Airworthiness Directive: Life

In an aviation disaster, what happened is never a true mystery. A true mystery is something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained. We know there's an explanation. We know something tangible happened. There is a tangible explanation. We just don't know what it is. What happened. Or in what sequence. Or if one or two of the events in the sequence didn't happen, could the disaster have been prevented.

Most aviation disasters live in a realm of tragic mystery. We are always walking around, picking up the pieces of the puzzle. In fact, there are usually few pieces of evidence to pick up--and the ones we do find crumble in our hands, or they're inexplicable or perplexing. So when we put the puzzle pieces together, they may fit a multiplicity of ways. There may be huge gaps. Or there may be no way at all to fit together the disparate elements. Oh, sure, we come up with a thousand theories--perhaps a different theory for each time we consider, each time we try to take another perspective, each time we speak to another expert. These experts agree; those experts disagree. Perplexing, an enigma, a riddle the answer of which remains forever out of reach. The alleged mystery—the answered question— remains, all the more tantalizing because we know there is an answer.

As troubling as it is for those of us who look for the answer to "how" it happened, families struggle with fathomless questions a thousand times harder to deal with: why my loved one? Of all the thousands of trips, why this particular flight, why this particular plane, why this January, why this Monday?

Families play the questions back in their heads, rewind their lives and replay the events as if somehow in the thinking of it, they could reach back through time, stop their loved one from boarding that plane, or otherwise change a single factor--make the pilot leave his phone behind. Make the mechanic give that lug nut an extra turn. Bless that plane designer—or the parts designer—with something extra so that on that long ago day when he came up that design, it was flawless. The thing that if it had been done just a little differently, would have kept the tragedy from ever happening. That magic something that could undo what has been done with such conclusive finality. As if the moment could be rewound as in a movie, and come out differently. These are the questions which are beyond inscrutable, profound questions heavy with the weight of life, of love wrenched away before its time.

The answer may be elusive.

But there's always rigid hard reality behind a crash. There's always an actual sequence of events that instigated the tragic event.

So any time I see an airline being proactive, I think of lives that will be saved.

Alaska Airlines begun inspecting their 14 Boeing 737 jetliners because of the emergency airworthiness directive issued Friday. Severe vibration occurred in some European flights was due to "lug failure on an elevator control mechanism. The elevator controls the plane's pitch."

There are mysteries hanging about 737s such as ITEK & PERM and recently Ethiopia. In the first two it was determined that it was human error.

I have always believed that pilot error alone will not bring down a plane.

This vibration opens a whole new window of possibility of answers to our unanswerable questions. In some of these past crashes where we have not found the answers, is it possible these tragic flights encountered turbulence which was exacerbated by this vibration? Could this flaw have been instrumental in the Aeroflot-Nord B735 crash at Perm on Sep 14th 2008? or to Itek Air B732 at Bishkek on Aug 24th 2008? Or more recently, to Ethiopian Airlines B738 in the Mediterranean Sea on Jan 25th 2010?

So I am glad to hear that Alaska Airlines begun inspecting their 14 Boeing 737 jetliners. I am glad to hear that Alaska Airlines is committed to safety. They should be commended for wasting no time in ordering an inspection.

If only all carriers were so diligent, there might be fewer grieving families. And that wouldn't be a bad thing, would it?

Originally Posted by George Hatcher Thursday, March 18, 2010