If you’re an airline passenger, automation is your friend — setting aside the fears over its role in the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max planes in the past five months. The gradual spread of automation through the civil aircraft fleet is a primary reason the accident rate worldwide has fallen from about four accidents per million flights in 1977 to less than 0.4 today. Many modern airliners are capable of taking off, flying and landing without any human assistance. Pilots today, as one former pilot puts it, are less stick-and-rudder movers than they are overseers of systems.
Automation is not without its own hazards, though.… Seguir leyendo »
Egypt Air Flight 804’s downing is a tragedy. But we still don’t know what kind of tragedy. While Donald Trump’s certainty that it was a terrorist act may assure some, and could even be accurate, this isn’t how investigations like this work. Theories serve only as a way to guide this investigation, but it is facts that will tell us what actually happened. And that matters not simply for the future safety of the global aviation network, but for the stresses on America’s own aviation apparatus.
As data, sometimes conflicting, sometimes simply inaccurate, comes through over the next couple of days, it should be somewhat reassuring to recognize that the potential explanations are limited.… Seguir leyendo »
As Tuesday’s tragedy in Belgium made clear, air travel remains vulnerable to determined terrorists. Three plotters, at least one of whom wore a suicide vest, killed or maimed hundreds by striking the unsecured front of the Brussels Airport, the departures terminal. The attack sparked an important debate about extending the security perimeter, as airports like Israel’s Ben Gurion International and LAX have done to some degree.
But the check-in counter and the approaches to the airport aren’t the only danger zones. For terrorist groups around the world, smuggling a bomb onto a plane is still the Holy Grail. And as recent attacks demonstrate, terrorists are learning to exploit back-of-the-airport employees like baggage handlers and catering and cleaning crews to bring down aircraft.… Seguir leyendo »
It happens every time. An airplane crashes, hundreds are killed, and immediately, before any facts are apparent, everyone wants to pinpoint a cause. It’s as though there is a giant void that must be filled, and if it can’t be filled by facts, it’s filled by theories. Which, of course, are just that — theories.
It’s no different with the crash of MetroJet Flight 9268 in the Egyptian desert. The Russian plane broke apart in midair, killing all 224 people on board. We’ve heard early speculation of a missile and a fuel tank explosion. There was talk of previous damage to the aircraft’s structure from a tail strike.… Seguir leyendo »
On Tuesday, the Dutch Safety Board released a report suggesting that a missile warhead was responsible for the crash of Malaysia Flight 17 over Donetsk, Ukraine, in July 2014. Everyone on board was killed.
Russians and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine deny allegations that they are to blame; instead, they accuse the Ukrainians. Both sides keep pointing fingers at one another.
It’s very possible that this tragedy is the result of highly capable weapons landing in the hands of those who are not adequately trained to use them, or worse, when systems that should have available safety mechanisms were sold without them.… Seguir leyendo »
It appears that the Malaysian government has not learned from its mistakes.
For Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to announce that the debris found on Reunion Island conclusively belongs to MH370, when French authorities directly involved with the inspection of the debris in question — a flaperon– are calling the discovery a good supposition, is reckless. This is not about semantics. This is about responsibility.
Allow me to step out of the airline pilot box for a moment. Discussing the investigative analysis of the flaperon, a flight control surface, and how this inspection relates to the impact of the 777 with the water has been well discussed both on air and on this website.… Seguir leyendo »
In the two weeks since the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, there has been no lack of commentary about the failures and future of piloted aviation — much of it frustratingly ill informed. Planes are already so automated, consensus has it, that it’s only a matter of time before pilots are engineered out of the picture completely. And isn’t the best way to prevent another Andreas Lubitz to replace him with a computer, or a remote pilot, somewhere on the ground? Cue the aeronautics professor or university scientist who will blithely assert that yes, we are well on our way to a pilotless future.… Seguir leyendo »
«A pilot called me last week, concerned he might have Marfan syndome,» a health care provider told me recently at a meeting. «But if I find he has the disease, do I have to report him to the Federal Aviation Administration? And if so, should I call him first and tell him that? Would he lose his job?» She was totally unsure what to do. Several other providers were present, and none of them knew, either.
«You should definitely call him and tell him,» a health care lawyer, who was present, said. «You have to provide full disclosure.»
«But presumably, he knows that you might do so,» I said.… Seguir leyendo »
I worked as a pilot for about 10 years before going back to school to become an architect. There are a few oddballs I can remember flying with, but mostly we’re just talking quirks and eccentricities. Never did I fear a colleague intended to kill himself, or everyone onboard.
Being a pilot is a unique working environment. You’re stuck with someone one on one, mostly in a tiny room, for days on end. On some layovers, I’d be happy to hang out with whomever I was working with. Other times, if we didn’t have much in common, we’d just do our own thing.… Seguir leyendo »
It’s easy — and perhaps tempting — to try to draw parallels between the crash of the Germanwings Airline in the French Alps on Tuesday and previous tragedies like that of AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed in December. After all, both incidents involved an Airbus A320. But as understandable as it is to try to draw lessons from earlier tragedies, it is also essential that we don’t forget that no two accidents are ever exactly the same.
So what do we know about this specific incident? And what might have led to the obliteration of this plane, and the likely loss of all 150 people on board?… Seguir leyendo »
We’re taking to the skies in ever-increasing numbers, and increased demand for commercial flights — which is pushing down prices — is creating a stranglehold that may ultimately lead to unsafe skies for all of us.
As a former pilot and current industry consultant, I have learned that nothing is ever the same on any day in aviation. Change is inevitable and learning never ceases. My colleagues and I thrive on this change and work with airlines and governments to manage it.
The number of high-profile air accidents involving Asian carriers last year, and the attendant coverage that these tragedies generated, has placed a lot of focus on air travel in the Asia-Pacific region.… Seguir leyendo »
News that debris was found after an Indonesia AirAsia flight went missing over the weekend marked the third major incident involving Southeast Asian airlines this year.
In March, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing after it mysteriously deviated from its scheduled flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The plane is believed to have been lost over the southern Indian Ocean near Australia, yet no wreckage has been found.
Then, in July, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine — possibly by pro-Russian separatists, although Russia suggested that Ukraine was in some way responsible.
So, are passengers traveling in Southeast Asia rattled?… Seguir leyendo »
The day Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine, I was in Moscow, having dinner with a small group of friends. Three of those present were living in Moscow and the other three, including me, were former Muscovites visiting from the United States. Perhaps because most of the people at the table were linguists, discussion of the airplane soon turned to a conversation about words.
“Why do we have to say ‘our country”’ asked one of the linguists. “Why can’t we say ‘this country,’ like Americans do?”
It’s a language thing: When speaking of Russia, Russians indicate possession the way English-speakers do with most other nouns — “my hand,” “my drink” — but not, as it happens, with countries.… Seguir leyendo »
It’s been pretty gruesome for the airline industry in recent days.
First, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot over eastern Ukraine last week, killing all 298 people on board. Then, a TransAsia ATR-72 crashed near the small Taiwanese island of Penghu in heavy rains, claiming more than 40 lives. And on Thursday, an Air Algerie MD-83 with 116 on board crashed in Mali.
At tough times like this, it’s worth reminding people that flying remains one of the safest modes of transportation on Earth, especially since airline accidents tend to become spectacular media events.
In the United States, there hasn’t been a commercial airline fatality since the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in early 2009.… Seguir leyendo »
The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine last week, most likely after being struck with a missile fired by pro-Russian rebel forces, was followed this week by the rebels’ shoot-down of two Su-25 attack aircraft deployed by the Ukrainian Air Force.
These incidents reflect a typical pattern in insurgencies and counterinsurgency operations. Air power is often crucial in fighting insurgents, as it has been recently in Ukraine. The Ukrainian air force has made up for the poor performance of Ukrainian ground units by driving rebel forces into retreat. The Su-25 ground-attack planes that were shot down this week were part of a renewed Ukrainian air offensive against rebel positions.… Seguir leyendo »
On July 17, the world was dismayed by a terrible tragedy when civilian Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in an area controlled by pro-Russian militants.
It is clear to everyone now that that horrific act was perpetrated by terrorists who for months have been destabilizing the Ukrainian state, being trained, financed and armed by Russia. All reports point to the fatal shot having been launched from a Buk missile system that had been brought onto the territory of Ukraine from Russia a few days before the tragedy.
This appalling event would not have happened had Russia not launched its aggression against Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
After a harrowing delay, the first bodies from MH17 arrived back at their point of departure on Wednesday. The sendoff from Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, had been dignified, in contrast to most of their treatment over the previous six days. There were decent coffins, a short military ceremony and soberly dressed officials with heads bowed. A measure of order had been restored.
These arrangements, it appears, were the result of highly complicated negotiations between many parties. There were representatives of Malaysia (because the plane was theirs); of the Netherlands (because this is where the plane had set off from, and the majority of the passengers were Dutch nationals); of the Ukrainian government (because the plane came down within its borders); of the anti-Kiev rebels (because they control the actual territory where the plane crashed); and of Russia (because it had some lines open to the rebels, if not as much real leverage as many still believe).… Seguir leyendo »
I had just landed at Jinnah International Airport on July 7, and was walking toward the baggage claim area when I saw the bullet hole.
There it was, a single hole in one glass pane, probably from a stray bullet, fired hundreds of yards away. It was the only visible reminder of the firefight on June 8, when members of the Pakistani Taliban invaded the old terminal building where cargo and private flights now operate. Through the night, they fought a pitched battle with security forces that ended with 36 people dead, including the 10 militants. Another casualty, now permanently scarred, was our collective sense of security about our airport.… Seguir leyendo »
In eastern Ukraine, Vladimir V. Putin has been playing with fire.
He has mobilized the worst elements to be found in the region.
He has taken thugs, thieves, rapists, ex-cons and vandals and turned them into a paramilitary force.
He has permitted ad hoc commanders of separatist groups to kill or chase off intellectuals, journalists and other moral authorities in the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.
He has watched as a vodka-soaked rabble army destroys or takes over public buildings, hospitals, schools and municipal offices of the country it is pretending to liberate.
He has allowed a veritable gang war to take hold — without caring that he is losing control of the forces that he has unleashed, with rival bands pitted against one another and carving out fiefs amid the growing anarchy.… Seguir leyendo »
Less than two weeks ago, the Netherlands was still delirious with the fever surrounding the World Cup. The Dutch unexpectedly achieved third place. Dutch nationalism, usually muted, was briefly turned into mandatory enthusiasm, as the Dutch team racked up victories over Spain, Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and, finally, Brazil. On Twitter, a soccer commentator who ventured a few critical remarks about the Dutch team received comments to the effect that he should be thrown out of a plane.
Then, on Thursday, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine. Of the 298 passengers and crew members who were killed, 193 were Dutch nationals, among them a famous AIDS researcher, Joep Lange, and a senator and legal scholar, Willem Witteveen.… Seguir leyendo »