Any plane crash involving a passenger carrier is highly unlikely — but Tuesday’s loss of a Germanwings Airbus A320 in the French Alps is especially unusual given the tragedy’s circumstances.
Flight 9525 was carrying 150 people at a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet Tuesday morning before it began rapidly descending, officials said. That’s an unfortunately familiar story—the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and AirAsia Flight 8501 crashes happened at cruising altitude. But it’s also very rare: only 10% of fatal accidents involving a plane damaged beyond repair involved a plane that had reached cruising altitude, according to a report by Boeing.
Instead, most of those accidents (called “hull loss fatal accidents”) occur during takeoff and landing. Recent examples include last month’s TransAsia Flight 235 crash, which suffered engine failure 37 seconds after takeoff, or last year’s TransAsia Flight 222 crash, which crashed on landing due to bad weather.
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