Skip to content

Murder-Suicides by Pilots Are Vexing Airlines as Deaths Mount

  • Pilot actions a focus in China Eastern plunge killing 132
  • Intentional crashes a leading cause of airline travel deaths
Rescue workers at the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps in March 2015.
Rescue workers at the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps in March 2015.Photographer: Francis Pellier MI/Ministere de l’Interieur/Getty Images

For decades, commercial airline travel has gotten progressively safer. But one cause of deaths has stubbornly persisted: pilots who intentionally crash in murder-suicides. 

Preliminary evidence suggests the crash of a China Eastern Airlines Corp. jet in March may be the latest such tragedy, a person familiar with the investigation said. If confirmed, that would make it the fourth since 2013, bringing deaths in those crashes to 554.