Plane Crash Diaries
Plane Crash Diaries
About Plane Crash Diaries
I'm a pilot obsessed with flying and all things aviation. This podcast series covers more than a century of commercial aviation and how its shaped the world. Aviation is now safer than its ever been, but it took one hundred years of learning and often through accidents and incidents to reduce the risk of flying.
The British government was focused on making dirigibles the transport of choice in the 1930s - competing with the Germans to produce the largest, most luxurious and most convenient way to travel across its empire. In the summer of 1930 two variants were created, one designed by a government team known ironically as "the socialist" airship as it was a labour government, the other "the capitalist" because it was the brainchild of the Vickers company. But there were issues - It was already known that both the R100 and R101 were lacking in the enough lift originally planned at the outset of the Imperial Airship Scheme in 1925. So the engineers decided to stretch the airship and plonk in another airbag. This was to lead to a critical failure and the R101 crash in France as you'll hear.
We’re going to look at a few examples of trigger happy pilots and missile operators, starting with the 5th April 1948 Gatow Air Disaster over Berlin as the Cold War ramped up after the Second World War. A British European Airways Vickers VC.1B Viking airliner crashed near RAF Gatow air base, after a Soviet Air Force Yakovlev Yak-3 fighter aircraft flew into it from below. All ten passengers and four crew on board the Viking were killed, as was the Soviet pilot. This incident is a warning to aviators in the contemporary world, witness the tension between Chinese and Taiwan, North and South Korea, near-misses above the Baltic, and less reported but as dangerous, incidents across the middle East. First, 1948. The Gatow Air Disaster was a mid-air collision that sparked an international incident between the USA, Britain and Russia – leading to heightened tensions and which escalated into what we know as the Berlin Blockade. That was a rather clumsy attempt by Joseph Stalin to force Europe to back down about the Marshall plan. So let’s take a look at some other examples of the military behaving badly. On July 27, 1955, an El Al flight from Vienna Austria to Tel Aviv Israel blundered into Bulgarian airspace and was shot down by two MiG fighters. All 58 people on board were killed. After initially denying involvement, Bulgaria admitted to having downed the aircraft. Despite occurring during a low point in relations between the Soviet bloc and the US and its allies, international fallout was minimal. Moving east, on July 23, 1954, mainland China's People's Liberation Army fighters shot down a Cathay Pacific Airways CA 54 Skymaster. The plane was flying from Bangkok to Hong Kong when it was hit - 10 out of the 19 passengers and crew died. In apologizing for the attack to Britain days later, the Chinese government claimed they had thought the plane was a military aircraft from Taiwan which they presumed was on an attack mission against Hainan Island. Trouble spots include the Qatar and its neighbours, Turkey, North Korea, parts of East Africa, Yemen, China and Taiwan. That's quite a list.
A listener asked me to take a closer look at the crash of a Lear jet in 1999 that was carrying golfer Payne Stewart so here we are. Of all the crashes we’ve looked at this has to be one of the more frustrating and needs quite a bit of sleuthing. The main reason is the NTSB still has not published a final report and probably never will. The basic facts are not in dispute – it was a case of a plane decompression at high altitude. But how it happened is another matter. So let’s try and dig deep and discover what led to the death of one of the best known sportsmen in the United States. The basic story goes like this. On October 25, 1999 a Learjet 35 registration N47BA, operated by Sunjet Aviation based in Sanford, Florida departed Orlando, Florida, for Dallas, Texas, at around 0920 eastern daylight time (EDT). Radio contact with the flight was lost north of Gainesville, after air traffic control (ATC) cleared the airplane to flight level (FL) 390. The learjet was then intercepted by several U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard aircraft as it headed in a north west direction. The military pilots flew close enough to see that the windshields of the Learjet were frosted or covered with condensation. Later the airplane engines began spooling down, controlled flight was not possible, and the learjet stalled and spiralled to the ground, impacting an open field between the towns of Mila and Aberdeen in South Dakota just before 12h15 central daylight time on October 25th 1999. The NTSB scrutinised the maintenance logs and found a snag reported in February 1998 that the cabin occasionally would not hold pressure at low altitudes. Maintenance checked this on the ground but could not replicate the problem, so it wasn’t fixed. IN May 1999 Sunjet maintenance personnel were checked out as part of the Phase A1-6 inspection, which included pressurization system checks. All seemed fine once more. But it wasn’t. A Sunjet Aviation pilot reported to Safety Board investigators that a month later, July 22, 1999 during a flight in the very same Learjet, the pressurization system would not maintain a full pressure differential and that later the cabin altitude “started climbing well past 2,000 feet per minute” he said. When confronted by the NTSB, the Sunjet Aviation Chief pilot denied this, saying that he hadn’t noticed any differential. However, a July 23, 1999, Work Order discrepancy sheet 5895 noted the following: “Discrepancy: Pressurization check and operation of system.”
We’re focusing on Air Canada Flight 797 that developed and in-flight fire that turned into a conflagration after it landed and the doors were opened. 23 passengers burned to death of were asphyxiated in that terrible incident. The response to this was crucial to global aviation safety as it led to rules such as airline manufacturers having to ensure that planes could be evacuated inside 90 seconds, visible lights on the floor, smoke detectors on all flights, firefighting training for crew and the briefing passengers sitting in exit rows. Air Canada Flight 797 was an international passenger flight operating from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Montréal–Dorval International Airport, with one stop at Toronto Pearson International Airport. It took off from Dallas Forth Worth international Airport at 16h25 local time on 2 June 1983, the plane was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32, registration C-FTLU. There was a single scheduled stop at Toronto International Airport, en route to Montreal's Dorval Airport. 51 year-old Donald Cameron was the Captain in charge, and had 13 000 hours flight time, 4 4939 in the DC-9 and had been flying with Air Canada since March 1966. First Officer Claude Ouimet was 34 and had flown for Air Canada since November 1973. He had 5,650 hours of flight time, including 2,499 hours in the DC-9, and had qualified as a DC-9 first officer in February 1979.
This is episode 30 and I am delighted to have special guest Jim Spaeth join us for this episode to talk about his experiences at TWA. His life intersected with a number of accidents and he had a unique view of events he’s going to describe working as a salesman, ticketing agent and senior manager at TWA. He’s written a book called Up, Up and Astray, Memoir of an airline bachelor during the golden age of Air Travel. Jim is a great story teller, and his eye for detail captures the background to some of the accidents I’ve already covered, particularly in the 1960s and 70s. We start with Jim arriving in Kansas City in 1964 where he has just found out he’d got his schedule wrong in his attempt at joining the police force and he’s wondering what to do next. Little did he know what aviation had in store for him.
We’re going to cover an example of what happens at low altitude when pilots activate the Take Off/Go Around or TOGA switch by mistake. When there’s turbulence and a lack of situational awareness, this can be deadly as you’ll hear. A number of aircraft recently have crashed because of pilots inadvertently activating this switch and I’m going to explain how this can happen if you’re not paying attention – and if the crew are prone to panic. One of the incidents involved a cargo flight – and Herman who’s an avid listener suggested I do a few cargo plane crashes for a number of reasons. While there are no passengers involved, or very few, sometimes the cargo itself is the danger, and in the case we’ll hear this episode, it is believed that was a failure to check the stated credentials of a commercial pilot could have exacerbated the situation that led to the crash involving a Boeing 767 flown by Amazon’s Prime Air. It never made it in on February 23rd 2019, the Boeing 767-375ER crashed on approach into Trinity Bay near Houston, killing two crew members and a pilot hitching a lift in the jump seat. It’s also the first crash involving a 767-375ER Cargo plane. As you’re going to hear, flight crew training issues at Atlas Air and across the U.S. commercial aviation industry have been implicated in this accident.
It was some trepidation that I’ve decided to eventually cover the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 which killed 259 passengers and crew as well as 11 people on the ground. Very few aviators or people interested in aviation are not aware of what happened to the Boeing 747 when a bomb loaded on board with other luggage blew up over Scotland. The shocking truths that were unearthed afterwards changed aviation forever. But Pan Am’s lax security also created the hole that the terrorists exploited. Two listeners in particular have prompted this episode, including Alison who was an 8 year-old living in Lockerbie when the plane came down. She has told me how the small community banded together despite their own loss and then extended their arms to help families of the victims. There is a great deal to cover so let’s dive straight in starting with the latest developments first. In December 2020, the United States announced charges against a Libyan suspected of making the bomb that blew up the Boeing over Lockerbie. Masud apparently allegedly carried out the attack on the orders of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi directly – although Gaddafi always denied that. Of course Gaddafi’s own luck ran out in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings when he was deposed, bayoneted and then shot. Live by the sword .. die by the sword they say – unfortunately he took his many secrets to the grave with him. The bombing led to many improvements in airline security, particularly how baggage was handled. A special session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation or ICAO council was held in February 1989 with improving airport security number one on the list. ICAO organization and powers were strengthened after this conference, and training rehashed. ICAO also implemented what’s known as the Convention on Marking Plastic Explosives. This lays out the rules for countries manufacturing explosives to mark them chemically in order for a bomb to be detected by sniffer dogs – and chemical analysis devices. There were many other improvements.
We’re focusing on the US-Bangla Airlines Flight 211 that came in too high and fast at Kathmandu Airport on 12th March 2018 then slid off the runway and burst into flames. 51 of the 71 on board died including both aircrew. Of all the accidents I’ve covered so far – this has to be one of the worst examples of cockpit resource management – it verges on a suicide flight particularly the last two minutes as you’re going to hear. There was an unusual and intense psychological undercurrent that caused this accident. We have all been in situations of stress while flying, but the emotional trauma on the flight deck was beyond reasonable. You’ll also feel some sympathy not just for the passengers killed by crew erratic emotional behaviour – but also First Officer 25-year-old Prithula Rashid the First women airline pilot hired by the Bangladeshi Airline. Her senior partner let her and the passengers down. This is another of those terrible stories of what ifs. It’s also an example of when a highly experienced pilot and an inexperienced pilot work together, coupled with cultural quirks.
This is episode 26 and we’re focusing on one of the most conspiracy-theory speckled accidents in history, the October 1986 crash of a Tupolev TU-134 jetliner that was carrying Mozamibican president Samora Machel. 37 of the 43 aboard died. To say that the accident is shrouded in controversy is a bit like asking if Vladimir Putin thinks he’s Catherine the Great. Affirm. This is one of those incidents where correlation does not prove causation unless of course you’re prone to conspiracy theories. A lot that could go wrong during a flight did on the Tupolev that day and it led to the death of a man who was a symbol of post-colonial rebellion. This amplified the conspiracy theory avalanche of course and has driven folks into paroxysms of perpetual pontification. The plane deployed to transport Mozambique’s president that October day was a Tupolev manufactured in 1980 – registration C9-CAA. It had flown about 1,100 flying hours since it rolled off the production line and had undergone its last major inspection in August 1984 in the Soviet Union. The number of flight crew on the deck was substantial and they were all Russian. The Tupolev operated with a crew of five, which on the night of 19th October 1986 included 48 year old Captain Yuri Viktorovich Novodran, co-pilot 29 year-old Igor Petrovish Kartamyshev, flight engineer 37 year-old Vladimir Novolesov, navigator 48 year-old Nikolaevich Kudryashov and 39 year-old radio operator Anatoly Shulipov. The crew was experienced in Africa aviation as had logged many landings at Maputo Airport both day and night. Judge Cecil Margo chaired the six member body and the hearings were public between January 20th and 26th 1987. He’d soon chair another investigation into the crash of South Afrcan Airways flight 295 in 1988 – the Heidelberg accident we heard about in an earlier episode. The Machel inquiry rapidly threw out any suggestion of a bomb causing the crash and found that the 37 degree turn was initiated by the navigator using the autopilot’s Doppler navigation mode. That’s crucial. He did so because he saw a VOR signal indicating that the aircraft had intercepted Maputo’s VOR 45 degrees radial which is its compass direction from Maputo which the crew needed to intercept in order to approach to land on runway 23.
This is episode 25 – and I’m going to take a closer look at the Pakistan international Airlines Crash in Katmandu in 1992 along with a Thai Airlines accident there a few week earlier. The Pakistan crash comes via a suggestion by a listener called Herman. Thanks for the chat the other evening and also a big thank you for your great suggestion Herman. But before then we’ll probe two other accidents in the Alps involving Air India planes – and they’re full of mystery and surprises – and a box full of gemstones. It’s unique that two aircraft from the same airline hit the same place – particularly in a completely different continent to their place of origin but that is what happened to Air India 101 a Boeing 707-437 nicknamed Kanchenjunga registration VT-DMN which hit the 15700 foot high Mont Blanc in 1966. The other was Air India Flight 245 which crashed roughly in the same place but years before in 1950. Then the Pakistan International Airlines Flight 268 - an Airbus A300, registration AP-BCP, which crashed while approaching Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport on 28 September 1992. The final accident in this end of year bumper edition was the Thai Airways International Flight 311 which crashed north of Kathmandu and to be quite blunt this one was categorically one of pilot error.
This is episode 24 and comes courtesy of a suggestion by one of my listeners called Russell – surname withheld as he’s an operating commercial pilot. Don’t want to upset the corporation you know. First of all, a big thank you to Russell for the research documents and information provided. This has helped a great deal preparing for this episode. We’re looking at Terrain Awareness Warning Systems or TAWS and Ground Proximity Warnings Systems, GPWS – now with the added advantage of an E – Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning Systems. In 2006 the International Civil Aviation Organisation published a report which included this line “EGPWS / TAWS technology has entered airline and corporate operations during the last five years; to date no aircraft fitted with such a system has been involved in a CFIT accident. These systems are now mandated for all turbine engine aircraft of six or more seats.” That gives you some idea of how important these two bits of technology have been to aviators. Unfortunately there have been a few CFIT accidents despite this technology since then as you’ll hear later, but the point is safety overall has improved. So let’s go over a few examples which Russell has provided and some which ICAO analysed. As usual folks, this series is about how aviation safety improvements after accidents have led inexorably to flying being one of the safest ways to head from A to B and even C, D and E. Throughout the history of aviation, Controlled Flight into Terrain or CFIT has been a major cause of fatal accidents, particularly at night, poor visibility or when the crew become fixated by technical issues and forget to fly. One of the accidents that drove engineer Don Bateman to seek a solution was the Alaskan Airlines Flight 1866 accident of 1971. The other was American Airlines Flight 965 – a Boeing 757-223 from Miami International Airport to Cali in Columbia that crashed in mountains outside its destination in December 1995.
This is episode 23 and we’re dealing with flying boat accidents. You may be surprised to hear but one accident in particular involving an Imperial Airways flying boat in 1939 set in motion the use of specialised carb heaters for all aircraft. The safety inspector also recommended that all passengers should be instructed in the fastening of lifebelts and location of emergency exits as well as other lifesaving equipment like rafts become mandatory in aircraft flying over the ocean. So all those trips you’ve taken where the cabin crew point out the emergency exits and spend time showing you how to use a lifejacket can be directly linked to this one accident in 1939. Remember this series is really about aviation safety more than just a story about a crash. Discovering the cause of an accident usually implies a technical or human error which must not be repeated and much of what we’ve heard so far in the previous 22 episodes seeks to identify those moments. First a quick word about flying boats and amphibious aircraft. Frenchman Alphonse Pénaud filed the first patent for a flying machine with a boat hull and retractable landing gear in 1876, but Austrian Wilhelm Kress is credited with building the first seaplane Drachenflieger in 1898, although its two 30 hp Daimler engines were inadequate for take-off and it later sank when one of the two floats collapsed. A flying boat is not amphibious, just by the way. It’s an aircraft that has to land and take off using water with no fixed landing gear. It’s also different from a floatplane which has two or more slender floats mounted under the fuselage for buoyancy. A flying boat uses its fuselage as part of the buoyancy like a boat – thus flying boat.
This is episode 22 and we’re going to hear more about an accident in the skies over India that was the final push in the drive to deploy traffic collision avoidance systems known as TCAS. Initially we need to go back to the days days of commercial aviation in 1922. Unfortunately the first collision between aircraft took place almost immediately as commercial aviation launched in the same year as earlier aviators were ignorant about each other’s plans, altitude and track. They also spoke many different languages which also didn’t help. It took another 70 years before a system was introduced to ensure separation that was automated and computerised. Before then systems were developed that relied on accurate flying using the semi-circular rules. The basic tenet is that when flying a track between 0° and 179° or generally speaking, easterly, your flight level or altitude must be odd such as 030 or 050 and so on, but when you are on a track between 180° and 359° generally speaking .. westerly, your flight level or altitude must be even – for example 18000, 16000 feet and so on. There are other rules associated with this and whether you’re flying IVR or on Instruments. That is supposed to reduce the chances of planes colliding but it only works if the pilots are flying their planes at those levels. Sometimes pilots do break the levels – and at other times their instruments are faulty. On 12 November 1996 a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 which had just taken off from Delhi in India en route to Dhahran collided with a Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76 en route from Chimkent to Delhi. The crash killed all 349 people on board both planes, making it the world's deadliest mid-air collision of all time and the deadliest aviation accident to take place in India. This was an example of a system that was used in a confusing way.
This is episode 21 and we’re taking a close look at the Mount Erebus disaster where an Air New Zealand McDonald Douglas DC-10 crashed on 28th November 1979, killing all 257 passengers and crew. At first it looked like straight pilot error - a CFIT or controlled Flight Into Terrain accident. But that would change as inquiries led to court cases. Of all the accidents I’ve described, this one has some of the most unfortunate set of circumstances and one of the most difficult recoveries afterwards of any aviation accident in history. Mount Erebus is on Ross Island part of the Antarctic archipelago and as you’ll hear, a juddge eventually called some evidence presented by Air New Zealand as "an orchestrated litany of lies" and which took 30 years before anyone at the airline formally apologised for that deceit. To say the court processes which took place were riven by bitterness and a distinct failure of leadership is pretty much an understatement. In fact, the phrase ‘an orchestrated litany of lies’ entered the Kiwi lexicon for some time and by the end of this episode I hope you’ll see why. The first aviation inquiry found pilot error caused the accident but then a Judge in a follow up investigation ruled the cause was incorrect data which had been knowingly left in a flight computer despite this error being reported. When a judge uses a phrase like conspiracy by senior management, then something has gone seriously wrong in terms of governance. But the legal wrangling didn’t end with the judge – there was an appeal then intervention by the privy council in London as New Zealand is a commonwealth state. So let’s go over the facts that are not in dispute. Flight 901 was marketed as a unique sightseeing experience where the passengers paid around $360 US Dollars each to be flown over Antarctica with an experienced guide who pointed out features and landmarks using the plane’s PA system. Some big names had been involved for example Sir Edmund Hillary had acted as a guide on flights and was actually supposed to be on board 901 that day in November 1979, but cancelled because he had other bookings. Unfortunately for long-time friend and climbing companion, Peter Mulgrew, he was available and stood in for the hero of Mount Everest. Mulgrew would never return from the Antarctic. The flight plan was complex compared to a normal commercial route. After the 5,360 miles from Auckland to the frozen south, the pilots would put the DC-10 into a series of low-flying sweeps out to the sea of McMurdo Sound or over the Ross Ice Shelf or both depending on time and the weather, then return home. There had been 13 previous flights which went off without serious incident and the whole concept had started two years earlier in 1977. It had become a great money-spinner for Air New Zealand, not to mention an excellent marketing tool. Come fly with Air New Zealand and see the world’s least visited Continent for a cool $359 New Zealand Dollars – which now set you back around $1300 US dollars. The flight left Auckland International Airport 8am on the morning of the 28th November and was due back at 7 that night. Usually flights would not be filled to capacity so that there would be space allowing passengers to walk about and get a better view of the incredible frozen continent from different places in the cabin. Cocktails would be served for the travellers as they clicked away on their cameras, many of whom would be puffing away on cigars and cigarettes. The aircraft that day was Air New Zealand’s McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 trijet and the plane was registered ZK-NZP. It had logged more than 20,700 flight hours prior to the crash.
This is episode 20 and it’s all about helicopters. Thanks first of all to Martin Darlington who hosts History by Hollywood podcast and is a highly experienced helicopter pilot and instructor. He has agreed to help with the more technical aspects of helicopters as we probe two specific accidents and the improved safety that they helped bring about. It sounds counter intuitive to talk in positive terms about accidents but it is also true to say that most commercial crashes that have been properly investigated have led to improvements in safety. This episode will focus on two helicopter crashes. The first took place on 6 November 1986 when Chinook returning workers from the Brent oilfield crashed on approach to land at Sumburgh Airport in the Shetland Islands. Forty-three passengers and two crew members were killed in the crash; one passenger and one crew member survived with injuries – the captain. The second was the Chinook crash in June 1994 that was carrying 25 senior intelligence experts which went down on the Mull of Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland. Leading security personnel from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, MI5 and the Army died, alongside the crew. They had been travelling to a security conference in Inverness, just two months ahead of the 1994 IRA ceasefire. The fact that high level intelligence officers were involved including members who were involved in Ireland has intrigued investigators and conspiracy-mongers since then. Our expert Martin has some good ideas about what happened there and we’ll tap his immense knowledge about helicopters to get more information in the second half of the podcast.
It was Australia that initiated the mandatory installation of cockpit voice recorders after an accident in 1960, while we’ll also probe a mid-air collision involving United Airlines and Trans World Airlines aircraft over New York in the same year. That led investigators to call for more information when accidents were being analysed. So let’s find out more about how these two crucial bits of tech ended up in all commercial aeroplanes and helicopters. The flight data recorder or (FDR) preserves the recent history of the flight through the recording of dozens of parameters collected several times per second; the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) preserves the recent history of the sounds in the cockpit, including the conversation of the pilots. The two devices may be combined in a single unit. Together, the FDR and CVR objectively document the aircraft's flight history, which may assist in any later investigation if there is an accident. They are built tough – capable of withstanding in impact of 3400 Gs and temperatures of over 1000 degrees centigrade. As I explained in the episode analysing the disappearance of MH370 there are now moves to have live streaming of data to the ground and an agreement to increase the battery life when a plane ends up lost over the ocean. The first example of a Flight Data Recorder is actually pretty old, dating back to 1939 when Frenchman Franscois Hussenot built something called the TYPE HB flight recorder. IN his machine, photographic film was used which scrolled along recording the main flight information such as speed, altitude and position. Another form of Flight Data Recorder was developed in the UK during the Second World War when Len Harrison and Vic Husband built a sturdy device that could withstand a crash and a fire and keep the data intact. In this case, they used copper foil as a recording system – a bit like the early phonographic recordings. But it took a Finnish engineer by the name of Veijo Hietala to introduce his black box called Mata Hari in 1942. She was a famous spy during the first world war, naturally his machine collected intel in a way. This box was used in Fighter aircraft test production. Voice recorders were first tried by the United States also during the Second World War. In August 1943 the United States Airforce use magnetic wire to capture the inter-phone conversations on board a B-17 bomber crew flying a mission over Nazi-occupied France. The broadcast was then fed back to the US by radio two days later. So the idea was nothing new and yet aviation authorities did not move on the concept for another two decades after the Second World war. That’s despite a number of commercial aircraft going missing. Indulge me as I go through a list.
This episode we’ll probe the Tenerife disaster on 27 March 1977 which remains the most deadly aviation accident in history. 583 people died when two Boeing 747s collided on the Canary Island of Tenerife - one operated by KLM and the other by Pan Am. This led to a major aviation safety initiative the known as Cockpit Resource Management or CRM which is now part of pilot training where combined crew input is encouraged and the captain can be questioned. It also led to other changes in communication methodology between planes waiting to take off and the tower as well as setting English as the language of aviation. The problem with CRM is that it comes up against different cultures in the world, where the decisions by the strong man in charge are generally not contradicted. This is thought to be behind the accident in Pakistan during Covid-19 lockdown in May 2020 where authorities say not only was CRM ignored by the senior pilot, he also apparently tried to land an Airbus at 240 knots – well over its recommended landing speed. Back to Tenerife 1977 – an incident which still shocks those who hear the details for the first time. There were no survivors from the KLM aircraft and only 61 of the 396 passengers and crew on the Pan Am aircraft survived. Pilot error was the primary cause, as the KLM captain began his take-off run without obtaining air traffic control clearance in extremely dense fog. But as you’ll hear, there is more to this story. The conversation between PanAm, KLM and the ATC was peppered with confusing messages. Other contributing factors were a terrorist incident at Gran Canaria Airport on a separate island that had caused many flights to be diverted to Los Rodeos, a small airport on the island of Tenerife not well equipped to handle aircraft of such size arriving together. This increased the stress on the Air Traffic Controller and mistakes were bound to be made. The Canary Islands are infamous among pilots for the extreme wind and weather conditions that spring up on this archipelago off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was to play a major role in this catastrophe.
This episode explores an accident at a time of Covid-19 – which may be too recent to have a direct effect on civil aviation safety and yet the causes appear to be directly linked to poor Cockpit Resource Management otherwise known as crew resource management. It has caused many an incident and accident, unfortunately. The Pakistan crash which took place in May in Karachi is also a warning about how airlines go about restarting their services after a lengthy shutdown. Flying is not like riding a bicycle. It has also led to immediate suspension of Pakistan International Airlines landing rights in the EU after shocking details emerged about systematic Airline Transport Pilot License exam cheating along with other cases of corruption. So the main point is an Airbus A320 crashed into heavily populated suburban area of Karachi in Pakistan on May 22nd 2020. Flight 8303 was a scheduled domestic flight from Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore to Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. The plane went down in a residential area near the Airport a few days after Pakistan lifted restrictions imposed over the coronavirus pandemic and resumed domestic flights ahead of the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Amazingly, two on board survived – both in Business class while at least one person on the ground died - a 13 year-old girl. As I said, Crew Resource Management failures appear to be behind this crash at least from the initial reports published in Pakistan. Crew Resource Management is also known as cockpit resource management. One of my instructors used to chatter to me during important phases of flight and I had to say “sorry Russell, I need to report our position” or reset instruments and he would smile in a knowing way. Cockpit resource management includes knowing when its time to shut up or shut you fellow pilot up and concentrate extra 100 percent on the job at hand. Landing an aircraft is one of those crucial moments. But when did Crew Resource Management start as a thing? The first person to talk about human interaction on the flight deck was a BOAC captain David Beaty who was a former Royal Air Force pilot. He wrote a book - The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents in the late 1950s. It became part of the United Airlines pilot training handbook following the crash of a DC-8 in 1978 and eventually was recommended for all pilots by the National Transportation Safety Board. That was after a United Airlines Flight 173 crashed in Portland Oregon on December 28th 1978.
This episode is fraught because we just don’t know what happened to Malaysian Flight MH370 and many pilots would say any sort of scientific conclusion is going to be a jump to a conclusion. However, I am going to take you through this event again and describe what the likely scenario was on that terrible morning back in 2014. Part of what we do as aviators is to know the truth about risk, then act accordingly. In this case, we have some truths and then, we have deception. Unfortunately I am going to explain how the deception involved aviation officials in Malaysia who treated both the Chinese and their own citizens shoddily after flight MH370 disappeared. This compounded an already difficult situation. As I have previously outlined, Malaysia’s aviation sector is a seething mass of government interference, full of patriarchs who appear to worry more about losing face than losing passengers. Malaysia suffers from what we call cadre deployment, those ruling party-linked relatives of someone in power who is dropped into a scientific endeavour with not the first clue about how aeroplanes work, nor how they should apply themselves within the sector. Then when things go wrong they think shutting down the truth makes sense – which is the direct opposite of how to fix a broken system. This is not aimed at citizens of the beautiful country of Malaysia, rather its aimed directly at ramshackle nature of how aviation has been managed in the country. I will show you how in the case of MH370 a distinct lack of understanding about crucial issues like prompt action, search and rescue, technical descriptions about how aeroplanes work, was worsened by a fraternity of yes-men who basically preferred deliberate obfuscation when they were confronted by bereaved relatives .
The podcast Plane Crash Diaries is embedded on this page from an open RSS feed. All files, descriptions, artwork and other metadata from the RSS-feed is the property of the podcast owner and not affiliated with or validated by Podplay.