Why Not Raise AirAsia Aircraft Accident Debris?

Delays in recovering AirAsia QZ8501 are frustrating; at times it’s as though salvagers are dragging their feet. The wreckage is located, the black boxes recovered. Why not just bring it up?
That’s not always so easy. To begin with, enough people have perished; to rush the task puts numerous recovery workers at risk. The wreckage is 105 feet down; by contrast the Andrea Doria, a favorite diving site is 190 feet down and accessible to divers. However, diving times are restricted to prevent, e.g. ‘the bends’.
There are two priorities: ‘black boxes’, which have been recovered; and the victims. Depending on a wreckage’s position, the boxes aren’t always accessible. The victims must be recovered, not only out of decency, but because they’re a safety risk; they attract scavengers; their condition may give information; or their location could block crucial evidence, e.g. the pilot blocking the gauges.
The aircraft does not rest on the bottom in the same condition it entered; impact forces, even into water, will rend the fuselage like tissue paper. Strong underwater currents inhibit movement or lift silt. Heavy fuselage or engine sections sink into the soft floor; recovery members must break the suction and/or burrow under the wreckage to get a strong attach point without destroying the wreckage. Meanwhile, surface ships may be tossed by waves or storms, making lifting difficult.
The deep waters of any sea can be selfish and cruel. There is no need to foolishly feed its appetite for tragedy.

Aircraft Accidents: Learning from History

I read an article relating to the 1996 ValuJet aircraft accident and the tragedy’s investigation. The author wrote a review of the event on what had become a difficult examination.
But what impressed on me most? He wrote about the aircraft accident two years after the fact; I was working in Newark at the time. Even then the aftershock from the accident faded from public memory as newer news replaced old.
But less than seven years after the ValuJet aircraft accident – in 2003 – similar problems brought down another airliner, again, shortly after take-off. Analysis discovered that some of the problems that plagued ValuJet were present in a noxious brew of complacency, blind trust, and an apparent lack of supervision that contributed so blatantly to ValuJet seven years earlier. Had we, as an industry, not learned or do we choose to forget over time? The memorials raised for ValuJet 592, TWA 800, Air Midwest 5481, and others will eventually be lost, whether to the elements or to memory. All things, from mountains to oceans, eventually lose out to time.
Time heals all wounds; it scars over deep cuts. Perhaps we should not be so quick to heal.

The Search for the MH370 Aircraft Accident Site

The tragedy of Malaysia Airlines MH370’s loss is endless, at least for the victims’ families. The 777 aircraft accident search continues to sew false hope. What’re they looking for?
Let’s put aside the frustrating months spent searching a 60,000-sq-km (23,000-sq-miles) grid it may or may not be resting in; forget that it lays miles deep; don’t remember the underwater mountains and chasms that provide both horizontal, vertical, and every angle-in-between-type challenges. What’re they looking for? A 209 foot-long aircraft with a 200 foot wingspan and two large engines?
Basic Physics teaches us: of the three states of matter only gasses are compressible; liquids and solids are not. This means that when MH370 hit the water – no matter the angle or speed – it was essentially a hollow tube full of compressible gas; it struck the ocean, a non-compressible liquid. It won’t look the same as when it left Kuala Lumpur. Falling from 35,000 feet? The ocean’s surface would be merciless.
First off, the wings, engines, stabilizers, and tail section would separate, unrecognizable shadows of their former selves. They would flutter on the ocean currents to the ocean floor, perhaps hundreds of miles apart. The fuselage would begin to accordion – or flatten – according to the angle of impact. As the nose strikes the water, the cabin section compresses, the mid-section explodes outward jettisoning its contents over a large area. The sections of fuselage continue breaking up into small pieces, again fluttering to the ocean floor or catching on an ocean mountainside, indistinguishable from its surroundings.
That’s the cruel truth. Cultivating a false hope they’ll be found? In my eyes … that’s even crueler.

Emotional Support versus an Aircraft Accident

In late November 2014, a woman was kicked off a passenger flight because her ‘emotional support’ pig caused a disruption … yes, a PIG. Now an ‘emotional support’ animal is not a service animal: a trained animal that helps a handicapped owner, e.g. a blind man’s service dog. An ‘emotional support’ animal ‘helps’ its owner by relieving the stress of flying by purring, being petted or some other useless activity. Sole stipulation? A signed letter from a health care physician, which means even Paris Hilton could carry Fluffy on her lap. If you’re allergic to Fluffy, then you – not Fluffy – are moved to whatever seat is available.
But let’s look at possible safety issues. An article in Aviation Week spoke to legroom on today’s airliners, an expanding (no pun intended) problem, for sure; Ashley Nunes wrote about the increase of seating by 25% in some aircraft. In reality evacuation tests to approve these numbers are ambiguous at best; the manufacturer’s evacuation tests aren’t performed to demonstrate emergency conditions, test subjects don’t cause logjams by stopping for luggage, there are no handicapped test subjects or children. What happens when Fluffy gets loose during an aircraft accident evacuation – or worse – multiple Fluffies all over the plane?
And let’s be honest: if flying stresses you out that much … take the train.

Accurate Coverage of an Aircraft Accident

I was searching for information for the AirAsia flight #8501 airline accident. I came across a Fox News interview with a retired commercial pilot/trainer; a woman who flew airliners and trained pilots that fly commercial airliners. Perhaps this sounds glib; it’s not meant to diminish the tragedy that took place in the Java Sea Sunday, bringing to an end the promising lives of 162 souls.
I mention the interview because I feel that the media may be learning – albeit slowly – that victims’ family members suffer greatly under the constant barrage of inept ‘experts’ that plague the news programs with their witless concepts of why a modern jetliner can crash. After watching with utter amazement the parade of fools that vied for the camera during the search for Malaysia Airlines flight #370, it infuriated me to think that that idiocy could happen again.
However, in addition to some quality questions, the commercial aviation expert, Kathleen Bangs laid out the issues, speaking from a wealth of experience. She fielded the questions in a sober, yet compassionate way by not communicating false hope. The interview lasted about four minutes but provided more reliable information than I heard in two weeks of Malaysia MH370 coverage by former Chairmen, Directors, law-makers – all better known as bureaucrats, aka know-absolutely-nothings.
I worked enough accidents to know that the true victims are not the deceased; they are at rest. The victims’ families have to listen to these charlatans spew anything to get the reporters to keep calling them. For the moment at least, somebody is finally looking out for the families.