The National Transportation Safety Board tracks the incidences of aviation accidents in the United States. Part of its responsibility is to determine the causes of these accidents. Analysis of the main causes of accidents can be helpful in identifying situations in which negligence may be a contributing factor.
According to the NTSB accident data, the most common cause of aviation accidents that results in injuries may have little to do with pilots, aircraft manufacturers or ground personnel. That cause is air turbulence.
Other sources of aircraft accidents, however, are more easily connected with human error.
The second most common cause of aviation accidents may be surprising, for it has little to do with the act of flying. This source of accidents and injuries is collisions on the ground between aircraft and ground vehicles, such as aircraft tugs and baggage carts. Negligence can often play a role in these kinds of crashes.
The third most common cause of aircraft accidents also involves incidents that take place on the ground, namely what the NTSB refers to as “abnormal runway contact events.” These usually involve hard landings and the tails of aircraft striking the ground. These types of accidents may also have some form of human negligence at their root.
The fourth cause of accidents, in terms of frequency, once again does not involve flight. Similar to collisions between aircraft and ground vehicles, ground handling accidents — for example, an accident that happens when an aircraft tug pushes an airplane into another airplane — can lead to the query of whether human error in the form of negligence was the underlying cause.
Taken together, the information collected by the NTSB suggests that the most dangerous thing that can happen to an aircraft is to encounter turbulence; but otherwise, the time when the plane, its passengers and crew are most at risk is when they are still on the ground, or upon landing.
There are several other kinds of causes of aircraft accidents other than the ones shown here, and this post cannot go into all of them. Not all accidents are caused by human error. But for anyone who has been involved in an aviation accident, especially if injuries result, it may still be worthwhile to consult with an attorney to determine if a cause of action based on negligence is a possibility.