FAA issued final rules requiring remote identification (ID) for drones and other guidance. Remote identification will provide a “digital license plate” for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, that will broadcast (send information from an unmanned aircraft using radio frequency spectrum) the identity of the drone and its control station. This will not require an internet connection. All drones must either be manufactured with broadcast remote ID or be retrofitted with the technology, with some restrictions. Drones without the technology can only operate at an FAA-recognized identification area. New rules requiring remote ID went into effect in April 2021 along with rules allowing routine operations of small UAS over people, moving vehicles and at night under certain conditions; other rules will be rolled out in the next three years. The rules will allow for increased home deliveries of cargo.

Insurance Coverage

Homeowners: If a drone is damaged in an accident it is most likely covered under a homeowners or renters insurance policy (subject to a deductible). The liability portion of a homeowners or renters policy may provide coverage against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that a policyholder causes to other people with a drone. It may also cover privacy issues–for example if a drone inadvertently takes pictures or videotapes a neighbor who then sues the policyholder. It will not cover any intentional invasion of privacy. The policy will cover theft of a drone. Damage or injuries caused by a drone used for commercial (i.e. business) purposes will not be covered by a homeowners policy.

A no-fault medical coverage policy may provide no-fault medical coverage if someone is accidentally injured by your drone. However, this coverage will not pay medical bills for a policyholder’s family members or pets if they are injured by the policyholder’s drone.

If a policyholder’s drone crash-lands into his or her car, damage may be covered under auto insurance’s optional comprehensive insurance.

Commercial: Drones are now employed in many industries that depend on aerial imagery, such as agriculture, insurance, construction, energy and others. There are about 215,000 certified remote pilots in the United States. Drone insurance can be purchased through intermediaries such as drone manufacturers and agents. A handful of insurers have entered the market for drone insurance and have created coverage tailored to drones and their equipment. General liability insurance policies commonly contain exclusions for aviation activities. Commercial drone owners and operators can purchase insurance to cover liability for bodily injury and property damage caused by a drone. Personal injury liability coverage is available to protect against invasion of privacy claims, as well as miscellaneous coverages. Physical damage to the drone, also known as hull coverage, is available. Other coverages insure equipment, remote control systems and payloads.

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