Cause of Air France 447 Crash Is Bad News for Us All

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Two years ago, when Air France 447 went down in the ocean while flying from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France, it was one of the most frightening aviation disasters in history. Because there was no cause. As far as they could tell then, the plane simply fell from the sky. And now, two years (and millions of dollars) later, the black boxes have been recovered from the sea floor and the story is no less frightening.

The cause of the rapid descent: pilot error. And somehow, that just feels even scarier.

Any time we get in a plane, it feels like we put our lives in the hands of the pilots. No matter how sophisticated the machines we design, it's still up to the humans to run them. We put our faith in them. We trust that they will deliver us (and our families) safely from point A to point B, so every time we hear one of them failed, it makes me doubt the others just a little.

Because we all have bad days, right?

As a writer I have days when it all flows and comes easily and I'm on a roll and feeling good. And then I have days when it's awful and nothing good is coming out and I can't think of anything and snap at anyone who talks to me. Most of the time I am somewhere in the middle. But in some professions -- like flying a plane -- you can't have an off day. Every day has to be good because you have lives in your hands.

If that sounds dramatic, it's because it is. This plane crash shows that even the smallest error can be multiplied many times to become devastating. There was a machine error when one of the plane's speed indicators failed when the plane was flying normally, but once manual flying kicked in and the co-pilot took over, all hell broke loose. He pulled the plane's nose up, causing it to climb and causing its speed to decrease, which "stalled" it. The pilot (who was briefly outside the cockpit) came back, but not in enough time.

It took 3.5 minutes for the plane to hit the ocean, killing everyone aboard, and about 30 seconds to make that fatal error.

Many of us have probably spent a few moments contemplating what that fall was like. They lost altitude at 10,000 feet a minute, so the plane was tossed around. Were the passengers asleep? Did they know what was happening?

Go too far down that road and you will never want to fly again. One mistake can cost so many lives. It's unimaginable.

Does this make you more or less scared to fly?

 

Image via abdallahh/Flickr

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