The Buffalo plane crash earlier this year had a simple cause: The pilots blew it.
There’s no way that human error will ever be completely eliminated from commercial air travel, but the combination of carelessness, inexperience, and fatigue that doomed the Buffalo flight shows clearly that we need to do better.
How can we do better?
- Better training
- Shorter work hours
- Better pay (which will attract better talent)
- Better monitoring of real-time performance (regular reviews of pilot decisions and habits during routine flights, so we don’t need to wait for disasters to learn what needs to be done)
All of this, of course, would cost money. So airlines won’t do it voluntarily. Which means it needs to be mandated–so all airlines have to do it the same way and are on the same playing field.
And since most airlines are already operating in the red, airline ticket prices need to go up. In some cases, radically.
We’ve become so accustomed to nearly free air travel that the mere suggestion of this will trigger howls of protest. Before you join this chorus, however, read the transcripts of the two pilots chatting in the Buffalo cockpit while failing to notice that the plane was losing airspeed at a dangerous rate–followed by the two errors they then made that caused the crash (pulling back on the stick instead of pushing forward, and raising the flaps–both so basic that pilots-in-training get them drilled into heads long before their first solo flights).
And also read this New York Times story on the sub-fast-food pay and frightening sleep habits of many young pilots. Then ask yourself whether we really shouldn’t be willing to pay another $50 or $100 per ticket to avoid this.
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