The Asiana air crash in San Francisco. Your thoughts?

If you don't know that a Boeing 777 jumbo jet had an accident over the weekend, you must be living under a rock. Lately, much of the discussion is centering on the fact that the plane was technically on a training flight with 300 people on board.

Some questions:

Well, this is more of a statement with a question mark at the end: They send a plane out piloted by a copilot trainee on a training flight with 300 unsuspecting passengers on board? Was this just to 

Much is being made in the news that the plane was piloted by a trainee, but bear in mind he had 10,000+ hours flying commercial jets. He was just new to the 777. My question, though, Where was the pilot/trainer those last moments? How did he let the plane, which should have been going 158 mph end up somewhere near 113 mph, making recovery impossible, without the pilot intervening? Isn't that what he's there for?

Finally, how is it possible, as seems to be the case, for one of the emergency vehicles to run over one of the victims. An autopsy will determine whether she died from crash injuries or because of being run over, but still, how could that have happened.


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Interesting, I had just read this article a day before this happened.

The only vehicle type I ever take which has backward facing seats is trains, and I know that most people, myself included, prefer forward-facing seats. Air crashes are so rare that I wonder if the trade-off would be worth it. If we could put bac-facing seats in cars, that would make a lot more sense.

Air crashes are so rare

So is aircraft terrorism , but that doesn't stop them from implementing a billion inconvenient "security measures" and TSA. It's not about actually making stuff safer, it's about the illusion. Question is why they don't go a step further and add these things that actually might help the passengers, instead of fingerfucking them or patting down their children.

Well, yeah, but at least they can argue (rightly or wrongly) that the security deters terrorists. Clearly, given the extreme rarity of such incidents, those measures seem to have been largely successful. Terrorists do seem to have diverted their attention elsewhere to public events, public transportation, etc., so it might be argued that it's a balloon problem: squeeze here and it expands there.

At any rate, security measures doesn't compare well enough to safer seating. Also, safer seating doesn't seem to be as motivating to the public as fighting air terrorism. When there's a clamor for back-facing seats, the FAA will probably take a look at it, but I'm not holding my breath.

My thoughts? Plane fall down, go boom. Hey, you asked --

Some of the latest info is surprising and maybe even shocking.

The pilot and copilot were NOT tested for drugs and alcohol after the crash. Why? Because the FAA has no control over foreign pilots. What remains to be discovered is whether anyone at the FAA and especially the NTSB thought to INSIST that they be ordered to be tested by the pilot's government and/or Asiana Airlines. I think someone's head should roll over that failure.

Not only was the pilot a trainee (training with 300+ people aboard the plane) but the copilot trainer was, to some degree, a trainee trainer. This flight was his first after being licensed to train other pilots on the 777. Of course, at some point every pilot and trainer have a first time, but it might be argued that SOMEBODY there should have been a very experienced 777 pilot. The trainer had been flying Airbus A320's the last few years, not Boeing 777's.

Another potential factor is that there was a third pilot tagging along in the cabin. This can go wrong in several ways. One way is a "fly by committee" atmosphere where the least capable pilot is at the helm with two more experienced pilots kibitzing in the background, either as backseat drivers debating each other and confusing the trainee at the helm, or just as a distraction. Imagine you're a teen learning to drive with one parent riding shotgun and the other in the back seat and they don't agree about how to teach you. Or else they get involved in talking about Aunt Bessie's goiter and forget that you need their full attention.

Next, there is now some discussion that some of the safety equipment failed to operate correctly. Specifically, the plane has an "auto throttle" whose purpose is to maintain appropriate flight speed. And yet somehow the plane ended up flying much too slowly, which put them too low. This put them in a potentially impossible situation. They needed to gain altitude AND they needed to gain speed. The only way to gain altitude is to go nose high, however, going nose high tends to make a plane go slower. Of course, one can give the plane more throttle as you climb. However, by the time the problem was apparent, it was probably too late. The plane hit the sea wall at the near end of the runway in a nose high attitude, which apparently made the tail hit the sea wall hard enough to knock it off. No tail, no rudder, so no lateral control. The wing landing gear were apparently knocked off simultaneously.

The plane ended up off the runway totally out of control, and if there is one big lucky thing that saved most of the lives aboard the plane, it is that the plane didn't roll over, which it clearly almost did. Had that happened, almost all aboard might have died in flames.

One final comment which I'm passing along after hearing it the day of the crash went like this: "Is there no runway video? Why is there no runway video at every airport in the country so that we can better analyze what happens in these crashes? If you go in the local convenience or drugstore or gas station or museum, you're probably on video much of the time. Ditto for in the air terminal. Why is there no video recording of take offs and landings?"

It turned out there was a cell phone video which CNN showed ceaselessly for a couple days, but it was taken from afar and while it revealed some general information about the crash, more local video would have been better.

"Cockpit culture" may have played a role in the Asiana crash, too. This article is worth a thorough reading. A quote:

Since the airline involved, Asiana, is based in Korea, some observers have asked if the crash might have a cultural connection, as discussed in a chapter in the 2008 bestseller Outliers by author Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Gladwell pointed out the poor safety record of Korean Air—the Asian country's largest carrier—in the 1980s and 1990s, including several fatal crashes.

Gladwell did not return a request for comment, but in summarizing his ideas for Fortune magazine in November 2008, he said Korean Air's problem at the time was not old planes or poor crew training. "What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical," he said.

"You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S." he added. That's dangerous when it comes to modern airplanes, said Gladwell, because such sophisticated machines are designed to be piloted by a crew that works together as a team of equals, remaining unafraid to point out mistakes or disagree with a captain.


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