Have there been any incidents in which an airliner would almost certainly have crashed had a passenger not taken some action (most likely telling a flight attendant that something didn't seem right)?

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    $\begingroup$ According to this article a flight attendant alerted the Captain just before takeoff of ice noted on the wing. The flt was canceled. $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Jul 16, 2023 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Depends if your just asking about loss of airframe crashes. The passengers of Flight 93 prevented a much larger disaster with their actions. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Jul 16, 2023 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but I once jumped over an FBO counter in Iowa and grabbed the radio to wave off a guy about to take off in a small piston. He was trying to get out before a line of storms hit, and the FBO had just got slammed by a 60+ mph gust front which he would have been taking off into. $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Jul 16, 2023 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ Possibly the closest to disaster because of failure of a passenger to communicate was Nationwide 723 in South Africa in 2007. The 737's engine fell off during takeoff. The pilots knew only that they lost power on the engine, and they were losing fuel and hydraulics. Meanwhile at least one passenger saw the engine fall off, but said nothing to the flight attendant who had been sent by the captain to look out the window. The flight attendant reported back to them that she couldn't see the front of the engine, which the pilots misinterpreted as meaning that the deicing nosecone had fallen off. $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2023 at 10:16

2 Answers 2


Its hard to prove a negative but there are cases where passengers have alerted the flight crew to things that caused a diversion or cancelation of a flight (arguably could have lead to accidents)

While these are seemingly benign examples, both fuel exhaustion and crew resource overloading has lead to crashes in other instances and you could argue, had the potential to in this situation.

Depending on exactly what your asking the passengers of United Flight 93 prevented a much larger disaster.

  • $\begingroup$ Your Air Florida Flight 90 link is now dead $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Jul 17, 2023 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ and mind you, the plane that hit the Pentagon flew a circuit around the Capitol and was well aware that the White House, Capitol, etc. hadn't been hit. Al Qaeda painfully knew which intelligence agencies did them the most damage. My conspiracy theory is the "symbolic target" was WTC; both Washington planes were practical, to degrade US intelligence capacity. The Pentagon was the highest priority target and/or the "lure" to get CIA and NSA to call everyone into the office... they'd have hit one or the other, and killed thousands of America's best IO's. $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2023 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Cloud I replaced the link with a link to the Wayback machine snapshot of it. $\endgroup$
    – ROIMaison
    Jul 19, 2023 at 10:25

Also highly qualified pilots sometimes fly in the passenger role.

In United Airlines Flight 232, Dennis Fitch, an experienced United Airlines captain and DC-10 flight instructor, was among the passengers and volunteered to assist.

During this flight, the loss of all hydraulic fluid meant that control surfaces were inoperative. With one throttle in each hand, Fitch was able to mitigate the phugoid cycle and make rough steering adjustments.


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