Russia plane crash not due to pilot error

I would like to refer you to a previous article in this blog, before you read the current one: Steve Ballmer’s ”Adam Smith” Idiocy at Microsoft. Why? Because therein I feel I made a pretty good description of the difference between what people do and what the “spin doctors” say they do. And I introduced my views on “user error.” From there we turn to today’s sad event: the crash of a Russian airline in the northwest of Russia.

Various articles appeared today on the subject. Many, as did this article in the BBC News – ‘Pilot error’ blamed for north-west Russia crash – repeat the Russian Deputy Prime Minister’s assessment of what happened: pilot error.

So let’s review the facts, as we’re told them:

  1. The weather was very bad: there were foggy conditions making it impossible for the pilot to visually confirm the location of the runway.
  2. In its descent, the aircraft hit a power line, cutting power to the runway’s landing lights.
  3. Backup generators were switched on too late to keep the aircraft from crashing.

In the first case, fog that is so dense that the runway cannot be seen could be crippling even to the best pilot. But why should a visual confirmation have been necessary? Did the aircraft not have automated systems to help home in on the correct trajectory to make a successful landing? In either case, how does not being able to see through the fog or having inadequate instrumentation become pilot error?

Next, how is it conceivable that the power lines serving an airport runway would be located somewhere in the air, where the planes could have even a remote chance of coming in contact with them? They should be buried underground. How can it be considered pilot error that the aircraft hit power lines that should not have been there in the first place? This was an accident waiting, designed, and engineered to happen.

Finally, what is this about the back-up generators being switched on too late to help prevent this crash? Who switched them on? Was it not an immediate, automated cutover? If not, why not? What if that person was not paying attention? On a break? Assisting another aircraft? How does the failure to have the back-up emergency lighting immediately available become this pilot’s error?

In short, there is no single piece of evidence in the facts reported in this article to support the DPM’s assertion that the cause of crash was pilot error. Instead, it was almost inevitably going to happen, to this pilot, or to another one. Had just one of the three factors not been set up in advance, lying in wait for just such an unsuspecting passerby as this, chances are that the crash would not have occurred.

That it did occur shows just how on-target the foolish engineering actually was at creating exactly the outcome that it did. And the DPM’s assertion to the contrary shows just how determined his government is (as are other entities too numerous to mention) to divert attention away from rampant systemic failures by making them appear to be personal ones.


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