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5 Mid-Air Collisions That Changed Aviation

Mid-air collisions are uncommon, but they often lead to disaster. So what's the story behind them?


1) Surprisingly, according to the FAA, nearly all midair collisions occur during daylight hours and in VFR conditions. Not so surprising is the fact that the majority of collisions happen within five miles of an airport, in the areas of greatest traffic concentration, and usually on warm weekend afternoons when more pilots are doing more flying.

Swayne Martin

2) The first recorded collision between aircraft occurred at the "Milano Circuito Aereo Internazionale" meeting held during 1910 in Milan, Italy. On October 3rd Rene Thomas of France in an Antoinette monoplane collided with Captain Bertram Dickson of the British army in a Farman biplane by ramming him in the rear; both pilots survived but Dickson was so badly injured he never flew again.

Wikimedia

3) The first fatal collision occurred in Douai, France, on June 19th, 1912. Captain Marcel Dubois and Lieutenant Albert Peignan of the French Army crashed into one another, killing both pilots.

Wikimedia

4) The FAA was created by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 after the collision between United Airlines Flight 736 and a fighter jet (killing 49), as well as another U.S. military/civilian crash one month later involving Capital Airlines Flight 300 (killing 12).

Wikimedia

5) On June 8th, 1966, XB-70A No. 2 was in close formation with four other aircraft (an F-4, F-5, T-38, and F-104) for a General Electric photoshoot, manufacturer of the engines of all five aircraft. After the completion of the photoshoot, the F-104 drifted into contact with the XB-70's right wing, flipped over and rolled inverted over the top of the Valkyrie, striking the vertical stabilizers and left wing of the bomber. The F-104 exploded, destroying the Valkyrie's rudders and damaging its left wing. With the loss of both rudders and damage to the wings, the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed into the ground north of Barstow, California.

6) With 349 deaths, the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision occurred on November 12th, 1996 to the west of New Delhi, India, making it the world's deadliest mid-air collision. The aircraft involved were a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-100B and a Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76.

Wikimedia

7) According to the FAA, most mid-air collisions could've been avoided with proper scanning techniques, since many accidents happened on clear weather days.

Swayne Martin

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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