econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 20 May 2016

The Five Most Common Reasons For Airliner Disasters

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Simon Ashley Bennett, University of Leicester

News of any terrible air accident instantly raises questions about aircraft safety and the threat of terrorism. But until the facts are known, it is unwise to speculate on what might actually have caused a specific crash. What we do know is that there are several causes that are more likely to occur than any other.

1. Pilot error

As aircraft have become more reliable, the proportion of crashes caused by pilot error has increased and now stands at around 50%. Aircraft are complex machines that require a lot of management. Because pilots actively engage with the aircraft at every stage of a flight, there are numerous opportunities for this to go wrong, from failing to programme the vital flight-management computer (FMC) correctly to miscalculating the required fuel uplift.

While such errors are regrettable, it is important to remember that the pilot is the last line of defence when things go catastrophically wrong. In January 2009 an Airbus A320 hit a flock of geese over New York City. With no power, the captain, Chesley Sullenberger, had to weigh up a number of options and act quickly. Using his extensive flying experience and knowledge of the plane's handling qualities he elected to ditch the aircraft in the Hudson River. The 150 passengers were not saved by computers or any other automated system. They were saved by the two pilots - the very components that techno-enthusiasts claim can be replaced by computers and ground controllers.

2. Mechanical failure

Equipment failures still account for around 20% of aircraft losses, despite improvements in design and manufacturing quality. While engines are significantly more reliable today than they were half a century ago, they still occasionally suffer catastrophic failures.

In 1989, a disintegrating fan blade caused the number one (left-hand) engine of a Belfast-bound British Midland Boeing 737-400 to lose power. Hard-to-read instrumentation contributed to the pilots' misreading of which engine was losing power. Confused, the pilots shut off the number two (right-hand) engine. With no power, the aircraft crashed short of East Midlands Airport's Runway 27, killing 47 and injuring many, including the captain and first officer.

More recently, a Qantas A380 carrying 459 passengers and crew suffered an uncontained engine failure over Batam Island, Indonesia. Thanks to the skill of the pilots, the stricken aircraft landed safely.

Sometimes, new technologies introduce new types of failure. In the 1950s, for example, the introduction of high-flying, pressurised jet aircraft introduced an entirely new hazard - metal fatigue brought on by the hull's pressurisation cycle. Several high-profile disasters caused by this problem led to the withdrawal of the de Havilland Comet aircraft model, pending design changes.

Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 Gabriel Widyna

3. Weather

Bad weather accounts for around 10% of aircraft losses. Despite a plethora of electronic aids like gyroscopic compasses, satellite navigation and weather data uplinks, aircraft still founder in storms, snow and fog. In December 2005, Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, flying from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Chicago Midway International Airport, attempted to land in a snowstorm. It skidded off the runway and crashed into a line of cars, killing a toddler.

One of the most notorious bad-weather incidents occurred in February 1958 when a British European Airways twin-engined passenger aircraft crashed while attempting to take off from Munich-Riem Airport. Many of the 23 killed on the aircraft played for Manchester United Football Club. Investigators established that the aircraft had been slowed to such a degree by slush (known to pilots as "runway contamination"), that it failed to achieve take-off speed. Surprisingly, perhaps, lightning is not the threat that many passengers believe (or fear) it to be.

4. Sabotage

About 10% of aircraft losses are caused by sabotage. As with lightning strikes, the risk posed by sabotage is much less than many people seem to believe. Nevertheless, there have been numerous spectacular and shocking attacks by saboteurs. The September 1970 hijacking of three passenger jet aircraft to Dawsons Field in Jordan was a watershed moment in aviation history that prompted a review of security. Hijacked by devotees of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the three aircraft were blown up in full view of the world's press.

Despite improvements, malcontents still penetrate the security veil, as with the 2001 "shoe-bomber", Richard Reid. Fortunately, Reid's attempt to bring down an aircraft mid-flight proved unsuccessful.

5. Other forms of human error

The remaining losses are attributed to other types of human error, like mistakes made by air traffic controllers, dispatchers, loaders, fuellers or maintenance engineers. Sometimes required to work long shifts, maintenance engineers can make potentially catastrophic mistakes.

In 1990, a windscreen blowout on a British Airways flight nearly cost the life of the aircraft's captain. According to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, almost all of the windscreen's 90 securing bolts "were of smaller than specified diameter". Rather than attributing the mis-match between bolts and countersunk holes to his selection of the wrong-sized bolts, the maintenance engineer responsible for fitting the new windscreen blamed oversized countersinks. The engineer had not been sleeping well and did the windscreen replacement work during the period when his body clock wanted him to sleep, a time when reasoning and judgement easily falter.

The ConversationSimon Ashley Bennett, Director of the Civil Safety and Security Unit (CSSU), University of Leicester

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Contributors


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
The Expected Effects of Petitions to Improve the Monetary System
Energy and Falling Productivity
News Blog
Infographic Of The Day: How The World's Most Iconic Logos Evolve Over Time
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Down, Fed Wants Banks' Commodity Limits, Treasuries Being Sold, EZ Business Output Softens, France Contraction, Saudi's Boost Banks, Canada Tightens Borders For Chinese And More
Most Read Articles Last Week Ending 24 September
How Britain Owes Its Immigrants A Debt Of Gratitude
Super Mario, The Timeless Bestseller
Explainer: The Nine Swing States That Will Decide The Next US President
How Long Does Apple Support Older IPhone Models
What We Read Today 25 September 2016
Dangerous Ultra Pure Water
Job Employment Tenure Down
Mobile Payments Promise To Improve Financial Accessibility In Mexico
Aging Populations May Mean Lower Economic Growth
Urban Rebound Causes Large Shift In Lower Credit Borrowers To Seek The Outer Suburbs
Investing Blog
Monday Morning Call 26 September
We're Back Here We Started
Opinion Blog
Heading For A Fall? With Summer Over, Europe Must Face Up To Its Mounting Crises
What If We're In A Depression But Don't Know It?
Precious Metals Blog
War On Cash Turns To $20, $50, And $100 Bills
Live Markets
23Sep2016 Market Close: US Indexes Close Lower As Crude Prices Slip, Fed Lowers Economic Growth Prospects, Indicators Melting Into Bearish Territory
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved