Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “aviation”

Aircraft engine failures: strange reporting

There were two incidents recently reported of airliners’ engines failing at or just after take-off. One was given wall-to-wall coverage in the international media, while the other got barely a mention in the local press.

Qantas: No Crash / Explosion | Plane Lands In Singapore:

‘Qantas flight QF32 was en route from Singapore to Sydney, the number two engine has shut down, so as a precautionary measure we are taking it back to Singapore,’ a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Qantas said the airliner landed at 11.45am local time.

DFAT confirmed the flight had landed safely at Changi Airport and that no passengers or crew had been injured.

And then there was this: Daily Dispatch Online:

ELEVEN passengers were injured yesterday during an emergency evacuation after an engine of a 1Time aircraft exploded at OR Tambo International Airport.

The 128 passengers on board Flight 119 to Cape Town at around 10am heard a “loud boom” minutes before take off.

So which one got bigger coverage — the one in which there were no injuries, or the one in which 11 people were injured?

It was the former. I listened with amusement as a reporter interviewed a passenger on the Qantas flight, where there were no injuries. The reporter was desperately trying to get the passenger to say that he was frightened, and that it was a frightening experience, but the passenger refused to play ball. He wasn’t frightened. Yes, an engine had failed, but the plane in question had four engines, and the other three were still working, the plane was still flying, and the pilot was still in control — what was there to be frightened of?

The other story, in which 11 people were injured, mainly, apparently, because they made an emergency evacuation, got far less coverage. And one wonders why. Ususally the media are interested in injuries, so why less interest in this case?

Could it be because of the manufacturers of the aircraft and the engines? Could it be that the media have a vested interest in boosting some manufacturers and denigrating others? Especially when one learns a couple of days later that the value of the shares of one manufacturer of aircraft engines has dropped drastically. They couldn’t be trying to manipulate the markets, could they? Perish the thought.

But it does make one wonder.

Aircraft crashes after crocodile on board escapes

Aircraft crashes after crocodile on board escapes and sparks panic – Telegraph: “A small airliner crashed into a house, killing a British pilot and 19 others after a crocodile smuggled into the aircraft in a sports bag escaped and started a panic.”

An odd sort of story to publish two months after the event, which perhaps gives it something of the flavour of an urban legend, especially the “sole survivor” angle.

But, assuming it is true, one of the fascinating aspects of the story is thinking about how aircraft accident investigators would have worked out what had happened if there had been no survivors. The cockpit voice recorder would surely not record panic in the passenger cabin, and the flight recorder would just record that the plane suddenly became nose-heavy and crashed. The position of bodies might show how that happened, but it would not explain why. It could have become one of the great unsolved mysteries of aviation.

How much are you worth dead?

Last night my son was watching a TV programme about air crashes, and the relations between airlines and the families of passengers who have been killed in air crashes. I wasn’t paying all that much attention, just looking occasionally to see what came up.

The general thrust of the programme was that the airlines treated the families of killed and injured passengers badly — that they were evasive, and often harsh and cruel. Where there was prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of the airline, the airline sought by every means to play it down, and forced those claiming compensation to prove negligence beyond any doubt, while not giving them access to the evidence. This led to protracted legal battles, and prolonged the suffering of the relatives of victims.

But then they suddenly went over the top, and my sympathy switched to the airlines. They introduced a psychiatrist who described the stress put on the body by the g-force in an aircraft crash, and the pain suffered by the victims in the nanoseconds before they lost consciousness and died. This psychiatrist apparently gave this kind of evidence in compensation cases, and it was the intention to increase the compensation. Of course the same kind of pain is suffered by victims of car crashes, and I wonder if people have taken to sueing the driver at fault if negligence can be proved? But if the victimes are dead, they cannot be compensated. The living relatives can be compensated for the loss they have suffered but how can they be compensated for someone else’s pain, and how can they demand it? It seems toally unjust, and almost ghoulish.

How can a society that bombs people out of house and home without a qualm, that aborts thousands of children without a second thought, suddenly turn around and seek to put an enormously high value on a couple of nanosecond of pain for people who are dead? It seems to be a world in which values have got completely distorted.

Can anyone explain?

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