What Happened With Travel Safety?

Lately, I haven’t had the time nor motivation to do about half the posts I wanted to do. This is one of them. Thus, I asked my online friend, Maryssa, if she wanted to do this for me while I help her. She happily obliged. I only made some minor corrections as I wanted this to still be as authentically her written work as possible. Anyway, have fun and hope you enjoy reading it! Also, I’m going to have her come up with a “blog signature” so that y’all can differentiate between who wrote what.

When one thinks about traveling, many things come to mind: the destination, the fun, the excitement, and the experience. Millions of people travel everyday by car, bus, boat, plane, or even a train to work or school, etc.

One of the most popular and safest ways to travel is via airplanes. Just how safe are airplanes? According to the US Passenger Safety Record, you are “70 times more likely to die in an automobile accident.” Airplanes can also complete their travel with only one engine if the other goes out. Passenger planes are switched out for new ones every few years due to extensive maintenance needs. Airplanes are designed to fly through any type of weather, even thunderstorms. But since that’s illegal, a pilot will never fly through a storm. The numerous gauges and instruments inside the cockpit help the pilot navigate and will alert them of any potential dangers.

There are numerous factors into making flying safe. So imagine the shock that came abound when on July 6, Asiana Airlines, Flight 214 aboard a Boeing 777 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport, killing two and injuring 200 in the initial crash. Boeing 777 is one of the most-safest planes in service with up until the incident on July 6th, had zero fatalities since it’s introduction in 1995. I stress the word ‘fatality’ as some of you may recall the 2008 crash landing of a British Airways Boeing 777 at London’s Heathrow Airport, however no on was injured or died.

So who’s to blame for this mess? When the FAA and NTSB made the initial investigation, they found that the plane itself was in sound condition. Once this bit of information was made public, we all immediately knew whom to point of our fingers to, for the cause of such a tragic accident, the pilots. Ah yes the pilots. The pilots are one of the main and top reasons for airplane safety and travel. Pilots must go through an extensive training and certification, have an advanced college degree, and are required to have their commercial pilot license, be in perfect health, have excellent vision, and have logged over 3,000 hours of flight time before being hired by an airline.

As a pilot and co-pilot, you are responsible for many, many lives. All the people on board, the passengers and the flight crew, are counting on you to guarantee them a safe traveling experience. Due to such a big responsibility, pilots must also pass a rigorous psychological evaluation. So with this knowledge, what can we make of the plane crash?

According to reports, the left seat pilot has a log of 9700 hours of total flight time with 5000 flight hours as the pilot in command. The left seat pilot was on his first initial operating experience as a Boeing 777 pilot. And was still in his Boeing 777 training with only “10 completed legs and around 35 hours of flight time out of the required 20 completed legs and 60 hours on the 777.”

A huge question here that arose was, ‘should he have been the left seat pilot if he was only half way through his initial flight experience?’ As the left seat pilot, commonly known as the Pilot in Command, you are legally responsible for the safety and entire operation of the flight. Should anything happen in the duration of the flight you are held liable.

What about the right seat pilot? Often known as the First Officer, the right seat pilot is also a Captain, but he was the instructor pilot. What does this mean? It means that he was the person responsible for teaching the Pilot in Charge how to properly operate the aircraft. The instructor pilot is reported to have a total of 13,000 flight hours with 3,000 of those hours on the 777. It is also reported that he had a total of 10,000 flight hours as a Pilot In Command. It is obvious that he had far more experienced. Should he held be liable too?

In long flights such as these, totaling 14-16 hours, you will always have a flight crew of 3-4 pilots. The other pilots not flying will usually monitor the flight and will take over in case of pilot fatigue. This particular flight had three. Where was the relief pilot in all this mess? It was reported that the Relief 1st Officer was in the back of the plane in the jump seat. The Relief 1st Officer previously flew F-5s and F-16s in the Korean Air Force and has a civilian aviation log of 4,600 flight hours with 1,000 of those hours as a 777 pilot. Seems like the Relief 1st Officer is innocent for the time being.

As the Pilot in Command and the Instructor Pilot scheduled for landing, the Instructor noticed that they were at an elevation a bit too high on their descent and set to increase speed a bit. However when they were ready to come in for their landing they needed to pull back and decrease their speed. Between their 500 to 200-foot elevations they were too low and the pilots tried to correct it. By the time the Instructor Pilot noticed the auto throttle (mechanism controlling the mass air flow into the cylinders) was not working properly, it was too late and they had crashed on the tarmac.

Ah so the throttles were not working properly. So do we go back to blaming a mechanical problem? Or can we still blame the pilots for their misjudgment that led up to the mechanical problem? As the NTSB continues their in depth investigations and the law suits begin to pile up for Asian Airlines, we will be standing by closely following the proceedings.

Other incidents that have occurred in the treacherous month of July were the multiple train derailments. The train crash in Spain killed 79 people and the one in the Swiss killing the operator and injuring 35. The train crash in Spain is easily given. The operator was clearly speeding, going twice the posted speed limit, and was on his phone at the same time. And how do we know he was speeding? Video surveillance is one prime mode of evidence, and the fact that he idiotically boasted about it on Facebook.

Exactly how stupid can you get? You are operating a train carrying thousands of people and you’re on your f**king phone? Are you serious? All those people on board are counting on you to get them to their destination safely. See, this is the kind of shit that makes me loose faith in all of humanity. The train operator was charged on 79 counts of homicide via professional reckless and had his license suspend for 6 months. Just 6 months? Are you kidding me?! You mean to tell me that if and when this asshat gets out of prison, he can continue to operate a train? Now I don’t know how the justice system in Spain works, but it should be a cold day in Hell before this guy should even get on a train.

As for the train derailment in the Swiss, the operator has sadly died in the head on collision with another train. But as investigations are still ongoing, it can easily be blamed as operator as well as the operator who died clearly ignored the track signals. But what caused the 24-year old operator to ignore them? Was he trying to get to his destination as quickly as possible so he can leave? We just might never know.

With all of this happening around us, do we feel safe enough to continue to use these modes of transportations to get us where we need to go? It all falls on the pilots, the train conductors, ferry captains, and bus drivers. They are the people who are responsible for the lives of their passengers. They are the very ones we trust and place our lives in their hands. We can only hope that act professionally and responsibly while doing their job.

-MNW

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