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04.19.11

15 Most Accident Prone Airplanes

Amidst a rash of emergency landings and airplane incidents this month, The Daily Beast parsed the statistics on more than 1,000 types of planes to find the models with the worst safety records.

It’s been a rough month for air safety. During the first week of April, there were eight emergency landings — including Southwest Flight 812, which was forced to make an emergency landing after a hole appeared in the plane’s fuselage. As well, early last week an Air France Airbus A380 – one of the world’s largest passenger airplanes – hit a small commuter plane on the runway at New York City’s JFK airport.

Aircraft accidents are rare—last year there was one serious accident for every 1.6 million flights. But deaths on commercial aircraft around the world increased 15 percent according to the International Air Transport Association (of course, this is due in part to increased air travel overall). The number of fatal crashes worldwide increased 28 percent to 23 and the number of deaths climbed 15 percent to 786 people in 2010. There were no fatalities on U.S. airlines last year.

Gallery: 15 Most Accident Prone Airplanes

Of course if the airplane bumper-plane incident at JFK is any indication, a traveler can hit all sorts of bumps during air travel, even if you’re on a domestic airline. So The Daily Beast sought to determine which airplanes, according to make and model, have the worst records. We sorted the data from the last year (April 1, 2010 to April 1, 2011) of incidents and accidents in civilian aviation within the United States, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Variants of plane models were included in the total for each plane. The final ranking was based on a weighting of the total number of accidents and incidents, as well as the total fatalities from fatal accidents within the time span.

One note on the ranking: the list provides a snapshot of the types of planes involved in the most accidents, but does not control for total miles or flights for each type, which is unavailable. As well, the accidents and incidents tally for all planes refers to those that have been investigated by the NTSB for the given time period, regardless of probable cause (pilot error, inclement weather, structural failures, etc.). However, the list is an instructive glimpse into the types of aircraft that crash with the greatest frequency. While the Boeing 737 tops our list with 25 accidents and incidents in the last year, more than 5,100 737s were in service as of last July. In comparison, Piper PA-32 series planes were involved in 23 accidents last year and only 7,000 were ever manufactured.