The tragic plane crash in Taipei was the result of mechanical and psychological failures.
Human errors in the cockpit have been the focus of media attention over the past few weeks.
An interesing article by Nautilus last week discussed the human errors in the airline community lately and speculated that the human brain might not be completely caple of handling multiple alarms in the flight deck.
For people in the grip of a life-or-death emergency, fear has a tendency to spiral.
In this state, we experience what's known as "cognitive tunneling." Our attention narrows as we focus on the danger at hand, resulting in an elevated heart rate and quickened breathing, and all our mental resources are focused on the main threat.
Yet there is also a flipside. With a narrowed focus it becomes hard to multitask, to think complex thoughts, to decipher instructions, or to generate novel solutions. Our judgment can be clouded, and experience thrown out the window.
In extreme cases, we lose the ability to consciously control our behavior at all, and find ourselves willy-nilly engaging in ancient stereotypical behaviors like fighting, running, or playing dead.
In other words, when a pilot who's managing a complex modern airliner realizes that his plane is going to crash, he needs the mild fight-or-flight response appropriate for taking a multiple-choice test, but what he gets is a five-alarm response better suited for surviving an animal attack.
A common, deadly mistake of overwhelmed pilots is to put the plane into an aerodynamic stall.
When a plane is flying slowly at low altitude, there's an instinctive human reaction to want to move away from the immediate danger and pull back on the controls to gain altitude.
Doing so, however, can have exactly the opposite effect.
Climbing causes an airplane to slow down, and if its airspeed falls below a critical velocity, the wing dramatically loses its ability to generate lift.
Instead of gaining altitude, the plane suddenly drops, often with fatal results.
From the very start of flight training, pilots are taught to be extra careful not to raise the nose when low and slow. But every year, pilots panic, forget their training, and die.
Has Your British Airways Account Been Hacked?
British Airways quietly disclosed two weeks ago that hackers gained access to the company's frequent flyer program.
The airline said the stolen data did not include Personally Identifiable Information, but many hacked companies such as Target have said this initially, just to admit later they were wrong.
The incident raises new questions about the airlines collecting more customer data online, including a variety of financial data, which is in turn, attracting cyber criminals. Read more in FlyersRights' January newsletter: All Mine.
When Machiavelli wrote that it's better to be feared than loved, little did he know he was foretelling the airline business.
The theory is that basic coach service, without fees, must be sufficiently torturous enough to make people want to pay to escape it.
So that's where the suffering begins, a strategy that can be only be described as "calculated misery."
The airlines deliberately cultivate bad service, multiple add-on fees, exorbitant change and cancellation penalties as an underhanded way to make you pay more to to escape the misery.
Calculated misery is when a business intentionally designs a miserable experience to increase profits. Of course, in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid.
This explains why, over the past decade, the major airlines have done everything possible to make flying basic economy, particularly on longer flights, an intolerable experience.
This puts the airlines in a heated race to the bottom, where everything is considered a optional extra, and the consequence is a steep reduction in baseline quality, comfort, legroom, and things which are difficult to quantify, until it becomes unbearable.
This model has worked well in the banking industry, where one of the main reasons consumers don't bother switching financial institutions is that it would be a huge pain to do so.
Same with the cable companies, that want you to fear them (and their onerous processes) rather than love them for being convenient.
Allegiant's Pilots Warn of Safety Concerns
Two weeks ago Allegiant Air's pilot's union published a letter to passengers warning that the carrier's profits "are propped up by the extra workload placed on its understaffed, underpaid and overworked workforce and its minimalist approach to maintenance and safety."
The pilots claimed that Allegiant is forced to "cannibalize" parts from other planes in its fleet to fix aircraft, owing to a deficient system of maintenance.
These pilots exposed plenty of abuses involving their airline's low-cost business model, including overworked, underpaid staff and lax maintenance practices.
A pilots strike was called for April 2nd, but fizzled when Allegiant management won a temporary restraining order.
The business model of budget airlines such as Germanwings, Ryanair, Alligent and Spirit Airlines has proved lucrative around the world, but only because of those carriers' relentless push on keeping costs as low as possible.
As former United Airlines pilot, Amy Fraher toldFlyersRights last week, "The public needs to recognize you get what you pay for. So the public needs to pay more, and we need better airline leadership to improve the airline culture for employees. At the moment, it's a race to the bottom."
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We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.