September 26, 1976 – 12 fatalities
A Russian pilot stole an Antonov 2 airplane directed his aircraft into the block of flats in Novosibirsk where his divorced wife lived. (ASN Accident Description)
August 22, 1979 – 4 fatalities
A 23 year old male mechanic who had just been fired entered a hangar at Bogotá Airport, Colombia and stole a military HS-748 transport plane. He took off and crashed the plane in a residential area. (ASN Accident Description)
A Russian Air Force engineer stole the aircraft at the Kubinka AFB to die by suicide. The aircraft crashed when there was no more fuel left. (ASN Accident Description)
August 21, 1994 – 44 fatalities
A Royal Air Maroc ATR-42 airplane crashed in the Atlas Mountains shortly after takeoff from Agadir, Morocco. The accident was suggested to have been caused by the captain disconnecting the autopilot and directing the aircraft to the ground deliberately. The Moroccan Pilot’s Union challenged these findings. (ASN Accident Description)
December 19, 1997 – 104 fatalities
Silk Air Flight 185, a Boeing 737 en route from Jakarta, Indonesia to Singapore, crashed in Indonesia following a rapid descent from cruising altitude. Indonesian authorities were not able to determine the cause of the accident. It has been suggested by amongst others the U.S. NTSB that the captain may have decided to die by suicide by switching off both flight recorders and intentionally putting the Boeing 737 in a dive, possibly when the first officer had left the flight deck. During 1997 the captain experienced multiple work-related difficulties, particularly during the last 6 months. Also at the time of the accident the captain was experiencing significant financial difficulties, which was disputed by the Indonesian investigators. (ASN Accident Description)
October 11, 1999 – 1 fatality
An Air Botswana captain who had been grounded for medical reasons took off in an ATR-42. He made several demands over the radio and finally stated he was going the crash the plane. He caused the plane to crash into two parked ATR-42 aircraft on the platform at Gaborone Airport, Botswana. (ASN Accident Description)
October 31, 1999 – 217 fatalities
Egypt Air Flight 990, a Boeing 767, entered a rapid descent some 30 minutes after departure from New York-JFK Airport. This happened moments after the captain had left the flight deck. During the investigation it was suggested that the accident was caused by a deliberate act by the relief first officer. However, there was no conclusive evidence. The NTSB concluded that the accident was a “result of the relief first officer’s flight control inputs. The reason for the relief first officer’s actions was not determined.” The suggestions of a deliberate act were heavily disputed by Egyptian authorities. (ASN Accident Description)
November 29, 2013 – 33 fatalities
LAM Flight 470 entered a rapid descent while en route between Maputo and Luanda and crashed in into the Bwabwata National Park, Namibia. Preliminary investigation results indicate that the accident was intentional. The captain made control inputs that directed the plane to the ground, shortly after the first officer had left the flight deck. All 33 passengers and crew were killed. (ASN Accident Description)
Germanwings Airbus A320 Flight 9525, en route from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany, went into a long descent before crashing into the French Alps. The co-pilot left behind in the cockpit, named as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, appeared to "show a desire to want to destroy" the plane. (More information, here and here.)
In 2004, I wrote my book, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines, and dedicated it to David Phillips for his groundbreaking work that had been largely ignored by most scholars up to that time.
In 1974, University of California at San Diego sociologist David P. Phillips coined the phrase, “The Werther Effect,” to describe the copycat phenomenon. The word “Werther” comes from a 1774 novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the author of Faust. In the story, the youthful character Werther falls in love with a woman who is promised to another. Always melodramatic, Werther decides that his life cannot go on, and that his love is lost. He then dresses in boots, a blue coat, and a yellow vest, sits at his desk with an open book, and, literally at the 11th hour, shoots himself. In the years that followed, throughout Europe, so many young men shot themselves while dressed as Werther had been and seated at their writing desks with an open copy of The Sorrows of Young Werther in front of them, that the book was banned in Italy, Germany, and Denmark.Today, "The Werther Effect" is more commonly expressed publicly as "The Copycat Effect."
I also observed that sociologist David Phillips noted in 1978 that airplane accident fatalities normally increase just after newspaper stories about murder and suicide. Phillips found an increase in both suicides and murder-suicides following other well-publicized suicides and murder-suicides, including suicides hidden in unrecognized aircraft accidents - especially in single-plane wrecks. Phillips’s theory about a follow-on increase in plane crashes noted some “disguised suicides” followed soon after high media attention to suicides in the news.
Coleman, Loren. The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.
Phillips, David P. “Airplane Accident Fatalities Increase just After Newspaper Stories About Suicide and Murder,” Science 20, August 25, 1978.
Phillips, David P. “Airplane Accidents, Murder, and the Mass Media: Towards a Theory of Imitation and Suggestions,” Social Forces 58:4, June 1980.