Aircraft Accidents and Remembering with Regret

Tomorrow marks the thirteenth anniversary of the Air Midwest 5481 accident in Charlotte, North Carolina. Twenty-one people died in what would be a grand example of how NOT to run an airline’s maintenance department. There is not enough room in twenty blog postings to scratch the surface of what caused the deaths of 21 people – and that’s not including the fact that what was learned that year was forgotten as soon as the ink dried on the report.
Air Midwest was a tragedy of errors; the National Geographic episode ‘Dead Weight’ that played on the Mayday series showed airline workers shaking their heads at mistakes made by the flight crew; or lead investigators getting inspired signs from heaven about what to look for. These things did not happen; I know because I was there. For one, the NTSB didn’t figure out about the cables being mis-rigged; the FAA did and they passed that information onto me right away. I did find out WHY they were mis-rigged – and that, itself, was mind-blowing. The other error was the aft center of gravity, an error that a smart engineer named Kevin in the NTSB did discover – again, mind-blowing. NOBODY suspected that weight problem before the accident.
The point of accident investigation isn’t who gets credited for finding the ‘magic bullet’ – nobody cares; the victims’ families don’t care, the industry doesn’t care, NOBODY. What is important is that we learn forever what went wrong and why; more importantly it is important that we do care about making it a one-time event, never to be repeated.
Unfortunately that does not happen. The circumstances that led to the tragedy of Air Midwest 5481 had occurred several times prior and just last week were found to be happening again.
We never learn.

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