What makes a plane crash?

Is it the planes, or is it the pilots? The most fair answer is a little bit of both, writes Finlo Rohrer & Tom de Castella at the BBC. By the time a plane crashes, more than one thing has gone wrong. In fact, the typical plane crash is the result of a handful of factors, mechanical and situational, combined with how humans respond to them.

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  1. Gravity?

  2. Swiss cheese model. Each slice is a system, each hole a fault/mistake. An accident/incident happens when all the holes line up.

    I find this stuff fascinating. I would really like a job in this. In my previous job I've been tangentially involved in the investigation into a couple of recent high profile accidents, and the main thing I've learnt is don't believe anything the media publishes early on, and ignore all eyewitness reports.

  3. My father was a military and commercial pilot. He regularly said that 'people fail to the level of their training'.

  4. On pilot skills - there's a new old trend in recent years to ensuring pilots have seat-of-the-pants training, old-style. Being sold on electronic / automated solutions to everything has left many pilots without the flying common sense needed to engage with a difficult situation. Much as aircraft act like buses, when they go wrong, they don't go wrong like buses.

    e.g. the 1971 FAA Private Pilot Syllabus (EA-AC 61-16A) - available as a pdf all over the place - is fantastic for this, and well over-emphasises the point.

    That said, I've found the "Final Destination" movies apt metaphors for how errors accumulate, but many of them are signalled beforehand. Yes, I do treat the movies only as metaphor!

  5. What I like about is gliders is the simplicity - it's all seat of the pants, quite literally as when you find the thermal you're looking for you can feel it in the seat of your pants. As far as the instrument panel you have the altimeter, a vario, and air speed indicator. To see if you're flying straight, look at the string tied to the pitot tube. And in the trainers it's all mechanical. They don't even have a radio built in. The air force academy starts pilots out in gliders smile

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