General Airline Section is located here.
U.S. civil airlines move humans with less risk
than any mode ever devised. But there's still room for improvement. In
pursuit of safety we must be careful not to price this mode it out of
reach. Doing so would actually lower transportation safety by moving
travelers to their more dangerous automobiles.
pilot training includes some blurb about being the "best in the
business." That's good for encouragement and team building and all that
but undermines the immutable fact of human frailty.
Great pilots have caused crashes in mundane ways.
Usually through simple
errors compounded unexpectedly that cause unexpected results—sometimes tragically.
Distraction and complacency may be the two biggest enemies of safety
while technology, properly used, its best defense.
And it's not great pilot skill that will prevents most accidents, but
rather the far more mundane practice of discipline. For example: actually
looking at items on
a checklist, not accepting substandard performance on an approach, biting
the bullet to write up a broken item on that last leg home, etc. These are
the things that would prevent most mishaps.
Safety improvements don't happen at the wave of someone's hand—even
hands high in the management heap. They happen because someone champions
the improvement and convince those in power that the
benefit is worth the expense. Don't be fooled into thinking that just
because something is safer it will be done. Expense must be
weighed. That is why the unpopular analysis of "cost per life
saved" is so important—it ranks safety improvements by their
Our aviation system has been ingeniously tweaked over the years to
overcome many human failings but there is room for improvement. This
section is is devoted to that effort.