Thursday, September 29, 2011


The first thing this story reminded me of was of a Gary Larson cartoon:
The 38-year-old co-pilot at the helm of the All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight hit the wrong button while trying to push the unlock door button to let the captain back into the cockpit after he stepped out to use the restroom.

But instead of pressing unlock, the co-pilot hit the rudder trim controls — a mistake that tipped the Boeing 737-700 more than 130 degrees to the left and sent it plunging 6,234 feet in 30 seconds, all while flying at a height of 41,000 feet.
Maybe there's not more to the story--737 captains would know for sure--but it certainly is a bit disconcerting, for several reasons.

One is obvious--that simply mis-hitting a button could crash a plane. The second is bit more conspiratorial: this is not the first time a plane has fallen out of control shortly after a captain has left the cockpit to take a break. Two incidents come to mind, Egypt Air 990 and this one, where the first officer was merely adjusting his seat after the captain left the cockpit and in doing so sent the plane into a dive. That was also a 737. After regaining control the crew blamed an 'air pocket'.

So are these just freak occurrences that have always happened but are now getting more press in the 24/7 news cycle or is training or skill really that bad?

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