It’s always a strangely sad moment when I hear a big, fatal accident like the one with Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (news everywhere; check also this wikipedia article with [I guess] updated data as more information is released).

After having studied Flight Safety and realized what an amazing and unimaginable work it takes from people in the aviation industry, mostly “behind the scenes” (so to say: almost invisible to a passenger’s eyes), to put flying on the top of the list of the safest types of transportation, it’s even more awkward to read: a 777-200ER with 227 and 12 crew on board crashed.

Before attending to FA school I would receive such news somewhat differently, but now I keep thinking to myself: how could this have happened?! And most of all, how could this have happened with a triple seven?! (I have to confess, maybe it’s bullshit [and I really hope it is], but I rely more on boeing’s aircrafts than on airbus’s jets)

So let me share some of the things I learned before making any other comments.

We learn in FA school that: i) every accident can be prevented and ii) that there is no such accident which is entirely unique. Also, three factors (“contributing factors”) play a role when it comes to investigating accidents (and preventing them – both things are connected):

a) the human factor (physical, physiological and psychological variables, all related to the human-beings involved in the aviation industry, from the check-in agent to the pilot);

b) the material factor (the construction, the equipments, the structure of the aircraft and everything related to this)

c) the operational factor (acts [of people] , facts and conditions [meteorology for example] which are inherent to the flying activity… other examples: maintenance of the aircraft, crew training, bad weather, flight planning etc.).

In order for an accident to happen one of these elements, which combined together is called the “basic triad of aviation”, may have presented a problem to a point of “irreversibility”, that is, to a point where there is no more possibility to fix the problem! A simple example, during a strong non-planned turbulence (operational factor – bad weather) the plane and the pilots are very much capable of controlling the situation if the structure of the aircraft has not been damaged (material factor) and if everyone is ok (human factor). But if during that severe turbulence, due to poor maintenance a part of the fuselage has not been properly attached to another, let’s say only two little tiny pieces were missing (operational factor), a decompression happens (material factor) and this decompression is so extreme that it breaks the fuselage of the aircraft (point of irreversibility), there is nothing else to do to save the plane.

So, now I ask myself, what happened up there to put down a 777?! It’s so sad that we still have to loose so many lives to discover failures and implement changes to improve flight safety. I think once passed the grief, families will only want to know that: what happened to the aircraft that killed my … ?

I hope all the 239 lives that were lost rest in peace and, if this brings any comfort to their families, may their lives help save millions of other lives around the world.

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