Conjecture Is Never Cool

Any time there is an accident in the airline world the news media always has some exceptionally stupid comments, conjecture, moron experts, and eyewitness.

As a group airline pilots will never offer conjecture as to what happened or why. . . . not among others anyway.

The discussion process goes like this in the crew room:

Did you hear about British Airways? No, what happened?

They were on short approach to Heathrow and both motors quit. They smacked into the approach lights pretty hard and messed the airplane up but nobody was killed.

What happened? Birds?

Dunno, the Captain was on TV saying what a great job the F.O. did of not killing everybody. He has great hair, and a cool accent. Seems like if they took enough birds to tank both engines they would have known it. Even in a triple seven.

Maybe they ran it out of gas, or they ran the main tanks dry and the pumps unported.

Maybe it was just an auto-throttle wrestling match and they got so far behind the power curve they couldn’t recover … Hum, seems unlikely.

After a few days of this there might be something reported in the media that pretty well convinces just about every pilot in the industry what the cause was. The media hardly ever realizes this. After a few weeks a preliminary report is usually issued, after about a year the results of a thorough investigation will be released.

Anything else is strictly conjecture.

As professional pilots we need to believe two things: First, that we would never, ever, do anything through our actions, or inaction, so damn stupid as to allow or cause damage to an airplane or harm to our crew and passengers. Second, that we are all perfectly capable of  making mistakes with fatal consequence for ourselves and hundreds of others, both on our airplane and on the ground. 

It is this balance of  my firm belief that I am quite possibly the best living pilot on planet Earth, maybe ever, and a clear understanding of my potential for being a complete and total incompetent  that makes me an effective Captain and possibly the best pilot ever.

Oh, and hardly anybody that wrecks and lives is a hero. The heroes are the ones that don’t wreck, the ones that avert disaster, and the sort that risk personal injury to save others. A hero is a guy that stays with a F86 with a failed engine and crashes in a field instead of ejecting over a populated area.  A lucky hero is a guy that is so slick that a major malfunction results in a logbook entry, a delayed flight and no media coverage.

All that should be said so far is that they got the biggest piece of the airplane as close to the correct gate as possible, there were some unfortunate injuries and the airplane looks to be very badly damaged. Anything more would be conjecture.

More than 100 Americans were killed in traffic accidents today if it was an average day. 

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2 Responses to “Conjecture Is Never Cool”

  1. I’ve been reading your blog over the last week or so (catching up on the archives) and I have to say I love it (I got here via ‘electric boogaloo’ via something cool I bought from etsy).

    I’m sure you’re aware that there have been many comparisons made between pilots and Anaesthesiologists (my job) and none more so than in the field of safety: in fact, most of the anaesthetic literature on safety derives from aviation stuff. I suppose the big difference is if my patient crashes I don’t die as well… but I don’t get to take my friends and family out for fun operations on the weekends!

    I kind of know what you are talking about here: when there is a story about someone dying in hospital because of a medical error, we doctors get talking too. And most of the time the media completely stuffs up or at least mangles the explanations so completely that we have a hard time explaining it to everyone who asks (normally all the patients you meet the next day). The thing that annoys me the most is the medias’ need to have a ‘single cause’ for something like this: as you well know, there are many more near misses than actual total system failures, and, yes, the best Anaesthesiologists are those who realise they may also stuff up but have the skills to recognise a) that possibility and b) how to fix it.

    We both belong to professions where if we do our job well, most people won’t even know begin to realise what we have done. They may remember meeting us but only vaguely: however most people realise there is always someone flying the airplane, but most people have no idea what an anaesthesiologist actually does (I’ll forgive you if you don’t, btw. I’m so used to it. “But you’re not an actual, like, doctor are you?” would have to be the most common question- “No, sweetheart, they let some ditz with a high school diploma put you in a coma, paralyse you, breathe for you and give you drugs like Morphine and Epinephrine. Duh”).

    Oh, and falling asleep is also kind of frowned on, but not unheard of amongst us too. But we don’t get to take awesome photos or play with St Elmo’s fire, or even, it has to be said, travel. Mostly we sit in the same room all day, and the nurses bring us snacks and coffee…

  2. luckyjet1 Says:

    Surgery without hurting much, and the whole not going into shock thing are fairly new on my favorite things list. I can’t spell anesthesia reliably but I’m pretty sure it is more important than modern transportation. I’d rather ride a train to today’s medical care than have a jet take me to the best surgery available 75 years ago. You guys are cool.

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