2019 airline safety and security review

There were three events that involved the death of at least one airlne passengers, plus 14 significant events, five of which involved fatalities, and two of which involved commercial spacecraft.

737 MAX crash and its aftermath
The event which had by far the largest impact on commercial aviation was the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX in March 2019. The crash killed everyone on board, including passengers from nearly three dozen countries. In both this crash, and the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX in 2018, the investigating authorities determined that a software-driven flight control system, which was used in earlier versions of the 737, played an as yet not fully determined role in both crashes.

As a result of the second crash, numerous civil aviation authorities in Canada, Europe, and authorities in other countries around the world grounded 737 MAX, preventing the aircraft from operating in those countries, or even overflying those countries. This grounding, which is in its 10th month at the end of 2019, may extend well into 2020. Because of the grounding and other issues about the aircraft, Boeing plans to suspend production of the aircraft starting in January 2020.

Highlights of 2019
This review includes important safety or security related occurrences from 2019, including the following:

  • Commercial space transportation - The year 2020 may see not just one, but two commercial space transportation options (from Boeing and SpaceX) to take both people and cargo to the International Space Station. Because these will be privately owned transportation systems that will allow members of the general public to fly into space, this year AirSafe.com began tracking safety-related events on these systems as it has done for airliner aircraft since 1996.
  • North American fatal events - For the first time since 2016, there were no events in North America involving a passenger fatality on an airliner. However, there was a cargo airliner crash that killed all on board.
  • Fewer fatal events - In 2018, there were eight fatal events, but in 2019 only three.
  • Second fatal crash of the newest 737 model - Less six months after the previous 737 MAX fatal crash in Indonesia, a second aircraft crashed in Ethiopia in March. This led to a worldwide grounding of the aircraft that will extend into 2020.
  • Two major failures of commercial spacecraft - Two newly developed commercial spacecraft which are both scheduled to provide space transportation for government and private space travelers starting in 2020, experienced significant failures during testing.

There are two types of events in this review, numbered events and significant events. Numbered events must meet the following criteria:

  • There is at least one passenger fatality,
  • The flight was open to the general public, and
  • The aircraft was a large jet or turboprop driven model that is typically used in airline service.

Significant events are those that don't meet the criteria for a numbered event, but would likely be of interest to airline passengers and the aviation safety and security community. These events may include non-fatal airline accidents, events unrelated to an airline flight, hijackings, military actions, criminal activities, or acts of sabotage.

Definitions used by AirSafe.com


    23 February 2019; Amazon Prime Air 767-300; N1217A; flight 3591; near Anahuac, TX: The aircraft was on a cargo flight from Miami, FL to Houston, TX and crashed into Trinity Bay about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of its destination. The two crew members and one passenger, a pilot from another airline who was riding in the cockpit, were killed.
    More about this event
    Boeing 767 plane crashes
    Recent US crashes

  1. 10 March 2019; Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8; ET-AVJ; flight ET302; near Ejere, Ethiopia: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya. Shortly after takeoff, the flight crew reportedly declared an emergency shortly after takeoff, stating that they had unreliable airspeed indications and had difficulties controlling the aircraft. The crew was agranted a request to return to the departure airport, but the aircraft crashed about six minutes after departure. All eight crew members and 149 passengers were killed.
    Boeing 737 plane crashes
    Ethiopian Airlines plane crashes
    More on this crash

    20 April 2019; SpaceX Crew Dragon: The spacecraft exploded during a ground test of capsule's abort system. That system uses eight dedicated thrusters to separate the capsule from the rest of the rocket either on the ground or during the early phases of a launch. A leak in the system led to an overpressure within the fuel system and a subsequent explosion. There were no crew on board and no one outside the spacecraft was injured or killed.

    3 May 2019; Miami Air International 737-800; N732MA; flight GL293; Jacksonville, FL: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Jacksonville, FL. The aircraft overran the end of the runway and came to a stop in the shallow waters of an adjacent river about 1,250 feet (380 meters) beyond the end of the runway. There were seven crew members and 136 passengers on board, and at least 21 of the occupants were injured. Two dogs and a cat that were in pet carriers in the cargo area of the aircraft were killed, and a cat that was in the passenger cabin survived. The aircraft was on a scheduled charter flight carrying military and civilian members of the US military.
    More about the crash

  2. 5 May 2019; Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B; RA-89098; flight SU1492; Moscow, Russia: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Moscow to Murmansk, Russia when the crew used their radar transponder to indicate a loss of radio communication. The crew returned to the departure airport and apparently had a hard landing, bouncing at least twice. During one of the bounces, the aircraft appeared to have a tail strike at about the same time that flames appeared toward the rear of the aircraft. The aircraft continued to trail smoke and flames as it continued its rollout, veering off the left side of the runway and coming to rest adjacent to the runway. The back half of the aircraft was engulfed in flames as the passengers and crew escaped through the left and right forward emergency exit slides. One of the five crew members and 40 of the 73 passengers were killed. This was second fatal Sukhoi Superjet accident and the first involving a comercial airline flight.
    Plane crashes from airlines of Russia and the former Soviet Union

    8 May 2019; Myanmar National Airlines Dash 8-402; S2-AGQ; flight BG60; Yangon, Myanmar The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Yangon, Myanmar. After touching down, the aircraft veered left off the runway and came to a stop on soft ground with all gear collapsed and the fuselage broken into three sections. The 29 passengers and four crew members received injuries with 19 of them hospitalized.
    Dash 8 plane crashes

    12 May 2019; Myanmar National Airlines Embraer ERJ-190LR; XY-AGQ; flight UB103; Mandalay, Myanmar: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Yangon to Mandalay, Myanmar. During approach, the crew could not extend the nose gear. The aircraft overflew the runway twice to have tower check the landing gear and then entered a hold to burn off fuel. The crew landed on the runway with the main landing gear only, substantially damaging the fuselage of the aircraft. Smoke entered the cabin and the occupants evacuated. The seven crew members and 82 passengers were not injured.
    Embraer plane crashes

    13 May 2019; Mountain Air Service de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver (N952DB) and Taquan Air DHC-3 Otter (N959PA); Ketchikan, AK: The two aircraft, both floatplanes, were flying a total of 14 passengers from a cruise ship that was docked in Ketchikan, AK when they were involved in a midair collision over George Inlet, about eight nautical miles from Ketchikan. There was one pilot and four passengers on the Beaver and one passener and 10 passengers on the Otter. Four of the 16 occupants were killed, two are missing, and 10 survived. The NTSB launched a major investigation into this event.

    18 May 2019; WestJet 737-800; C-FZRM; flight WS1948; near Orlando, FL: The aircraft was on an international flight from St. John's, Canada to Orlando, FL when the aircraft was struck by a green laser during approach at about 10,000 feet. The aircraft landed safety but the strike injured the eyes of one of the pilots, Laser threats to aircraft have been a concern to the aviation community for several years. Recently, AirSafe.com completed a review of nine years of FAA laser strike data and found that there were an an average of nearly seven laser encounters per day involving airliners in the US.

    15 August 2019; Ural Airlines A321-211; VQ-BOZ; Zhukovsky, Russia: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Zhukovsky to Simferopol, Russia when it encountered a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. Both engines were struck and lost power. The crew landed the aircraft in a field, with landing gear up, about two kilometers from the runway. There was no post crash fire. All seven crew members and 226 survived the emergency landing.
    Plane crashes in Russia and the former Soviet Union

    27 August 2019; Air China A330-343; B-5958; flight CA183; Beijing, China: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Beijing, China to Tokyo, Japan when a fire broke out in one of the forward cargo compartments. At the time, the aircraft was at the gate and 147 passengers had already boarded the aircraft. The passengers and 14 crew members rapidly exited the aircraft using the jetbridge. No occupants were injured, but the fire substantially damaged the aircraft, including a burn-through of the crown. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
    More on this event

    1 September 2019; Libyan Airlines A330-202; 5A-LAU; flight LN1275; Tripoli, Libya: The aircraft was on a nonscheduled international flight from Medina, Saudi Arabia to Tripoli, Libya, and came under rocket attach while passengers were disembarking. The aircraft was damaged and four of the passengers were injured by the rocket attack.
    Plane crashes in Russia and the former Soviet Union

    24 November 2019; Busy Bee Congo Dornier 228; 9S-GNH; Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Goma to Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and crashed into a residential neighborhood shortly after takeoff. Both crew members and all 17 passengers were killed. At least seven persons on the ground, including six from one family.

    9 December 2019; Chilean Air Force C130H; Drake Passage, Antarctica: This miliary aircraft was on a nonscheduled international flight, from Punta Arenas, Chile to a Chilean Antarctic base on King George Island, Antarctica. Debris from the aircraft was found in the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica. All 17 crew members and 21 passengers were killed.

    20 December 2019; Boeing CST-100 Starliner: The spacecraft, on an uncrewed test flight, failed to achieve its primary objective of docking with the International Space Station (ISS). Due to one or more errors, the spacecraft's internal clock was not correct, and as a result the spacecraft did not execute an engine burn to put the spacecraft into an orbit to allow a docking with the ISS. In addition, the spacecraft's flgiht control system commanded a series of inappropriate engine burns. Mission control commanded the spacecraft to stop the inappropriate engine burns, but there was not enough fuel remaining to reach the ISS. The spacecraft continued the flight and successfully landed two days after liftoff.

    26 December 2019; Safari Helicopters; Eurocopter AS350 B2; Kauai, HI: The helicopter departed from Lihue, HI for a sightseeing flight over the island of Kauai. The aircraft crashed into a cliff in the northwest section of the island about a mile inland from the coast. The pilot and all six passengers were killed.

  3. 27 December 2019; Bek Air; Fokker F100; UP-F1007; flight 2100; Almaty, Kazakhstan: The aircraft crashed into a building near the airport shortly after takeoff on a domestic flight from Almaty to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. There were at least 12 fatalities among the 93 passengers and five crew members.
    Fokker F100 plane crashes
    Plane crashes in Russia and the former Soviet Union


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Related information
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Recent US plane crashes
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2019 airline safety and security review
http://www.airsafe.com/plane-crash/review-2019.htm -- Revised: 1 January 2020