“Seconds to Disaster” by Glenn Meade and Ray Ronan

When I read my doctoral dissertation -you can find two versions in the blog frame depending of your kind of interest: Aviation or Organizational Studies- I remember especially one of the persons who had to evaluate it, Secundino Valladares. He said: “Now, I’m sure that I will never fly again”. I cannot blame him: To justify every finding, I put two or three paragraphs, extracted from official reports about major Aviation accidents. It was quite easy to reach that conclusion. After reading the book by Meade and Ronan, I have started to think of myself as a soft nun, regarding the kind of things they bring to the discussion.

For instance, the existence of compromises between regulators and main manufacturers is crystal-clear and there are many facts that can show how the European regulator does not look with the same eyes at both, Boeing and Airbus, and the same can be said about FAA but, of course, in the opposite side. Even though, the chapter that the authors devote to Boeing 737NG shows something far beyond a “friendly eye”. Nothing new; some of us are old enough to remember what happened with DC-10 and how 325 avoidable deaths (Turkish Airlines 981) were required to fix a problem that was previously known. The authors speak too about AF447 -you will find in this blog several posts dealing with AF447- and, for a moment, I had the feeling of not being alone with my conclussions about this case: The stamp “Lack of Training” is very comfortable to close a report avoiding entering in design issues. However, this stamps does not answer the main question: If that is true…why did you have people lacking training to fly a big plane over Atlantic Ocean? We can go beyond: Is that a training practice by Air France or is it shared worldwide? Still, we can go beyond: Is it possible, due to design complexity, provide pilots and engineers with the training level that they could require under an extreme situation? Once we get here, we could be around the root of the problem: Profit aimed design.

A few days ago, I published something about how average passengers boarding a twin plane for a long-haul trip does not know what are the rules: He does not know that, in the event of an engine-stop, the plane is certified to fly more than 5 hours from the nearest airport with only one engine working and full of passengers. This and many of the things that the authors of “Seconds to Disaster” say are unknown to the flying public. Perhaps, this is the first thing to change if we want to change something.

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