Another tragedy of horrific proportions. 150 people died after a terrifying ride into oblivion. More handwringing by airlines and governments, amid vows to get all the answers. All the usual speculators are out doing what they do—speculating on causes based on early and fragmented information. Some speculation is well reasoned. Others are put forth to fill air time. Stunned, heartbroken, grieving families are victimized by pundits and media who think nothing about the effect on those most affected when factually unsupported theories—or promises—are made. Worst of all, once again, we have mysteries that have arisen due to the political and corporate placed profit over safety.
Yes, it is mysterious as to why Germanwings Flight 4U9525 apparently entered into a controlled descent. It is unknown what the pilots did to cause that descent, for if it was controlled, then clearly it was done by the pilot crew with intention. It is unknown why the descent was not stopped at an altitude where supplemental oxygen would no longer be needed. It is a mystery why the pilots took no action to stop the descent; or, if they did, why weren’t those actions successful? It is a mystery what would have caused pilot incapacitation, for it makes no sense to speculate that the pilots had both capacity and working radios, but did or said nothing as they rode the airplane to their doom. These, and many other questions, may have answers that can be revealed by an examination of the recordings on the Flight Data Recorder – one of the so-called “black boxes” (the other being the Cockpit Voice Recorder).
Yet, once again we are searching for a piece of equipment—hardware—that may or may not have survived the crash undamaged. Reports are that the FDR case, but not the recorder itself, has been found. The CVR has been found, but is damaged. We shall see how much, if any, useable information is retrievable. Once again, families are placed into states of high anxiety as they await the search and examination of equipment that might reveal crucial answers.
Cruelly, for all the handwringing and vows, it is lack of political will and aviation industry commitment that perpetuates the myth that all that could be done has been, or will be, done. The technology is essentially all there to require all commercial airplanes to be equipped with real time reporting systems that stream all the information that is now mechanically recorded and stored aboard the FDRs and CVRs. The information need only be accessed when the need arises. We can vacuum up every phone call and email, so surely we can retrieve airplane function information and store it for needed uses.
While the cost will be considerable, it should not be insurmountable. Airlines and airplane manufacturers are responsible for the safe passage of the traveling public. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has dragged its feet on these issues for many years, yielding to pressures to keep profits up and costs down. The immense cost in human misery needs to be put on the balance sheet, as surely it will outweigh the financial cost in the long run.
There is no need to go through this macabre dance crash, after crash, after crash. It is long past time that action is taken by the FAA, ICAO, the airlines and airplane manufactures to take all necessary steps to prevent the agony that surely will follow in the future when the next crash takes place—and we are told the causes of it are a mystery.