Facts + Statistics: Aviation and drones

World Aviation Accidents

More than 4 billion people flew safely on 46.1 million flights in 2018, 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 0.19 in 2018, or about one major accident for every 5.4 million flights. The 2018 accident rate was an improvement over the rate for the previous 5-year period (2013-2017) of 0.29 but not as good as the rate of 0.12 in 2017. 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 62 accidents in 2018 (on Eastern- and Western-built aircraft), up from 46 in 2017 and down from 64 in 2016.

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, 2017 (1)


    Number of accidents    
  Flight hours
Total Fatal Number of
fatalities (2)
Total accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
Commercial airlines          
     10 or more seats          
          Scheduled 18,089,503 29 0 0 0.160
          Nonscheduled 482,642 2 0 0 0.414
     Less than 10 seats          
          Commuter 401,054 8 1 1 1.995
          On-demand 3,509,451 43 7 15 1.225
General aviation (3) 21,702,719 1,233 203 330 5.667
Total civil aviation NA 1,316 211 346 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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  • There were 1,316 civil aviation accidents in 2017, down from 1,336 civil aviation accidents in 2016. Total fatalities fell to 346 in 2017 from 413 in 2016.
  • In 2017 there were no fatalities on large scheduled commercial airlines for the eighth consecutive year. There were no fatalities on large nonscheduled airlines (charter airlines) for the fourth consecutive year.
  • Small commuter airlines had eight accidents in 2016 and 2017. There was one fatality in 2017 following eight fatalities in 2016.
  • The number of small on-demand airline (air taxi) accidents rose to 43 in 2017 from 30 in 2016. There were 15 fatalities on air taxis in 2017, down from 19 in 2016.
  • There were 1,233 general aviation (noncommercial) accidents in 2017, down from 1,267 in 2016. 2017 accidents resulted in 330 deaths, down from 386 in 2016. The number of fatal general aviation accidents decreased to 203 in 2017, resulting in the fatal accident rate remaining below 1 fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours for the second consecutive year.

Large Airline Accidents In The United States, 2008-2017 (1)


  Flight hours Total accidents Fatal accidents Total fatalities (2) Total accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
2008 19,126,766 27 2 3 0.141
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 17,719,287 32 0 0 0.181
2015 17,912,507 29 0 0 0.162
2016 18,284,133 31 0 0 0.170
2017 (3) 18,572,145 32 0 0 0.172

(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, 2014-2018


  Accidents (1)    
Year Total Fatal Fatalities (1) Accident rate (2)
2014 77 12 641 0.27
2015 67 4 136 0.33
2016 64 8 198 0.37
2017 46 6 19 0.12
2018 62 11 523 0.19

(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).

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: © Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives (http://baaa-acro.com/statistics/worst-crashes).


Drones are unmanned aircraft systems that can be small hobbyist models or commercially operated models. Drones are flying robots that are remotely controlled. 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. Except for the eight-month period from May 2017 to December 2017, the FAA required 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, beginning December 2015. Larger drones—weighing more than 55 pounds—must register with the FAA as traditional aircraft.

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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