Facts + Statistics: Aviation and drones

World Aviation Accidents

More than 4.5 billion people flew safely on 46.8 million flights in 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association. The global all-accident rate (including substantial damage and hull loss accidents for IATA and non-IATA jets and turboprops) fell to 1.13 in 2019, an improvement from the rate of 1.36 in 2018 and the rate for the previous 5-year period (2014-2018) of 1.56. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired. Western-built aircraft are commercial jet transport aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of more than 15,000 kg, designed and manufactured in the Western world countries. There were 53 accidents in 2019 (on Eastern- and Western-built aircraft), down from 62 in 2018.

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. The 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 2018 there were about 881 million trips on commercial airlines in the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration projects that there will be about 1.175 billion trips on scheduled commercial airlines in the United States annually by 2039.

Aircraft Accidents In The United States

  • There were 1,347 civil aviation accidents in 2018, up from 1,315 civil aviation accidents in 2017. Total fatalities rose as well, to 393 in 2018 from 347 in 2017.
  • In 2018 there was one fatality on a large scheduled commercial airline, ending an eight-year run with no fatalities. There were no fatalities on large nonscheduled airlines (charter airlines) for the fifth consecutive year.
  • Small commuter airlines had two accidents in 2018, while there were six in 2017. There were no fatalities in 2017 and 2018.
  • The number of small on-demand airline (air taxi) accidents fell slightly to 41 in 2018, from 44 in 2017. There were 12 fatalities on air taxis in 2018, down from 16 in 2017.
  • There were 1,275 general aviation (noncommercial) accidents in 2018, up from 1,233 in 2017. 2018 accidents resulted in 381 deaths, up from 331 in 2017.

Aircraft Accidents In The United States, 2018 (1)


    Number of
  Flight hours
Total Fatal Number of
fatalities (2)
Total accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
Commercial airlines          
     10 or more seats          
          Scheduled 18,731,201 27 1 1 0.144
          Nonscheduled 557,095 3 0 0 0.539
     Less than 10 seats          
          Commuter 421,319 2 0 0 0.475
          On-demand 3,842,566 41 6 12 1.067
General aviation (3) 21,663,367 1,275 225 381 5.876
Total civil aviation NA 1,347 231 393 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, 2009-2018 (1)


Year Flight hours Total accidents Fatal accidents Total fatalities (2) Total accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
2009 17,626,832 30 2 52 0.170
2010 17,750,986 30 1 2 0.169
2011 17,962,965 33 0 0 0.184
2012 17,722,236 26 0 0 0.147
2013 17,779,641 23 2 9 0.129
2014 17,742,826 31 0 0 0.175
2015 17,925,780 29 0 0 0.162
2016 18,294,057 30 0 0 0.164
2017 18,581,388 32 0 0 0.172
2018 (3) 19,288,296 30 1 1 0.156

(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, 2015-2019


  Accidents (1)    
Year Total Fatal Fatalities (1) Accident rate (2)
2015 67 4 136 0.32
2016 64 8 198 0.37
2017 46 6 19 0.11
2018 62 11 523 0.18
2019 53 8 240 0.15

(1) On Eastern and Western built jet aircraft.
(2) Measured in hull losses per million flights of Western built jet aircraft. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired.

Source: International Air Transport Association (IATA).

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Top 10 Deadliest World Aviation Crashes


Rank Date Location Country 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 312
6 Aug. 19, 1980 Riyahd Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabian Airlines 301
7 Jul. 17, 2014 Shakhtarsk Ukraine Malaysia Airlines 298
8 Jul. 3, 1988 Persian Gulf Iran Iran Air 290
9 Feb. 19, 2003 Kerman Iran Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force 275
10 25-May-79 Chicago U.S. American Airlines 273

Source: Aircraft Crashes Record Office, Geneva(http://baaa-acro.com/statistics/worst-crashes).

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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 small hobbyist drones registered in the United States totaled 1.1 million units in 2019, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Commercial drone registrations totaled about 412,000 in 2019. 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 since December 2015. Larger drones—weighing more than 55 pounds—must register using the FAA's aircraft registry.

At the end of 2019, the FAA published a proposed rule establishing requirements for the remote identification of mostly commercial drones operated in the United States. Remote identification would enable a drone in flight to provide identification and location information that people on the ground and other airspace users can receive. The FAA says that this ability is important as drone operations in all classes of airspace increases and would provide information to law enforcement and other officials that ensure public safety. The rulemaking is the first step in creating a remote identification system which would later involve a network of service suppliers operating under contract with the FAA. All drones, whether hobbyist or commercial weighing more than 0.55 pounds that currently must be registered and marked will be included under the new rule. The FAA estimates that it will take three years from the effective date of the rule for all drones to be compliant with the remote identification requirements. Companies such as Amazon and UPS have already been approved to begin unmanned package deliveries.

    Homeowners: If a drone is damaged in an accident it is most likely covered under a homeowners insurance policy (subject to a deductible). Coverage also applies to renters insurance. 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. 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, and physical damage to the drone, also known as hull coverage. Other coverages insure equipment, remote control systems, and payloads.

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