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We're safer now because of...

Accidents and Close Calls Discussion on accidents, close calls, and other unplanned aviation events, so we can learn from them, and be better pilots ourselves.

We're safer now because of...

Old 14th Mar 2020, 21:13
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: A little east of KSMF
Posts: 15
We're safer now because of...

This weekend as I sit at home with the cats and practice “social distancing” I had a blast from the past appear in my Inbox. I got an email yesterday from an author in Oregon asking about my experience from United flight 173. How she found me is a mystery as I’ve never signed up for any reunions, tho I did drive up to the location last December for the 40th anniversary. Maybe it was my car’s license plate - she got my name from the DMV and googled it? I didn’t ask her because I didn’t want to know. I have a call scheduled in a few days to talk about it. Last night I had the recurring nightmare for the first time in a long while.

How I see this this applying to this forum is in mistakes of the past making aviation safer. United 173 brought us CRM and other incidents have brought better aircraft construction, engine design, procedures, etc.
All this through the lens of “we’re safer now because of…”


My memories are few but [email protected] etched in my brain. I was rerouted through Denver because O’Hare was having weather. My father the Boeing guy always said to sit in the back because it’s stronger (yeah, sure Dad I will, okay), so I was in about seat 33F. Because there was a gear issue the flight attendants (they seemed old and cranky) had us all briefed and prepared. Then of course the fuel issue, and promptly a fairly dark cabin. I remember bright flashes of blue-green light as we went through high power lines and the sight of seats and insulation coming at me. That last bit is the recurring nightmare that followed me throughout my career of traveling for business. The last things I remember were sitting in someone’s yard with a blanket on me, my father being irate he had to drive to Portland to get me, and my flattened suitcase arriving a month later in a heavy duty plastic bag.

Since then I’ve always sat in the next to the last rows even on Asia flights when I could’ve gone business class. I call it my lucky seat. Mrs Towrope sits up front and I get the exasperated eyeroll when I’m last off the plane.

So what other leaps in safety have come from unfortunate happenings? The Comet windows for one…




towrope is offline  
Old 14th Mar 2020, 23:11
  #2 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Ontario, Canada
Age: 59
Posts: 4,512
I approve aircraft modifications for a living (issue STC's). I was always inclined to demand more than just the minimum demonstration of design compliance for passenger restraints and seats. It was my sense that if the passenger survived in the crash, they would have a better chance to survive. Then, two and a half years ago, it was my time, I ripped the seat belt fittings right out of the structure of the cabin as I was ejected through the windshield, as the non flying pilot. So now, any plane I approve will have cabin safety well in excess of the requirement, as I can explain first hand why it's beneficial!

When I flew as a copilot in the early '80's, CRM was fresh, new, and needed. During the only real emergency we had as a crew together, I applied it, and flew the plane, while the Captain addressed the emergency. I decided that at least one of us should fly! The other emergency I had with that Captain the CRM was all me, as he faded away with apparent food poisoning. Aside from his not participating, the flight otherwise went fine.

There are lessons to be learned from every accident, and many from close calls too! 'Glad you made it through that one towrope!
Pilot DAR is offline  
Old 15th Mar 2020, 01:02
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: N/A
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So what other leaps in safety have come from unfortunate happenings
The list is endless, as DAR comments, "There are lessons to be learned from every accident". The one that is closest to me was a very good friend, an instructor I'd had, and attended me at my wedding, who had the rotor head depart from his helicopter while in flight, killing all four on board. The aircraft was fairly new type on the market and cause was found to be a design fault, subsequently rectified of course. Personally spent 12,000 hours flying the same type of aircraft and often while in the cruise used to think of him and what his final moments must have been like.

Very familiar with your accident towrope, is often used in CRM presentations, glad that you survived the life altering experience.
megan is offline  
Old 15th Mar 2020, 01:09
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: A little east of KSMF
Posts: 15
DAR - Eeek - likewise! The only time I would start sweating were those few times when some small issue would require a return to the gate or elsewhere on the ramp, followed eventually by lining up for departure, and still flaps retracted. Of course they'd always wind their way down and we'd be fine but a few times I thought we were going to dot the "I" on the big "South San Francisco..." sign on the side of the mountain. I was sad when Kai Tak closed - only had a few arrivals there but loved them.
towrope is offline  
Old 15th Mar 2020, 22:36
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Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Central UK
Posts: 418
Wow ! That United 173 was so so unnecesary...That rates right up there with auguring into the Everglades over a 5˘ light bulb.

Boy, sometimes we learn our lessons the hard way, don't we?
meleagertoo is offline  

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