Eight 'pilot suicides' recorded in past 40 years, killing hundreds of passengers, crew and people on the ground

Wreckage from the 1999 EgyptAir plane crash Credit: National Transportation Safety Board

Eight plane crashes caused by apparent pilot suicide have been recorded in the past 40 years, leaving more than 400 people dead, according to official figures.

The information, from the Aviation Safety Network database, shows deliberate actions by pilots and co-pilots have left 416 passengers, crew members and people on the ground dead since 1976.

It comes after investigators revealed that the German co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U9525, named as Andreas Lubitz, appeared to have deliberated crashed the plane into the Alps, killing 150 people.

It makes it the second-biggest such deliberate crash on record, second only to the 1999 crashing of an EgyptAir flight which left 217 people dead.

Bearing chilling similarities to this week's tragedy, in that case investigators found the first officer had deliberately plunged the Boeing into a nose-dive above the Atlantic Ocean after the captain went to the toilet.

Here are the plane crashes attributed to pilot suicides:

  • November 29, 2013: 33 killed

An Embraer ERJ-190AR flight, operated by LAM, crashed in Bwabwata National Park in Namibia en route between Mozambique and Angola.Flight recordings showed the co-pilot had left the cockpit to go to the toilet just minutes before the crash.

After he left, the captain manually changed the altitude selector several times, fro 38,000 ft, to 4,288 ft, to 1,888 ft and finally 592 ft. The airspeed was also manually changed a number of times, keeping it close to the maximum operating limit speed.

The sound of someone pounding on the cockpit door can also be heard in the moments before it ends.

Rumours suggested the pilot's son had died the previous year, and that he had been experiencing marital difficulties.

  • October 31, 1999: 217 killed

A Boeing 767-366 plane, operated by EgyptAir, crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, just over 60 miles from the coast of Massachusetts, US, as it flew from New York to Cairo.

Around half an hour after take-off, the command captain left the cockpit to go to the toilet. Just 11 seconds later, the voice recorder heard the first officer - who was left in control of the plane - say: "I rely on God."

Investigators said there was no other noise or evident mechanical function to explain his comment.

The autopilot was then disconnected, and the first officer repeated the statement, and the throttle levers were moved, putting the plane abruptly into a nose-down pitch.

The first officer repeated the phrase 11 times in total, while the captain entered the cockpit and can be heard demanding: "What's happening? What is this? Did you shut the engines?"

The recordings indicated the captain managed to regain control, despite the plane hitting G-force speeds, and reached an altitude of 25,000 ft before a second descent saw it hit the water.

The Flight Data Recorder from 1999's EgyptAir crash Credit: National Transportation Safety Board
  • October 11, 1999: 1 killed

An Air Botswana captain, who had been grounded on medical reasons and refused reinstatement, boarded a parked ATR-42-320 plane parked at Gaborone-Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.

He took off and demanded to speak to a number of people, including president, Air Botswana's general manager, the station commander, central police station and his girlfriend.

Despite a number of efforts to talk him down, he finally told them he was going to crash the plane and directed the craft to hit Air Botswana's two other planes parked at the airport.

  • December 19, 1997: 104 killed

The Boeing 737-36N Silkair flight had departed from Jakarta, Indonesia, and was headed for Singapore when it crashed into the Musi River delta in Indonesia.

Investigators believe the pilot deliberately switched off the cockpit voice recorder and put the plane into a nose-dive.

While Indonesian authorities disputed some findings, US experts found the pilot had been experiencing work-related and financial difficulties in the six months prior to the crash. In addition, there was no mechanical fault found on the aircraft, and there was no attempt to right the plane on its descent.

The engine of the EgyptAir plane, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 1999, killing 217 people Credit: National Transportation Safety Board
  • August 21, 1994: 44 killed

An ATR-42-312 plane, operated by Royal Air Maroc (RAM), took a steep nose dive and crashed in the Atlas Mountains just 10 minutes after departing from Agadir-Al Massira International Airport en route to Casablanca.

Investigators found the captain had disconnected autopilot and deliberately directed the plane to the ground, though this was challenged by the Moroccan Pilot's Union who said he had shown no sign of unhappiness in either his personal or professional life.

  • July 13, 1994: 1 killed

A Russian Air Force engineer stole an Antonov 26 plane from the Kubina AFB and kept it circling between 300 and 2,000 ft above the city until it ran out of fuel and crashed near Lyakhovo.

  • August 22, 1979: 4 killed

A Hawker Siddeley 748-260 military transport plane was stolen from Bogotá-Eldorado Airport in Colombia by a 23-year-old man who had been fired after working at the airport for two years.

He crashed it into the Carrera suburb of Bogotá, killing three people along with himself.

  • September 26, 1976: 12 killed

An Antonov 2 small plane operated by Aeroflot was deliberately flown towards a block of flats in Novosibirsk, Russia, where the pilot's ex-wife lived.

The pilot, along with 11 residents of the flats, were killed - though his divorced wife was not among them.