The A320 Crash Is The Worst French Air Disaster Since 1981

03/24/2015 02:14 pm ET | Updated Mar 25, 2015
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Commercial airline accidents on French territory are a rare occurrence. At least 150 people on board an Airbus A320 owned by German airline Germanwings are feared dead after the airliner crashed in southern France on Tuesday. The last large-scale aerial tragedy in the country took place on July 25, 2000, when a Concorde jet crashed, causing 113 deaths.

While it has been 15 years since France has witnessed a major aerial accident, it has been even longer since a tragedy comparable to Tuesday’s crash. In 1981, a deadlier accident occurred, with 180 passengers and crew members killed in the French region of Corsica.

The most serious crash in France’s history dates back to 1974, when a Turkish Airlines plane crashed soon after takeoff. None of the 346 people on board survived. This was also the fourth deadliest accident in the history of aviation. The Tenerife disaster of 1977, which claimed the lives of 583 people, remains the most fatal.

The last time that an Airbus A320 crashed on French soil was in 1992, close to Mont Sainte-Odile.

Here’s a summary of the worst aerial disasters in France in the past 50 years:

• On July 25, 2000, Air France’s Concorde Flight 4590 crashed almost as soon as it took off. The investigation quickly showed that the plane's engines had been on fire when it took off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport. The crash killed the plane’s 109 passengers and crew on board, as well as four people on the ground. The accident was caused by an explosion at the left rear end of the plane, which ignited the kerosene in the engines.

• On Jan. 20, 1992, 87 passengers and crew members died following the crash of an Airbus A320, owned by the French airline Air Inter, in an area called “La Bloss,” close to Mont Sainte-Odile in Alsace, northeastern France. Only nine people on board survived.

• On June 26, 1988, Air France Flight 296 crashed in Habsheim, Alsace, killing three people and leaving 133 injured. This was a test flight that malfunctioned. The plane was carrying journalists and people flying for the first time. It flew at a low speed and a dangerously low altitude, leading to the crash. The aircraft landed in the forest at the end of the runway.

• On Dec. 1, 1981, a Yugoslavian chartered jet crashed in Corsica, killing its 180 passengers and crew. A piloting error caused the accident. The plane missed its landing in Ajaccio and then collided with a mountain in the inland region of Propriano.

• On March 3, 1974, a Turkish Airlines DC-10 crashed soon after its departure from Orly Airport, killing all 346 people on board. It is believed that the cargo door was not secured properly and broke off in full flight. It is the worst aerial disaster that has taken place on French soil.

• On July 11, 1973, a Boeing 707 aircraft owned by the Brazilian airline Varig crashed as it approached Orly Airport. A fire on the plane -- possibly caused by a passenger throwing his cigarette butt in the toilet -- suffocated 123 of the 134 people on board.

• On March 5, 1973, a collision in Nantes killed 68 people. An Iberia DC-9 crashed in La Planche after having collided with a Spantax CV-990 aircraft, flight number BX400. While the DC-9 exploded mid-air, the pilots on flight 400 successfully made an emergency landing in Cognac, saving the 108 people who were on board. The crash took place during a strike by air traffic controllers, which left the French Air Force operating the airspace. However, the minister of transportation denied any connection between the accident and the strike.

• On Sept. 11, 1968, an Air France Caravelle flying from Nice to Ajaccio crashed off the coast of Nice, causing 95 deaths. The final report of the inquiry commission concluded that the cause of the crash was a fire that originated in the toilets' water heater.

• On March 5, 1968, an Air France flight crashed into La Soufriere Mountain while approaching Pointe-a-Pitre Airport in Guadeloupe. The 63 people on board the Boeing 707 died.

• On June 3, 1967, an Air Ferry flight crashed into Mount Canigou in the Pyrenees of southern France, an accident caused in part by a navigation error by the pilots. All 88 people on board the DC-4 aircraft died.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly that 644 people died in the Tenerife disaster of 1977. The death toll was 583.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost France and was translated into English.

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