Aeroplanes are amazing feats of engineering. Tonnes of steel and glass can rise into the air and take us halfway around the globe, shielding us from the elements as we fall asleep in uncomfortable positions. It’s almost as if aeroplanes are built to be impervious to anything nature can throw at it.

Yet the most innocuous hazards can actually be fatal to plane passengers. All that steel and glass and come hurtling down if pilots aren’t careful about possible airplane threats. Here are a list of the most terrible things that can happen to a plane. You’ll think twice the next time you see a bird through the window.

1. Ice

Forst. Credit: Business Jet Traveller

Forst. Credit: Business Jet Traveller

It might happen quite frequently to airplanes (it is cold higher up in the atmosphere, after all), but that makes it no less dangerous. Of particular danger to planes is SLD ice – Supercooled Large Droplet ice. It forms bigger ice shapes in a much faster time than other types of ice, leading to possible stalling of the wings.

As a result of this, in 1994, American Eagle Flight 4184 crashed at high speed into a soybean field, killing everyone on board instantly.

2. Brownout

Kicking up a dust storm. Credit: Airheadsfly.com

Kicking up a dust storm. Credit: Airheadsfly.com

Brownout happens when planes land in dusty, sandy areas (like deserts), and the sand gets kicked up into a dust cloud around the plane. It obscures visibility, and is kind of like flying a plane into the haze. It happens mainly to inexperienced pilots who don’t know how to avoid kicking up a storm when they land. Sounds simple but frightening, right? Imagine landing a plane and halfway, you can’t see when the runway lands because all that sand is in your way.

It was so bad that four Apache helicopters fell prey to brownout in the Iraq invasion of 2003. Even military pilots can fall victim to this!

3. Tail strike

Ouch. Credit: Skytalk

Ouch. Credit: Skytalk

So when the plane lifts off, it’ll move at an angle. Yet you can’t be too eager to liftoff or land, because then you might angle the plane so far down that the rear of the airplane hits the ground. That’s what happens when you don’t follow proper procedures for flying a plane! There might not sound too dangerous (you can repair it after all), but China Airlines Flight 611 literally disintegrated in mid-air in 2002, because of improper repairs after a tail strike occured 22 years ago.

And we’re buying our trains from them.

4. Dangerous lighting

Light the way. Credit: Flightgear Forum

Light the way. Credit: Flightgear Forum

When planes land at night, or during storms, they depend on runway lights to guide them to the correct place to land. That’s why runway lights are so bright – they’re meant to stand out despite poor visibility conditions. But if there are other bright lights around, those can be mistaken for the guiding runway lights, resulting in the plane going in the wrong direction.

In several instances, this has caused collisions on the runway, or planes to roll off the runway and crash into other structures.

5. Bird strike

Fowl play. Credit: Robin Radar Systems

Fowl play. Credit: Robin Radar Systems

Birds are harmless, right? They’re just fellow users of the friendly skies, and there really should be no problem with planes and birds. Except when a flock of birds fly too close to the engines and get sucked into them. It may sound grotesque, but that’s exactly what happened on US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009. Captain Chesley Sullenberger had to pilot the plane into the Hudson River because his engines caught fire and stopped working after the bird strike.

His decision to make an emergency landing  in the Hudson River was the subject of much controversy after the crash.

Sully. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Sully. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

In fact, there was so much discussion over Captain Sullenberger’s emergency landing that a movie has been made out of it – Sully! Sully is an autobiographical film about the events that led to the US Airways Flight 1549 incident that fateful day.

If you’ve ever wanted to know exactly what happened to lead to bird strike and the river landing, then catch Sully to find out the whole story!

Credits: Business Jet Traveller, Airheadsfly.com, Skytalk, Flightgear Forum, Robin Radar Systems, Golden Village Cinemas,