It's Like Russian Roulette

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Just about a year ago, I posted about a Continental Flight 3407 that crashed near Buffalo on February 12, 2009. I was feeling greatly affected by this particular crash, quite simply because it had happened so close to home.

Earlier this week, the NTSB released their official report about what happened that night. Last year, it was widely speculated that the weather, which had been tremendously icy, was the likely culprit.

Now, the NTSB has told us what really happened. It wasn't the weather. Instead, it was pilot error, and the circumstances surrounding those errors are tremendously disturbing to me. Apparently, the pilot and first officer were acting completely unprofessionally, not paying nearly as much attention to landing the plane as they should have been. Not only that, but when the alarms began to go off signaling that the engines were losing thrust, the pilot not only didn't do the right thing, but did exactly the wrong thing.

It's clear that both pilots in the cockpit were too inexperienced to be flying a plane by themselves. The pilot apparently failed five competency tests and was still being allowed to fly planes with passengers on board. It was reported that he lied on his employment application and only reported one failure on the tests. HOW is this possible? Why aren't the results of these tests recorded in some way that can be easily referenced and checked by airlines looking to hire pilots?

The whole report makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. These 50 people did not have to die that night, but they did, and unfortunately it was at the hands of these two pilots.

I feel horrible for all of the families who lost loved ones. As one family member says in the article, "When it's something that could have been prevented, and clearly it could have been prevented, that's really a hard pill to swallow."

I also feel really terrible for the pilots' families. Not only did they lose people that they loved, but they also have to live with the knowledge that their family members were responsible for this whole tragedy. I know that can't be easy.

Whenever I'm talking to people about my fear of getting into a car accident, a lot of them tend to respond with something like, "Well, just drive carefully and you'll be all right." My response to that is always, "I'm not so worried about myself--I'm worried about the other people driving out there." Now, this rings true for me and flying as well.

Are we to accept that when we get onto a commercial airliner, we are playing the lottery? I mean, hell--we could get lucky and end up with a seasoned, expert, hero pilot like Sully Sullenberger, who was responsible for saving the lives of 155 people when he safely landed a plane in the middle of the Hudson River. Or, we could end up putting or lives in the hands of someone who has failed numerous competency tests, doesn't know what the hell he/she is doing, but somehow still managed to slip through the cracks and become a licensed commercial pilot.

It is disturbing. It is scary. And it's not fair to the people walking onto planes every day.

When we sit down, fasten our seatbelts, and push back from the gate, we have no idea who is in that cockpit. We have no idea who we are trusting with our lives.


Caren February 4, 2010 at 4:31 PM  


I take ativan before any flight because I can barely handle it. I hate giving up control to someone else who I don't know a thing about. Its scary.

Vanessa February 5, 2010 at 1:55 AM  

Beautifully written. Very very scary. I'm taking a return flight weekly for work at the moment and the report is shaking my confidence for sure.

Krystie February 8, 2010 at 2:52 AM  

I tagged you heather with a sunshine award! Check my blog for details! :)

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