The search for truth is best expressed in President Kennedy’s words, “… not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” The truth is always hard. Blame is made easy by pounding a table or shouting louder.
On February 2nd, a TransAsia ATR 72 crashed into the Keelung River after taking off. At the time a local reporter wanted to blame the aircraft for the accident, analysis that lacked substance, credibility, and traction. Misleading allegations irreversibly damage those harmed by speculation.
In May 1979, an American Airlines DC-10 crashed, its separated left engine found on the runway. Reports fueled speculation of unsafe DC-10 designs. Airlines were ordered to ground their DC-10s until a definitive cause could be determined. Result: air carriers reliant on the DC-10 fleet suffered heavy financial losses. With limited evidence, the decision to ground was a good one, though devastating.
The TransAsia brand itself will take big hits. On July 23, 2014, TransAsia flight 222 crashed killing forty-eight; two TransAsia accidents within seven months. The determinations are still months away and TransAsia will not escape the effects.
Disinformation confuses the flying public, who rely on the media’s and investigating officials’ words to explain what happened. The Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 accident is indicative of how not to investigate. The investigation changed direction often with no logical pattern. It put the victims’ families through an emotional roller coaster; the public’s trust was shaken. The priority became: calm the public with false hopes; satisfy an impatient media. Theory was afforded credibility while opinion became fact.
Disinformation is a distraction. In accident investigations every lead must be disproved, not the other way around. Distortions exhaust necessary resources on fools’ errands, drawing critical attention away from the trail.
Accident investigation is not about assigning blame; culpability is shared by more than one entity and intent is never a factor. Accident investigation is about cause, followed by recommendations. Investigators are not trained litigators; they deal in federal regulations, not in criminal or civil law. Investigations are driven by facts of the accident and analysis of cause; the approach isn’t quick; it’s unattractive and data intensive.
The facts are at least a year away; there remain months of testing followed by months of analysis. Ultimately there will be no speculation. In the end accident investigators will be reporting all the facts. The truth won’t come easy; it will be very hard.