Northwest Airlines Flight 188
What a strange story this has become, since all of the early speculation proved incorrect. The pilots were not discussing or napping, rather distracted by personal laptop use (which violated company policy). The NTSB has published their initial findings. The Wall Street Journal has step-by-step recap. Everybody is putting their thoughts out there, including The Cranky Flier and Jetwhine blogs. There have been jokes and the happy ending to ease people’s minds.
But, two things come to mind for me as to why this is terribly problematic. As Matt Ziemkiewicz asked in the comments of the previous post, what if fighter jets had been deployed? With no communication ability, the hijacking assumption was a feasible one. I still don’t have complete understanding of why they weren’t deployed (which is a separate issue), but what if? Secondly, I assume the company policy against this is in part due to the level of distraction understood to be likely with personal technology devices. I think of last year’s Los Angeles train crash with the texting engineer (via Reuters). I feel the pilots and passengers were quite fortunate. But, I hope the pilots are held accountable for their poor judgement.
UPDATE: The FAA Has Revoked the Pilots’ Licenses (via NPR).
Airbags and Crash Survivability
About the time the balloon (sans boy) was landing, I was on the FoxNews website looking for more information on that saga, but happened upon a good story and video on the AmSafe test facility. I can’t find the video again, but the related blog post is here. NPR’s story, which aired yesterday, examines the new FAA standard taking effect this week.
It requires protection of 16 times (up from 9 times) the force of gravity and AmSafe is offering airbags in seat belts as one way to achieve that. It is all very interesting. Good to see the standard improving.
Charter Airline Safety
Eric R. Byer on the NATA, Inside Washington Blog, has a critical response to the DOT Inspector General’s report entitled “On-Demand Carriers Have Less Stringent Safety Requirements Than Commercial Carriers.” Interesting comments on what, from their persepective, could be helpful on the FAA rule-making process. But in Washington, is it really ever likely that we can do away with the politics? I tend to view the reactionary rhetoric as part of the process, since most accidents, incidents or reports result in a period of that (typically before all the facts have been flushed out).