Facts + Statistics: Aviation and drones

World Aviation Accidents

In 2016 more than 3.8 billion people flew safely on 40.4 million flights, according to the International Air Transport Association. The major global accident rate (as measured by the rate of hull losses on Western-built jets) was 0.39 in 2016, or about one major accident for every 2.56 million flights. The 2016 accident rate was slightly worse than the 0.32 rate in 2015 and the 0.27 rate in 2014 and the previous five-year rate of 0.36. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired. There were 65 accidents in 2016 (on Eastern- and Western-built aircraft), down slightly from 68 in 2015.

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.

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 2015 about 786 million people flew on commercial airlines in the United States, up 4.0 percent from 2014. The Federal Aviation Administration projects that more than 1 billion people will fly on scheduled commercial airlines in the United States annually by 2031.


Aircraft Accidents In The United States, 2015 (1)


    Number of accidents    
  Flight hours
Total Fatal Number of
fatalities (2)
Accidents per
100,000 flight hours
Commercial airlines          
     10 or more seats          
          Scheduled 17,435 27 0 0 0.155
          Nonscheduled 385 1 0 0 0.260
     Less than 10 seats          
          Commuter 343 5 1 1 1.458
          On-demand 3,566 38 7 27 1.066
General aviation 20,576 1,209 229 376 5.851
Total civil aviation NA 1,280 237 404 NA

(1) Preliminary data. Totals do not add because of collisions involving aircraft in different categories.
(2) Includes nonpassenger deaths.

NA=Data not available.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board.

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    • There were 1,280 civil aviation accidents in 2015, down from 1,291 in 2014. Total fatalities fell to 404 in 2015 from 444 in 2014.
    • There were no fatalities on large scheduled commercial airlines in 2015 for the sixth year running. There were no fatalities on large nonscheduled airlines (charter airlines) in 2015 and 2014. There were nine fatalities in 2013.
    • Small commuter airlines had five accidents in 2015 compared with four accidents in 2014. There was one fatality in 2015 following none in 2014.
    • The number of small on-demand airline (air taxi) accidents rose to 38 in 2015 compared with 35 in 2014 and 44 in 2013.
    • There were 1,209 general aviation (noncommercial) accidents in 2015, down from 1,223 in 2014. 2015 accidents resulted in 376 deaths, down from 424 in 2014.


    Large Airline Accidents In The United States, 2006-2015 (1)

    Year Flight hours Total accidents Fatal accidents Total fatalities (2) Total accidents
    per 100,000 flight hours
    2006 19,263,209 33 2 50 0.171
    2007 19,637,322 28 1 1 0.143
    2008 19,126,766 28 2 3 0.146
    2009 17,626,832 30 2 52 0.170
    2010 17,750,986 30 1 2 0.169
    2011 17,962,965 32 0 0 0.178
    2012 17,722,236 26 0 0 0.147
    2013 17,717,957 23 2 9 0.130
    2014 17,646,147 29 0 0 0.164
    2015 (3) 17,820,000 28 0 0 0.157

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

    Source: National Transportation Safety Board.

    View Archived Tables



    World Aviation Accidents, 2012-2016


      Accidents (1)    
    Year Total Fatal Fatalities (1) Accident rate (2)
    2012 78 15 414 0.28
    2013 87 14 175 0.38
    2014 77 12 641 0.27
    2015 68 4 136 0.32
    2016 65 10 268 0.39

    (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.

    View Archived Tables



    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 Yokota AFB Japan JAL 520
    3 Nov. 12, 1996 New Delhi India Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kazakhstan Airlines 349
    4 Mar. 3, 1974 Ermenonville France Turkish Airlines 346
    5 Jun. 23, 1985 Atlantic Ocean   Air India 329
    6 Aug. 19, 1980 Jedda Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabian Airlines 301
    7 Jul. 17, 2014 Grabovo Ukraine Malaysia Airlines 298
    8 Jul. 3, 1988 Persian Gulf   Iran Air 290
    9 Feb. 19, 2003 Kerman Iran Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force 275
    10 May 25, 1979 Chicago U.S. American Airlines 273

    Source: Aircraft Crashes Record Office, Geneva (baaa-acro.com/Statistics.html).


    The number of drones sold in the United States is projected to grow from 2.5 million units in 2016 to 7 million in 2020, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These figures include commercial and hobbyist drones.  Prior to May 2017 the FAA required owners of hobbyist and commercial drones weighing more than 0.55 and less than 55 pounds to register them and mark them with a registration number.  Larger drones—weighing over 55 pounds—must register with the FAA as traditional aircraft. In May 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit ruled that model aircraft including drones that meet certain definitions are not required to be registered.  As of early October 2017 the FAA had not issued a final rule for registering drones. In addition, a federal advisory panel was unable to form proposals designed to identify and track certain commercial drones that would require remote monitoring.

    In October 2017 the Trump administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a new drone integration pilot program designed to expedite the integration of drones into the national airspace system. The initiative creates a regulatory framework that officials say will encourage innovation while ensuring airspace safety. The program aims to accelerate testing of currently restricted unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations, such as beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights and flights over people. This program hopes to facilitate the delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations, and surveys of crops for precision agriculture applications. The pilot program will include testing of new UAS traffic management systems and detection and tracking capabilities, which are needed to fully integrate UAS operations into the national airspace system.

    Insurance Coverage: 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.

    General liability insurance policies commonly contain exclusions for aviation activities. Insurers are entering the market for drone insurance and creating coverage tailored to drones and their equipment. Commercial drone operators can purchase commercial aviation insurance to cover property damage and liability caused by a drone. The policy would cover the drone, its equipment and remote control systems. Commercial aviation companies use underwriting processes similar to ones used for manned aircraft policies to cover drones.  

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