The recent loss of three airliners within a seven day span, starting with Malaysia Airliners flight MH17 on July 17th, has certainly drawn a large amount of attention from the world's media, the traveling public, and even from major aviation safety organizations.
In a 28 July 2014 article published by CNN, a representative of the Flight Safety Foundation, a nonprofit organization that since 1947 has provided safety guidance and resources for the aerospace industry, implied that with the exception of the 9/11 attacks, it was hard to know whether the loss of three airliners in seven days was unprecedented. A review of the AirSafe.com records revealed that this kind of loss has had a number of precedents within the last 20 years.
In a previous AirSafeNews.com article, a review of AirSafe.com records from 1996 to 2014 revealed that there were 25 occasions where there were three or more significant aviation events where the events were separated by 10 days or fewer.
Inspired by the statement from the Flight Safety Foundation, Todd Curtis reviewed AirSafe.com's records again, this time discover how many times the there had been three or more losses of airliners in no more than a seven day period, and where the following criteria were also met:
- At least one passenger was killed in each aircraft,
- The aircraft was either destroyed or seriously damaged and no longer flyable,
- The aircraft had the capacity to carry at least 10 passengers, and
- The airliner event could have been due to any cause, including hijacking, sabotage, or military action.
The review revealed that there were eight occasions during the 19 calendar years that AirSafe.com has been in operation (1996-2014), where three or more airliners have been lost within a seven day period. Below are the years and the dates of occurrence:
- 1997 - December 13, 15, 17, and 19
- 2001 - September 11, 12, and 18
- 2003 - January 8, 9, and 9
- 2008 - August 20, 24, and 24
- 2010 - May 12, 15, 17
- 2010 - August 24, 24, and 25
- 2011 - July 8, 11, and 13
- 2014 - July 17, 23, and 24
Noteworthy occurrences include the following:
- In 1997, there were four separate events within seven days, and if an event on December 9th is included, five within 10 days.
- In 2001, there were four airliners lost on 9/11, and one each in the two subsequent events
- In 2010, if a fourth event on May 22 is included, there were four events in 10 days.
Given that the rate at which serious airline events occur has steadily decreased over the years, if this same analysis were done in the period prior to 1996, there would likely be a higher frequency of cases where three or more airliner were lost within a seven day span.
Fatal and serious events by year
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
2001, 2002,2003, 2004, 2005
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
"Do plane crashes happen in threes" AirSafeNews.com article
Todd Curtis discusses his findings on the Rudy Maxa Show (6:44)
Related article from Patrick Smith of AskThePilot.com
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