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A history of air show accidents around the world, the worst killed 77 in Ukraine

One pilot died today in rehearsal session for Bengaluru aero show. Ahead of event, ThePrint looks at history of such shows and aerobatic crashes.

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New Delhi: Two Hawk aircraft of the Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team crashed near the Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru during a rehearsal session Tuesday for the upcoming Aero India 2019 show.

One pilot died while two others suffered injuries, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has said.

Ahead of the aero show, scheduled to begin Wednesday, ThePrint takes a look at the history of aero shows and aerobatic crashes.

What are aerobatics?

Aerobatics is the exercise of flying manoeuvres, which involve aircraft altitudes that are not generally used in normal flights. Aerobatics are performed using airplanes, gliders and, on some rare instances, helicopters such as Westland Lynx.

Aerobatic shows are conducted for the purpose of recreation, entertainment, training and sports.

The first air show, which involved several varieties of aircraft, was held in 1909 at Reims, France.

Today, Le Bourget in Paris, Farnborough in the UK, Dubai and Singapore air shows count among the largest in the world.


Also read2 pilots dead after Mirage-2000 IAF trainer aircraft crashes in Bengaluru


History of air shows crashes

Disastrous crashes during aerobatic shows have been a common feature since the advent of these shows.

Between 2000 and 2018, at least 124 crashes were reported across the world — of these, three happened in India.

Before Tuesday’s accident in Bengaluru, the last lethal aircraft crash in India happened in 2010 at Hyderabad during the Indian Aviation Show, killing two pilots.

In the US, “the civil air show crash rate was 31 crashes per 1,000 civil air events,” showed a study on crashes in the country between 1993 and 2013.

The study noted that out of the 174 civil air show crashes between 1993 and 2013, 52 per cent involved at least one fatality.

It also found that the most common causes of fatalities during air show crashes are: Fire, pilot error, aerobatic flight, and off-airport location.

Infamous crashes

History shows that most lethal crashes involve civilian deaths.

The deadliest air show crash in history happened in 2002, near Sknyliv airfield, at Lviv, Ukraine. After a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27 was coming out from a complex ‘rolling dive manoeuvre’, its left wing clipped the ground. The Sukhoi crashed into several stationary aircraft, before exploding.

This incident killed 77 people and injured more than 500 spectators. To everyone’s horror, the dead included 28 children.

Another similar air show accident happened in West Germany in 1988 — which killed 70 people, including the three pilots.


Also read: Two IAF Surya Kiran jets collide at Aero India rehearsal, one pilot dead


This report has been corrected to reflect the accurate casualty figure for the Ukraine crash.

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