Accident Classification

Accident Classification


AccidentInternational Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) defines an accident as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until such time as all such persons have disembarked in which:

  • A person is fatally or seriously injured
  • The aircraft sustains damage or structural failure
  • The aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible

Note: The following are not considered accidents: experimental test flights, sabotage, hijacking, terrorism, or direct military action

There are several ways to classify an accident. These include classification by the level of damage incurred, by the extent of injuries caused, or by the cost of the damage to the aircraft. The following definitions are used in various classification taxonomies:


  • Destroyed : The aircraft is not repairable, or, if repairable, the cost of repairs exceeds 50% of the cost of the aircraft when it was new
  • Substantial : Damage or failure that adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft, and which would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component. Not considered in substantial damage are; engine failure or damage limited to an engine only, bent or dented skin, damage to landing gear (to include wheels and tires), flaps, or wingtips.
  • Minor : Damage that neither destroys the aircraft nor causes substantial damage.

Injury • Fatal : An injury that results in death in the accident itself, or up to 30 days after the accident • Serious: An injury that requires more than 2 days of hospitalization up to 7 days after the accident. Fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of the toes, fingers, or nose). Serious also includes injury to an internal organ, any muscle or tendon damage, any second or third degree burn, or any burn covering more than 5 percent of the body. • Minor : An injury that requires less than 2 days of hospitalization up to 7 days after the accident.

Accident Classifications

Hull Loss Accident: An accident in which the aircraft damage is not repairable, or is damaged but not repaired. Hull loss accidents include when the aircraft is missing, or if the wreckage is inaccessible.

Major Accident: An accident in which any of the following three conditions are met:

  • The aircraft is destroyed
  • There were multiple fatalities
  • There was one fatality and the aircraft sustained substantial damage

Fatal Accident: An accident causing one or more fatalities to occupants of the aircraft Substantial Damage Accident: An accident in which the aircraft sustained substantial damage Serious Accident: An accident in which either of the following two conditions are met:

  • A single fatality without substantial damage
  • At least one serious injury and aircraft substantially damaged

Minor Accident: An accident in which the aircraft sustained minor damage

Aircraft incident: An occurrence other than an accident that affects or could affect the safety of operations

Related Article

Further Reading

  • ICAO Annex 13 (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation).
  • ICAO Accident/Incident Reporting Manual (Doc 9156)

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