Today is the 15th anniversary of the devastating and deadly plane crash in Buffalo that killed 50 people. Here’s a look at that crash and 10 other fatal aviation accidents in New York.

As a frequent flier, it's scary to even think about plane crashes. You think you're going to have a routine, uneventful flight, which most of them are, but then boom! I can only imagine the horror and gut-wrenching fear that goes through the mind of someone who realizes their airplane is crashing. The panic onboard these aircraft must have been beyond comprehension for someone who has never been in that situation. Throughout the years, New York State has seen its share of deadly plane crashes. We are home to some of the busiest airports in the world. Even though the number of enplanements was down 73 percent from 2019, in 2020 there were still 15,181,920 people who boarded airplanes around the state. Let's take a look back at some of the most devastating and deadly plane crashes that happened in New York.

11. USAir Flight 405 - 27 People Killed

On March 22, 1992, flight 405, which was leaving LaGuardia for Cleveland, Ohio, crashed shortly after takeoff into Flushing Bay. Three members of the aircraft's crew were killed, along with 24 of the 47 passengers on board. The NTSB blamed the airline industry and the Federal Aviation Administration for not enacting proper procedures for deicing airplanes.

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10. Colgan Air Flight 3407 - 50 People Killed

On February 12, 2009, a plane crashed into a suburb just outside of Buffalo, New York. Flight 3407 had departed Newark, New Jersey for Buffalo when it crashed before it could land at Buffalo International Airport. The Bombardier Q400 stalled and crashed into a house in Clarence Center. All 49 of the crew and passengers died in the crash, as well as one person in the house. The NTSB's report states that the captain caused the stall,

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the captain’s inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. Contributing to the accident were (1) the flight crew’s failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the lowspeed cue, (2) the flight crew’s failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, (3) the captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight, and (4) Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.


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9. Avianca Flight 52 - 73 People Killed

On January 25, 1990, this flight was heading from Bogota, Colombia, to JFK. Before it could land at the airport, the Boeing 707 crashed, after it was awaiting clearance to land. The crash killed 73 of the 158 passengers on the aircraft. The plane had been in a 77-minute holding pattern, which caused it to run out of fuel,

The board also criticized the airline for failing to provide the crew with the latest wind shear information in New York, which could have helped the pilot anticipate landing delays there and plan for an alternative destination. The FAA subsequently mandated stricter flight planning and communication requirements for all foreign carriers operating in the U.S.


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8. Linea Aeropostal Venezolana Flight 253 - 74 People Killed

On June 20, 1956, a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation plane left Idlewild International Airport (JFK), New York to Caracas, Venezuela. About an hour into the flight, the crew reported that the aircraft was experiencing engine trouble. Flight 253 turned around and headed back to New York. As it was getting ready to land, the plane was jettisoning rid of fuel. A fire started and the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All of the 74 onboard died in the crash. According to Wikipedia,

Expert testimony provided two possible scenarios for ignition of the jettisoning fuel:

When the #2 propeller separated, the airstream blew sparks from its broken hub or shaft backwards into the plume of fuel;
When the #2 propeller slashed downward through the fuselage, it sliced through the cabin floor into the #5 fuel tank (center tank), immediately igniting the fuel within. The flames blew out of the fuselage into the fuel plume

7. Eastern Air Lines Flight 663 - 84 People Killed

Flight 663 was headed into Atlanta, Georgia from Boston, Massachusetts. On February 8, 1965, the Douglas DC-7 crashed, killing all of the 79 passengers and 5 crew members on board. The crash took place near Jones Beach State Park. It was one of the deadliest accidents featuring a DC-7,

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) investigation determined that evasive maneuvers undertaken by Flight 663 to avoid an oncoming Pan Am Boeing 707 caused the pilot to suffer spatial disorientation and lose control of the aircraft. The accident is the third-worst accident involving a DC-7.

6. American Airlines Flight 1 - 95 People Killed

On March 1, 1962, Flight 1, a Boeing 707 crashed into Jamaica Bay in New York. Just two minutes after it took off for Los Angeles, all of the 87 passengers and eight crew members on board were killed. The Aviation Safety Network attributes the crash to,

"A rudder control system malfunction, producing yaw, sideslip, and roll leading to a loss of control from which recovery action was not effective."


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5. Eastern Air Lines Flight 66 - 113 People Killed

On June 24, 1970, the flight was scheduled to land at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, after departing New Orleans, Louisiana. While there were some survivors, 107 of the 116 passengers and 6 of the 8 crew members died. It was ultimately determined that a bad thunderstorm created a strong wind shear, which caused the aircraft to crash,

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the aircraft's encounter with adverse winds associated with a very strong thunderstorm located astride the ILS localizer course, which resulted in high descent rate into the non-frangible approach light towers. The flight crew's delayed recognition and correction of the high descent rate were probably associated with their reliance upon visual cues rather than on flight instrument reference. However, the adverse winds might have been too severe for a successful approach and landing even had they relied upon and responded rapidly to the indications of the flight instruments.


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4. United Airlines Flight 826 & Trans World Airlines Flight 266 - 134 People Killed

On December 16, 1960, two planes bound for New York airports crashed into each other in the air. United Airlines Flight 826, a Douglas DC-8 aircraft, which was flying into Idlewild Airport (now JFK) crashed midair with Trans World Airlines Flight 266, a TWA Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, which was headed to LaGuardia Airport. The planes landed in Staten Island's Miller Field and Brooklyn. At the time, it was the deadliest plane crash - 134 people died.

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3. TWA Flight 800 - 230 People Killed

On July 17, 1996, flight 800 was heading to Paris, France, from JFK. Before the plane could get very far, it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island. All of the 230 people on the plane died in the crash. After the public initially believed the crash may have been due to terrorism, authorities determined that a fuel tank likely caused an explosion,

With the Summer Olympics set to begin in Atlanta in two days, speculation of a terrorist bombing immediately arose. But after one of the most intricate inquiries in aviation history, which included the first full-scale re-creation of a downed aircraft from its debris, NTSB investigators ruled out terrorism. They focused instead on the aircraft's near-empty center fuel tank, where, they determined, an explosion of still unknown origin brought the plane down.


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2. American Airlines Flight 587 - 265 People Killed

On November 12, 2001, an Airbus A-300 crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens. The American Airlines flight was headed to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. All of the 260 people on the plane were killed, along with 5 people on the ground. This incident was only two months after the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, so there was fear that this was another attack,

The NTSB ruled out terrorism, focusing instead on the plane's vertical tail stabilizer and rudder, which snapped off as the plane fell from the sky. Several months after the accident, the NTSB issued two safety recommendations involving the A-300's vertical stabilizer and rudder, pointing out that some maneuvers can lead to structural failure. As a result of the warnings, Airbus is addressing these issues and American Airlines has implemented regular inspections of the tail sections on all its A-300s.


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1. American Airlines Flight 11 & United Airlines Flight 175 - 147 People Killed (Plus thousands on the ground)

These two crashes are probably the most memorable, not only for New Yorkers but for Americans and the world. On September 11, 2001, Flight 11 was headed to Boston, Massachusetts from Los Angeles, California, when it was diverted by terrorists to New York. The Boeing 767 was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center. There were no survivors - the 11 crew members and 76 passengers were killed. Thousands of people on the ground were killed in the attack.

Flight 175 was also hijacked from Boston. Rather than its intended destination of Los Angeles, it too was flown into the World Trade Towers. The nine crew members and 51 passengers on board were killed in the crash.

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