Wednesday, July 10, 2013

1198 On the Job Training

1198 On the Job Training

A trainee in the cockpit.  Flying in too low.  Flying in too slow.  Three factors in the San Francisco crash landing of Asiana Air Flight 213.  “Only” two fatalities, maybe fatalities under the wheels of rescue trucks and not because the slow moving plane tripped over a seawall at the end of the runway and caught fire as it tore itself apart and self immolated.

Asiana is not a dippy little nothing of a carrier, though many thought that... because who ever heard of them?  The Boeing 777 is not some slapped together tinfoil movie set version of a passenger plane.  It’s an accomplished and sophisticated machine with all the latest geegaws modern large scale aviation requires.  And make no mistake: moving 300 people at a clip over thousands of miles at high speed and high altitude IS large scale aviation.

But many pilots don’t like this plane.

Back in 2010, writing from Taipei, we talked to George the pilot.

(TAIPEI) --  He’s regaling us with tales of his two decades as a pilot for China Air, and he is scaring the daylights out of us.  He points out that the new Boeing 777 widebodies use only two engines.  This, he says, is less than a perfect way to traverse the Pacific.
Yes, the thing can fly on one engine, but not as high or as fast as normal.  Yes the engines are the most reliable in the world.  Yes, they are well maintained.  But still…
George is a huge fan of the earlier 747, gargantuan king of the commercial sky.  Four engines.  Much better odds if one falls off or decides to eat a bird and chokes.

We kind of scoffed at George as we jointly drained a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue and a pack of Marlboro Blacks. But this is a man who spent a lot of hours behind the stick, trained fighter pilots in maneuvering and flew thousands of passengers and tons of freight during a long career with the Air Force and with China Airlines.

Maybe the Asiana 777 had some previously undetected flaw.  Maybe the autopilot was on the fritz -- the latest available excuse/revelation/theory. Maybe the trainee -- certified as a captain on other types of planes -- was at the controls.  We don’t yet know that.

We will, though, soon enough.

Well, not soon enough.  But maybe soon enough to prevent a sequel.

Shrapnel (Social Network Edition):

--A large number of Facebook “friends” post reams of pictures of food.  Some of it is odd stuff... but most of it is just, well, pictures of food.  Boring, but at least there are no calories.

--Twitter has taught us a great lesson.  You CAN say plenty in 140 characters.  Would that the lesson be applied elsewhere.

--Linkedin endorsements abound these days.  Does it really mean anything when someone endorses you as a Jell-O expert?  And has anyone ever actually landed a job because of a Linkedin profile?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
© WJR 2013
Portions © 2010, The McClatchy Company. Used by permission.

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