Friday, October 10, 2008

Suggested Plane Crash Metaphors for the Crisis

by Tom Bozzo

1. The U.S. allows Lehman Brothers to fail... Singapore Airlines Flight 006:
An investigation into the accident was conducted by the Taiwan Aviation Safety Council (ASC). The final report was issued by the ASC on 24 April 2002... [I]t was stated that the flight crew did not review the taxi route, despite having all the relevant charts, and as a result did not know the aircraft had entered the wrong runway. Upon entering the wrong runway, the flight crew had neglected to check the paravisual display (PVD) and the primary flight display (PFD), which would have indicated that the aircraft was lined up on the wrong runway. According to the ASC, these errors, coupled with the imminent arrival of the typhoon and the poor weather conditions, caused the flight crew to lose situational awareness and led them to attempt to take off from the wrong runway.
The "wrong runway" was closed for construction, and the Boeing 747 was destroyed after colliding with construction equipment. The pilots' lack of situational awareness made a risky activity (taking off at night in heavy rain) deadly.

2. The financial crisis in general: Air France flight 4590.
The official investigation was conducted by France’s accident investigation bureau, the BEA, and it was published on 14 December 2004. It concluded that the crash was caused by a titanium strip, part of a thrust reverser, that fell from a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off about four minutes earlier to Houston. This metal fragment punctured Concorde's tyres, which then disintegrated. A piece of rubber hit the fuel tank and broke an electrical cable. The impact caused a shockwave that fractured the fuel tank some distance from the point of impact. This caused a major fuel leak from the tank, which then ignited. The crew shut down engine number 2 in response to a fire warning but were unable to retract the landing gear, which hampered the aircraft's ability to climb. With engine number 1 surging and producing little power, the aircraft was unable to gain height or speed, entering a rapid pitch-up then a violent descent, rolling left. The impact occurred with the stricken aircraft tail-low, crashing into the Hotelissimo Hotel in Gonesse. According to the report, the piece of titanium from the DC-10 had not been approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
Despite being obsolete in some ways, Concorde represented a pinnacle of sorts for the 'optimistic phase' of civil aviation. However, it happened to operate at extremely low safety margins in some phases of flight. So FOD led to a cascading series of failures ending in the disaster.


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