Special Report

18 of the Worst Aircraft Disasters in Military History

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

B-29 Superfortress, Fairfield, California
>Year: 1950
>Fatalities: 19

In 1950, a B-29 Superfortress crashed shortly after taking off from Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base in California due to propeller and landing gear malfunctions. The bomber was filled with explosives and 20 minutes after the crash the explosive filler in them ignited and created a massive explosion that was heard 30 miles away. The crash and subsequent explosion killed 12 people aboard the plane and seven on the ground, including firefighters trying to rescue those still trapped in the wreckage.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

R6D-1 Liftmaster, Honolulu, Hawaii
>Year: 1955
>Fatalities: 66

In 1955, a R6D-1 Liftmaster went down in the deadliest heavier-than-air crash in U.S. naval aviation history. The flight was on route from Japan to California with an intermediate stop in Hawaii. Shortly after taking off from Honolulu-Hickam Air Force Base, the plane began having radio problems and the crew decided to turn back to Honolulu. However, a navigational error caused the plane to crash into the Waianae mountain range.

U-2 Spy Plane, Sverdlovsk, Russia
>Year: 1960
>Fatalities: 1

U-2 spy planes were extremely high elevation planes used to take photographs of enemy territory and assets. In 1960, a U-2 piloted by American Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union after it was detected violating the country’s airspace. Powers survived by ejecting and was captured. The incident caused a massive controversy and led to the cancellation of a planned peace summit between the two superpowers in Paris. Soviet pilot Sergei Safronov was attempting to intercept the spy plane when his aircraft was mistakenly hit by a Soviet missile meant for the U-2, killing him.

Sea Stallion helicopter, Vietnam
>Year: 1968
>Fatalities: 46

In 1968, during the Vietnam War, a CH-53A Sea Stallion heavy lift helicopter went down, killing all five crew members and 41 passengers. Efforts to look for survivors were hampered by adverse weather conditions. The disaster is believed to have been the single deadliest helicopter crash in history to that point.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, Saigon, Vietnam
>Year: 1975
>Fatalities: 138

Operation Babylift was a U.S. government plan to extract Vietnamese orphans from the country as the United States pulled out of the war. However, the first plane in the operation was forced into a crash landing after a cargo door malfunction led to destruction of the aircraft’s tail. Over 300 people were onboard, of whom 78 children and 50 adults were killed.

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