Why so many fatal air crashes into populated areas?

When news came out last Friday, of the fatal crash near Tweed New Haven Airport, it seemed all too familiar: one more instance of a private plane colliding with a house near an airport. But this time, luck failed, and there were additional crash victims who were not on the airplane.

All too familiar, and no less tragic.

Maybe it is this way every year, or maybe this is stacking up as an unusual year for this type of air crash. Here is a list, with all fatal U.S. air crashes in 2013, in which the plane or helicopter came down into populated areas adjacent to the airport. There are sixteen crashes, and who knows how many other crashes that were NOT fatal…


January 4th:Palm Coast, FL
(2:19PM): A Beech Bonanza BE35 departed Fort Pierce, for a flight to Knoxville, TN. While enroute, the pilot advised ATC he had smoke in the cockpit, and attempted an emergency landing. He crashed into a house, just east of the airport, and the aircraft burst into flames, killing three. The homeowner escaped. [NTSB]

January 12th:Sarasota, FL
(3:29PM): Shortly after takeoff, a Seawind 3000 homebuilt seaplane struck three tall pine trees on a college campus, then crashed and caught fire. The pilot was killed, and his passenger died a few days later. [NTSB]

March 9th:Woodinville, WA
(2:45PM): A Maule Rocket was observed maneuvering low over a residential neighborhood and witnesses reported unusual sounds. It crashed into an attached garage, missing by just ten feet a room where two youth were playing video games. The pilot was killed and his nephew passenger was seriously injured. [NTSB]130309_plane_into_house_5_660

March 15th:Fort Lauderdale, FL
(4:20PM): A Piper PA31 Navajo (twin engine) was being prepared by a new owner for export to his customer in Colombia. On a test flight, shortly after takeoff, the aircraft began an unexpected right turn, then stalled and crashed into an auto repossession lot. It hit seven vehicles and caught fire, killing all three on board. [NTSB]

March 17th:South Bend, IN
(4:23PM): A Beechcraft Premierjet arriving from Tulsa, OK advised ATC of a loss of power and then a loss of hydraulics. The radar controller issued slight vectors to assist the pilot to a landing on Runway 9R. The main landing gear had not extended, and the pilot was directed to ‘go around’. The pilot then climbed into a right traffic pattern for Runway 9R, and started a second approach, still with no main gear. The aircraft bounced several times on the runway, then attempted to go around again with a climbing right turn. The nose then dropped and the plane crashed into three houses, killing the pilot and a passenger. Two other passengers and one resident were seriously injured. [NTSB]A private jet crashed into homes Sunday in South Bend, Indiana. At least two people were killed, authorities said.

April 3rd:Miami, FL
(4:00PM): A Robinson R44 helicopter used for air tours and other services was being test-flown after being fitted with new rotor blades. It crashed into two palm trees, a pickup, then the ground, and caught fire while leaving an extensive debris field. The pilot and passenger were both killed. [NTSB]

April 7th:Collinsville, OK
(6:00PM): A Mooney M20 departed Tulsa for Manhattan, KS and climbed normally, reaching 4,100′ altitude. The flight then began a descending right turn, disappeared from radar, and crashed behind a vacant house, leaving a crater 4-feet deep. The pilot and passenger were both killed. [NTSB]

April 19th:Williamsburg, VA
(4:55PM): A Cessna Centurion C210 pilot crashed into trees in a residential area, one-half mile before his intended runway. Witnesses reported he overshot his turn to final, then made a steep right turn before crashing. Pilot and passenger were killed.   [NTSB]

May 28th:Mountainaire, AZ
(1:43PM): A Beech Bonanza A36 departed the airport at Flagstaff, climbed slowly, then crashed and caused a large fire in a forested residential area. Both the pilot and his wife, vacationing from California, were killed. [NTSB]Plane crash

June 6th:Manchester, KY
(11:15PM): A Bell 206 EMS helicopter crashed in a school parking lot after a re-positioning flight, killing the pilot and the two medical team members. [NTSB]

June 7th:Baker, LA
(1:10PM): A Beech B200 KingAir departed Runway 31 at Baton Rouge, and turned on course for a short flight to McComb, MS. He climbed normally to 1,200′, then began a slow descent. The aircraft then dropped and impacted the roof of a house before erupting into flames and killing the pilot. Two houses were damaged. [NTSB]

June 19th:Maplewood, MN
(8:12AM): A Bell 47 helicopter being used to apply dry chemicals to control mosquitoes crashed into a garage, then caught fire, killing the pilot. [NTSB]

June 24th:San Luis Obispo, CA
(12:55PM): A Cessna Skymaster C337 flew a low pass over the runway before a planned departure to Palo Alto. Witnesses heard unusual sounds and the pilot called a Mayday at the end of the runway, then crashed through powerlines and trees and into a FedEx truck in a business park. The pilot died. [NTSB]

July 25th:Amarillo, TX
(8:45AM): A businessman using his Piper PA30 Twin Comanche departed from the Tradewinds Airport, in Amarillo. He experienced engine problems, attempted a return, but stalled and crashed into a mobile home. The 53-yr-old male pilot was killed. [no NTSB report yet]

July 29th:Georgetown, SC
(1:20PM): A Folland Gnat T1 was flying from Charlestown, WV and was setting up to land on Runway 23. The pilot had radioed airport personnel and they came outside to watch a low pass. The pilot flew his high speed low pass at an altitude of 100-200′, then pitched up and began an aileron roll to the left. Halfway through the aileron roll, the aircraft abruptly pitched down and to the right, then crashed in a wooded area, narrowly missing a home. The pilot was the sole fatality. [NTSB]

August 3rdConway, SC
(1:20PM): A Beech BE55 Baron attempts to return to the airport shortly after takeoff. A driver saw the plane descend, clip powerlines, then crash onto the residential street and burst into flames. The pilot and two passengers were killed. [no NTSB report yet]