CFIT, controlled flight into terrain, refers to an aircraft being unintentionally flown into the ground.

Is there any term specific for suicide by pilot? CFIT would not apply to that situation.


2 Answers 2


According to the German Wiki article about CFIT a pilot's suicide is indeed not a CFIT. It is instead denoted as SEC. They refer to the document CAST/ICAO Common Taxonomy Team: Aviation Occurence CategoriesPDF (Rev. 4.7, page 21) which says


Criminal/Security acts which result in accidents or incidents (per Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation).

Usage Notes:

  • While security-related acts can lead to accidents as defined as by Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, they are not considered accidents by some organizations. Regardless, these events have similar consequences in that they result in serious injury or death to person(s) and/or substantial damage to the aircraft. For these reasons, they are categorized as security-related occurrences for prevention purposes only.

  • Examples include, (a) hijacking and/or aircraft theft, (b) interference with a crewmember (e.g., unruly passengers), (c) flight control interference, (d) ramp/runway/taxiway security, (e) sabotage, (f) suicide, and (g) acts of war.

Also, (same document, page 9) about CFIT:

Usage Notes:


  • Do not use this category for occurrences involving intentional flight into/toward terrain in manned aircraft or intentional ground impact of unmanned aircraft. […] Code all suicides under Security Related (SEC) events.


(Emphasis mine)

So according to ICAO, all suicides are SEC but not all SEC are suicides.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, it's one thing to say "a pilot suicide should be given the code 'SEC' rather than the code 'CFIT,'" and it's another thing entirely to say "a pilot suicide is not a CFIT." Does the German Wikipedia article really say that a pilot suicide is not a CFIT? $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2019 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. German Wiki says (translated) "... Also not covered by the term CFIT are accidents that occur in the following situations: ... suicide (SEC) ..." and refers to the PDF I linked to. $\endgroup$
    – PerlDuck
    Oct 2, 2019 at 15:24

It's hard to prove a negative, but as far as I can tell, there is only one common term for suicide by pilot: "suicide by pilot."

The term "suicide by pilot" is clear enough and concise enough that there doesn't seem to be any reason for an alternative term to exist. The Wikipedia article Suicide by pilot only seems to mention two other terms, "pilot suicide" (essentially the same term) and "kamikaze" (which only refers to a particular set of suicide attacks).

I also searched the NTSB aircraft accident report database for "suicide" and looked through the first five results. None of them used any particular term to refer to the event besides "suicide by pilot." One described an incident as "intentional flight of the airplane into terrain in an act of suicide"; another described its incident as "intentional flight into a silo."


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