Real Answers from Real Pilots

Recent plane crash

Hello everyone,

With recent news about the Ethiopian plane crash in Africa, I wonder does it ever worry you guys about the safety about some of these planes? What do you guys do to maybe not think about them? Do you guys feel confident in the planes you fly on a week to week basis. I know plane crashes are rare but it is something I think about when planning on being a future pilot, just wanted to know what some of you guys do to help maybe overcome those thoughts… Thanks

Emanuel,

Honestly, it does not bother me one bit. The instances of airplane crashes are so few and far between, particularly in the US, that it really is not a concern. Air travel is by far safer than driving and I certainly do not hesitate to drive anywhere.

Chris

2 Likes

Emanuel,
I’m sure the mentors will probably have some better advice for you in a bit, but your post caught my eye and I thought I would let you know my thoughts. Most pilots are very aware of the fact that flying can be quite dangerous if you are not properly trained and/or if an airplane is not airworthy. This is why there is so much emphasis placed on safety. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s been almost 10 years since a US airline has lost an airplane. (Colgan flight 3407 on Feb 12th 2009) That’s over 10 years ago!!
(There have been some accidents involving cargo planes in recent years. Atlas Air 3591 in Anahuac, Texas and UPS 1354 in Birmingham ,Alabama come to mind).
Despite these accidents, commercial aviation is safer today than it has ever been. If you’re still worried, just think about this fact… you could have been on every single flight operated by a US carrier in the last 10 years and you would be just fine!! That’s almost 100 million flights!!! (source; Bloomberg)
(With the exception of Jennifer Riordan on the Southwest flight where a CFM 56 failed spectacularly)
Obviously you will have to make it to the airlines in planes and operations that are not part 121.
I will be honest with you, very recently a well known local pilot crashed and burned just a few miles from my house and I have struggled some of the same worries you have shared. This is why your post caught my eye.
I have continued with my flight training and still enjoy flying but it was a reminder to me that to be be a safe pilot you must always be vigilant in maintaining proficiency. Also two things that I would stress to all pilots…ALWAYS check your airspeed before making turns in the pattern and don’t let the airplane get ahead of you. You can almost always give yourself some time to get things figured out. Know your limitations. Sorry I could go on forever… one more thing and then I’ll shut up. I find it interesting that people will jump into a car without a thought, even though more than 37,000 people died in car accidents in 2017! However if an airplane goes down everyone likes to remind me how dangerous it is to fly… any thoughts anyone???
Hope this helps Emanuel! Don’t worry, once you start flying more you’ll get comfortable in the air. I know I did!!

2 Likes

Emanuel,

While aviation crashes are rare they’re always tragic and always get much media attention. What I don’t think you understand is HOW rare they really are. While again the 150+ people who died in the crash is a tragedy, there are literally millions flying every day. Trust me you have better things to worry about.

Adam

1 Like

Emanuel,

I’m still learning about these crashes and so is everyone else. Though there is speculation, I dare say anything about the cause until we have all the facts.

I focus on my job when I’m flying. I am aware of the recent crashes, but they just don’t affect me as much as you might think. I don’t suddenly lose trust in the aircraft that I’m flying or the training that I’ve received or myself for that matter just because another airplane crashes.

Tory

1 Like

Emanuel,
I agree with the above posts, you have bigger things to worry about! My father has been a pilot his whole life and when folks ask him if he worries about accidents in the air he answers with " I worry more about passing someone on the highway doing 75 MPH when they are only feet from me doing the same speed coming towards me."

Yeah I personally feel much safer flying a plane than I do driving to ATP haha

2 Likes

What I want to know is, what is the exact problem with these planes to cause two similar crashes? It seems to be the same issue in both crashes. Something along the lines of safety systems/autopilot/flight control. Maybe a professional can weigh in on this…

Robert,

As an aviation professionals, something we have all learned is to not jump to conclusions and start coming up with theories before the facts are known. The respective governments will investigate the black box recordings and come up with the most likely scenario to what happened. This will likely take months. Until them, any theories are really just wild guesses/

Chris

Robert,

I agree with Chris. It’s too soon.

It’s not just us that think this way either. I just received an email from my company with an attached document. The document is a Q&A in regards to the recent accidents. The second Q&A is, Q: “Why do you think the Ethiopian Airline’s plane crashed? A: This is an ongoing investigation and it would not be appropriate for me to speculate.”

Tory

I agree, speculation is bad. I did see that Boeing has said a software patch is coming by April. I think that’s pretty big. Things aren’t looking good for them if that’s case, imo.

Robert,

I think it’s safe to say many people would like to know what the exact problem is?

As the others have said, too soon to tell.

Adam

Software changes come all the time. Aircraft manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve their products.

A very objective and well-written article.

1 Like

Great article @JLascomb

If I had to bet on pilot error or faulty Boeing systems, I’d be shorting BA stock right now.

And you would be jumping to conclusions. Read about the case of TWA flight 260. It took ten years, but the feds eventually realized that their conclusions were wrong and changed the official reason for the crash.

More of an educated guess. 10 years seems too long.

The problem is a bit hard for the public to accept, but it is simply training/maintenance issue. Air lion was caused by a component that maintenance knew was faulty, and failed to fix it 3 times. Ethiopia air crashed for many different reasons. I’m not sure how experienced the captain actually was, again autopilot does the job today anyway, so if they’re not trained on these situations when they have manually fly, it’s over. And I believe this is 100% the airlines fault. I don’t think the FO was too experienced only having 200 hours, I solely believe the captain was the only one flying. That’s one thing nobody can deny here, it all comes down to who you’re working with. You may have 8,000 hours, but your FO has a few hundred. If his or hers training was far more of a shortcut, you can assume it’ll be mostly you flying the aircraft in an emergency. Here’s my take on the entire thing, Which was made up when Ethiopia tried to hide details in the report.

Runaway stabilizer procedures in the 737 have remained pretty much unchanged since its first flight. The same can be said for pretty much any Boeing airliner.

1 - Turn off the autopilot to see if it’s causing the problem.

2 - Oppose the trim manually with the yoke. If that stops it, you’re done.

3 - If that doesn’t work, then you turn off the stab trim cutout switches.

If MCAS is getting some kind of erroneous AOA signal and inputting an unwanted nose down pitch, guess what? Those procedures will stop it. If pilots at airline X get to step 2 and think they’re good and MCAS starts another input after it’s initial 10 second trim, then they go to step 3.

They had the long forgotten throttles locked in the forward position, driving the aircraft to and past VMO. They needed to SLOW DOWN - just like anyone else trying to deal with a runaway stab situation and requirements to use the manual trim wheels. That was the “tool” to which they need to resort - flying the aircraft. Yoke, throttles, pitch, power, CRM… basics. Turning a failed system back on was not the only other tool. I have a friend who flies the 777 for that airline and was next in departure after them.

If you’re flying straight and level, trimmed for current speed in a 737 (or any transport category jet) with the autopilot off and you pull the power to idle and don’t touch the yoke, you’ll descend at your current speed.

The accident aircraft trim was changing over the course of the event due to MCAS and pilot inputs. So, it’s not quite as cut and dry as the basic scenario I gave. For some of the event, the aircraft was trimmed very nose down and therefore most likely trimmed for a higher speed. Already near or above VMO, if the pilots pulled the power to idle in that trim condition, they would have needed to pull back on the yoke in order to slow down (speed brakes would have helped too).

They could have slowed if they had the speed and thrust levers in their cross-check. Idle, nose up yoke input, speed brakes would have done the trick. Unfortunately the thrust levers never moved until it was too late.

Trim runs when unwanted, there are two cutoff switches, easily accessible, and trim isn’t subtle or unseen in the 737. It’s very obvious. It’s noisy, it’s very visual, and it’s tactile. There is NO doubt that the trim is moving, and if that’s happening without the autopilot engaged and the pilot isn’t trimming, there can only be one possibility, and one solution.

Allowing it to happen repeatedly, no excuse. Cutting it off, then reversing that action to enable trim again, also inexcusable. Accelerating to 600+ KIAS, beyond excusable, very controllable, entirely preventable.

Two similar incidents in third-world countries, with at least one FO at a ridiculously low experience level, flying the aircraft.

Boeing has been bowing and cowing lately, but not because it’s the right thing to do; it’s political and it’s spin. Own it, eat it, apply a fix, stop the bleeding…but these mishaps didn’t need to happen, and Boeing is very well aware that promoting the truth, that both incidents were fixable and flyable save for pilots that didn’t do their job, will be a hard sell in the mania of ignorance swirling in the public eye presently.

Don’t mistake that political “mia culpa” for the truth; it’s telling the world what it wants to hear long enough to get the ball rolling again and move on

This was not a crew baffled and snowed by mysterious elements that they didn’t understand; they verbalized the problem and addressing it. The foreign preliminary report is considerably more detailed, including CVR and FDR data and time plots, which are precise and clear.

There’s a lot that can go wrong in an aircraft. In this case, the means to control it are readily available and known. This mode of malfunction will soon be removed from possibility, but regardless, it comes down to whether one is a pilot, or a passenger in the cockpit.

Nick,

Can I make an assumption from your user name you are a firefighter turned pilot?

Brett

Hi Brett,

Yes I was a firefighter back in the day, for 5 years. Very competitive industry with very little pay and benefits. I opted out and went for better pay. I loved serving the community, but I also like being able to pay my bills. Firefighters are unfortunately under appreciated and under paid