What Do You Want To Hear? Let Us Know!

So fascinations with natural and man-made catastrophes have resonated for me my entire life.  What about you?  Drop me a note to let me know what you’d like to see covered in an upcoming podcast!

The Crash And Legacy of PSA Flight 182 from September, 1978

Today’s podcast is about a subject that has changed commercial and private aviation forever, giving us a legacy of safer flying while paying respect to the lives lost.  Every time you fly on a modern airliner, the memory of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182 should be honored.

As always, you can download the latest podcast from here, find us on iTunes, find us on Stitcher, or listen to the episode in the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast are:

edit: I referenced American Airlines flight 191 in this podcast, which you can download here or find the blogpost here.

A Look At Uncontrolled Engine Failures in Two Different Catastrophes

Today’s podcast is about two different incidents, that are not only 30 years apart but are immeasurably different based on the outcomes of both incidents.  The first, United Airlines Flight 232, is one that haunts me just because of the sheer horror in the detail that was caught on camera, while the second, Southwest Airlines flight 1380, is much less known.

Here is the crash as caught by a camcorder as promised in the podcast, that someone has included the CVR recording.

And here is a diagram of how the plane broke up, as well as injuries and fatalities.  (Click to embiggen)

As always, you can download the latest podcast from here, find us on iTunes, find us on Stitcher, or listen to the episode in the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast are:

edit: One last thing.  In this podcast, mentioned a previous podcast where a flight attendant gave her life saving others.  That one would be podcast #12, which you can find here.

Never Underestimate The Level of Stupidity of People In Large Groups

As of this writing, there’s been another plane crash in Russia.  This time it’s a Sukoi SuperJet that’s crashed in Moscow.  The plane landed with half of it on fire, and somehow the pilots were able to calmly bring the plane to a stop on a runway, where people started to evacuate.

That anyone got out alive seems to be a bit of a miracle.  At least based on the video:

Truly a miracle indeed.

But here’s the rub.  At the end of the story is a single sentence that makes my blood boil. It says:

There were unconfirmed claims people retrieving their bags from overhead compartments led to a delay in evacuating the aircraft.

It wouldn’t be the first time. There are countless pictures of people evacuating planes that are on fire, that have their luggage. If you don’t believe me, here’s an image:

And here’s an image:

And here’s yet one more:

There are literally dozens of these images all over the Internet.  And it doesn’t matter where the emergency is.  North America, Europe, Asia – it’s all the same.  People stop and get their luggage first, then get off the plane.  That is beyond screwed up.

My husband was on TWA Flight 379 from STL to SJC in July 2001, when we lived in California.  You probably don’t know about TWA 379, because it didn’t even make the national news, that I remember.  However, an engine blew up at altitude, and filled the cabin with smoke.  They had to do an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base outside of Kansas City, because the pilots were afraid that the vibrations the engine was creating on the airframe could lead to engine separation, which would cause them to flip over, and surely crash.

When they touched down, the flight attendants did what they’re paid for – they evacuated that plane quickly and efficiently.  My husband said that there was not a single piece of luggage taken by any of the passengers.  Everything was left on board.  Why?  Because the flight attendants had planned for such an emergency, and stressed that in an emergency, you leave your luggage on the airplane.  The passengers listened, and they evacuated that plane before anything bad could happen.  The plane was supposed to get in at 7:30pm, but they finally got a new plane ferried in and arrived home about 4am the next morning.

So far unofficial casualty count for the Russian crash are 13 dead, including 2 children.  Some of them probably would have never survived due to the fire. But if even one person died due to the delay of someone getting their luggage out of the overhead bin?  That’s one too many.

A New Thought on Air Safety?

So the majority of the airline crashes that I’ve covered here have been based in the United States, though yes, there have been others like Tenerife, that happened overseas.  In the US, airline crashes – as long as they are not the result of criminal issues like a hijacking or the like – are treated as civilian issues.  We have a civilian organization underneath the Department of Transportation that goes in, looks at all the details and makes a determination.  If it’s an accident, that’s one thing.  But if it’s due to negligence, like Alaska Airlines flight 261, or American Airlines flight 191 where maintenance cut corners, the airline can get fined.

But what if the United States treated air crash investigations like Italy or Greece did – like criminal investigations?  Would that give the airline more impetus to not cut corners?

There’s an article on that very subject that was just published on TheHill.com, and it’s a unique take on the subject.  They argue that if you use the same type of rules that a 2002 law put into place to prevent things like Enron from happening on the financial side of things (or risk penalties of fines in the millions of dollars and/or jail time), but instead for airline safety, would that help the industry?  It’s honestly an interesting take.  But then again, why should a CEO be more apt to sign off on his accounting practices, and not the safety of the aircraft that they produce?

Head on over and read the link if you’re interested.

The Crash of Helios Airways Flight #522

Today’s podcast goes back a few years to the crash of Helios Airways flight #522, outside of Athens, Greece.  This is one of those accidents that completely freaks me out, personally, because of the circumstances behind it.  If you don’t know about the crash, then once the details are revealed, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

One small point of clarification: about 23 minutes into the podcast, I say “military license” when I meant “commercial license”.  Didn’t catch that until after everything was ready to go, so sorry about that!

As always, you can download the latest podcast from here, find us on iTunes, find us on Stitcher, or listen to the episode from the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast are:

Last additional note.  The website for Code7700 is new to me, and seems to be a treasure-trove of no-nonsense (e.g. not sensationalized) details about air crash investigations.  If that’s your cup of tea, go take a gander!

The Halifax Explosion of 1917

Today’s podcast goes back over 100 years and discusses the day that the town of Halifax was decimated by an explosion that was so bad, it pushed the headlines about World War I off the front page of the paper for a few days.  And if you stay to the end, I go a little into the current situation with the Boeing 737-MAX aircraft.

As always, you can download the latest podcast from here, find us on iTunes, find us on Stitcher, or listen to the episode from the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast are:

And finally, there’s a unique interaction recording that you can check out from the CBC, though it needs Google Chrome.  You can find that here: A City Destroyed: Experience the Halifax Explosion, 100 years later

The 737-MAX8 – Exactly What Is Going On?

So what’s going on with Boeing’s replacement for the next generation of 737?  One crash of a brand new airplane is an anomaly.  But two?  Isn’t that a bit more than a coincidence?  First came the Lion Air Flight 610 crash in October 2018 that happened within 20 minutes of takeoff.  And this weekend brought us the crash of Ethiopian Air Flight 302, which crashed just minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa.  The first flight had 189 souls aboard, the second 157.  And neither crash left any survivors.

Airline crashes have become fewer and farther between thanks to newer, safer aircraft, as well as better trained flight crews, as well as crew resource management.  So what is it about these brand new aircraft crashing after takeoff?

In the case of the first crash, it took a while to get the black boxes.  But in the case of the crash this weekend, both black boxes were retrieved almost immediately.

Yes, these planes are supposed to be safe.  But two crashes tell a story – and not a particularly good one.  In response, airlines around the world have chosen to ground their fleets of 737-MAX8 aircraft.  But not so in the United States.  Both Southwest and American, who have sizeable fleets that include the 737-MAX8 aircraft have said they are standing behind their maintenance people and declaring the planes perfectly safe for flying.

But what seems to be worse is the flying public, justifiably is nervous.  People want to avoid the 737-MAX8 if at all possible.  But carriers like American have told people that they have non-refundable tickets, and therefore cannot change their plans.  Bad PR, American!  Even United is ahead of you on this.  And while United doesn’t fly the 737-MAX8, but rather flies the sister aircraft, the 737-MAX9, they are even offering to adjust people’s itineraries to keep them off the 737-MAX9 if they want.  Seems American Airlines needs to take its collective head out of its tuchus and recognize that people have legitimate concerns, whether they want to stand behind the plane or not.  And Southwest?  Their boilerplate “Our planes are fine” statements that I’ve seen on Twitter don’t quite inspire confidence.

So here’s to hopefully getting to the bottom of the problem with the 737-MAX8 and sister aircraft as soon as possible.  Waiting 11 years, like the issue with the Airbus A300/A310 rudder problem, isn’t really an option.

The Dupont Plaza Hotel fire of 1986, and the Humberto Vidal Building Explosion of 1996

Today’s podcast is a Puerto Rican ‘two-fer’ that goes over the Dupont Plaza Hotel fire of 1986, and the Humberto Vidal Building explosion of 1996, both of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I have a little personal history with the Dupont Plaza Hotel, at least in its new incarnation, and have decided to return this year to see how the island has fared since my last visit before Hurricane Maria, which hit the island in September 2017.

As always, you can download the podcast from here, find us on iTunes, find us on Stitcher, or listen to the episode from the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast are:

The Dupont Plaza Hotel Fire of 1986

The Humberto Vidal Building Explosion of 1996

The Crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 on December 29th, 1972

Today’s podcast goes into the circumstances around Eastern Airlines flight 401, and how that crash brought about big changes to the field of aviation once the findings came out.  Like other catastrophes, there were a series of issues that led to the crash, including some that could have solved the problem without further issue.  But today we each feel the legacy of Flight 401, and the 101 people who were killed that night either in, or because of, the crash into the Florida Everglades.

As always, you can download the episode here, find us on iTunes, or listen to the podcast on the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast include:

A couple notes.  I know that in several articles, it’s mentioned that it was found during the autopsy that the captain of the plane had a golfball sized tumor that possibly pushed against the vision center in his brain.  I left this out, because it was documented that it likely didn’t have any impact on the accident.

And a final note from me.  I tend to talk with my hands, something that I’ve developed with age, and didn’t realize at the time but at the 20ish minute mark, you may hear my hands on my desk, trying to accentuate my point with a bit of a bang.  My apologies for that.  Being back in the habit of recording regularly will work that out of me.

An Observation Regarding the Southwest Engine Explosion Flight

I’ll preface this by saying it is the inner-geek/NTSB agent in me that realized this, as it’s a bit morbid.

If you haven’t heard, there was a recent Southwest Airlines flight, #1380 that operated from New York, Laguardia to Dallas Love Field on April 17th of this year. However, soon after takeoff, the left engine exploded, sending shrapnel inside the fuselage of the aircraft, and sucking one person out of a broken window. The passenger, a woman named Jennifer Riordan, was not only partially sucked out of the plane, but severely injured by flying debris caused by the engine explosion. Though the crew were able to pull her back in, she succumbed to her injuries.

Here’s the thing. This is the first passenger on Southwest to die due to accident/incident. Of course, AirTran, which was acquired by Southwest, had their own accidents (especially when they operated as ValueJet; the incident in the Everglades would make a good podcast subject!). And Southwest itself had a runway overrun where one person was killed, though it was a child in a car that the airplane hit. And another person tried to break into the cockpit, was restrained, and then later died of the injuries received during the scuffle. But Southwest has never had, until now, a death due to accident. Until now.

When you think of traditional carriers like Alaska (Flight #261), American (Flight #587), United (Sioux City, Iowa), and Delta (wind shear in Dallas on an L-1011), it’s unfortunately easy to pick out an accident with the loss of life. So it’s a somber moment for Southwest, and a club no airline sets out to join.