PPRuNe Forums - View Single Post - Ethiopian airliner down in Africa
View Single Post
Old 26th Apr 2019, 13:07
  #4365 (permalink)  
737 Driver
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: USA
Posts: 217
Wonkazoo,

Appreciate the comments. Understanding the human reaction to an aircraft emergency is a very important part of examining these incidents. You're right, that it really isn't a case of Boeing messed up or the pilots messed up or the regulators messed up or the maintenance folks messed up. All those parts came together at the same time to cause these accident. However, by they same token, we can't simply sit back and say Boeing needs to fix their design, the FAA needs to strengthen their oversight, the airlines have to do a better job at training, and then turn a blind eye to what, we as professional pilots, ought to be doing to address obvious shortcomings in airmanship. And we can't address those shortcomings unless we acknowledge that those shortcomings were present in these accidents.

In my aviation career, I've had three incidents where if I didn't make the right choices in a timely manner, then a very bad outcome would have resulted. The most notable was an engine failure in a single-engine aircraft that culminated in a deadstick ILS approach to the runway with 300-1 weather. Yes, luck was involved in that there was an airport close enough to navigate to, but luck didn't land the plane. I don't say this to pat myself on the back, but to simply to say that I've been there. You're right in that the initial wave of emotions and disbelief can be enormous and potentially paralyzing. I've also made some embarrassing mistakes in my career that if not caught by my trusty First Officer, could have devolved into something unpleasant. Mistakes happen and humans err, but that does not mean we just throw up are arms and say there's nothing to be done.

I've said before that when I was an instructor pilot, I could take just about any well-adjusted adult and teach them the basics of flying and that they would be safe enough on a VFR day if nothing went wrong. Similarly, there are lots of people who can be taught the systems management approach to flying, and as long as nothing happens too quickly and the problem is well-known or the solution is covered by some non-normal checklist, then they will do just fine.

Here's the cold reality of these accidents: Things will happen that aren't on the checklist. They can happen quickly. Crew competency matters, and I do mean "crew" because the Captain can't do it all himself when things go bad. Basic airmanship skills matter. The ability to think under pressure matters. The ability to prioritize matters. Ultimately, these planes were flyable using some pretty basic airmanship skills, but that did not happen. Perhaps one day the aircraft and all the processes that touch a flight will be made so completely fault tolerant that these things don't matter. However, when that future becomes reality, airlines won't need professional pilots anymore, will they?

Yes, I'm being hard on the crew, just as I'm being hard on Boeing and the FAA and the airlines. It can be a hard business, and people die when we don't get it right. That being said, I've seen no evidence that anyone was intentionally malicious or careless. The human factor element touches every part of these accidents from the aircraft designers, to the supervisors, to the regulators, to the airline managers, and all the way to the flight crew. We know that there were multiple mistakes by multiple humans, and now it is incumbent on us to ask what could have been done differently. We do not do this so we have the luxury to say WE could have prevented these accidents, but to make the entire chain of causation more resilient and safer.

PPRuNe is not an online forum for Boeing or the FAA or airline management. We can point fingers, but we can't really fix their issues. PPRuNe, however, is a forum for professional pilots, so we can certainly discuss what ought to be done when we see evidence that points to lapses in airmanship. If some of the participants want to take the position that there is nothing to be done, that we merely have to accept that some of our number are going to succumb to the pressures induced by an unexpected aircraft state, fail to execute well-established procedures and/or apply basic airmanship skills, I am not sure what else I can say.

IMHO, what I think would be more beneficials is to move past the shock and denials and the strong desire to defend one of our own and look at the particular chain of causation that led to these crews not being able to perform to the standards of a professional pilot when lives were at stake.

Last edited by 737 Driver; 26th Apr 2019 at 16:03.
737 Driver is offline