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Aircraft frequently1 crash, or come close to crashing, from almost every cause imaginable, on or near airports, these being places where aircraft of all sizes take off and land and sleep with many other aircraft in close proximity, and where being a hundred feet above or below or to the left or right of where you should be has much worse consequences than it does up where the only things to hit are other aircraft (which are small targets which ATC does their best to keep at least five to ten hectofeet away from you vertically, and several miles away horizontally); this is why airports have specialised ARFF units, while your neighbourhood fire department probably doesn’t.

Usually (and hopefully, at least from the airport’s perspective), the only things that get damaged are the aircraft itself, one of the runways, and some grass, but aircraft also occasionally crash into hangars, and approach lights and ILS antennae are semiregular victims of errant aircraft.2 Surprisingly, though, I can’t seem to find any instances of an occupied ATC tower being hit by an aircraft, even though it’s a tall structure in the middle of an airport - are there any known cases of an aircraft crashing into an active tower, or have the controllers just been lucky so far?


1: Well, more frequently than they crash most other places, at least.

2: Which is why they’re made to be frangible (break apart harmlessly when struck); okay, usually frangible.

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    $\begingroup$ I did a search for "aircraft crash control tower" and found dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1204181/… straight away. Where did you search? $\endgroup$ – Greg Hewgill Jun 12 '19 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I've ever seen the term "hectofeet" used anywhere ever $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jun 12 '19 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ @GregHewgill: Mainly the NTSB's AAR database. Feel free to write that up into an answer... $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 12 '19 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ When I was jumping years ago a fellow skydiver managed to land in a solitary tree in the middle of an open field, so anything's possible. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 12 '19 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the downvote. This is a good question. $\endgroup$ – Pheric Jun 12 '19 at 6:34

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