A plane crashed in upstate New York the other night. A terrible tragedy, all 49 people on board the plane perished, as well as one person on the ground. Very sad. We hate hearing about things like this.
These things happen. We wish they didn’t. Those of us in aviation try very, very hard to make sure they don’t happen. But they do. Not very often, thank God. But you know, as much as we try to kid ourselves that flying is…or that we can even make it…100% “safe” it’s just not true. Airplanes still crash.
In this case it was a twin-engine turboprop called the “Dash-8.” It was manufactured by Bombardier of Canada and operated by Colgan Airways on contract to and in the colors of Continental Airlines. The plane crashed on approach to the airport in Buffalo, New York. It was at a navigation beacon called the “outer marker,” which tells us that it was about five miles from the field, lined up for the runway. This also tells us that its altitude would have been about 2,000 feet or slightly less. The local weather was not terribly bad. No distress messages were broadcast to ATC by the crew prior to the crash; it simply disappeared from the controller’s radarscopes and crashed into a house.
Right from the beginning it was clear that the general weather around that part of New York State was not great. Airplanes had reported “icing” conditions. Yeah okay, that happens a lot in the winter. But airplanes (especially airliners) are equipped with various devices to combat ice. They deal with it.
Now today, before the wreckage has even cooled, people are asking (demanding!) to know what happened?!
Well, you know… Who knows?
In typical fashion, the media is all over this crash, covering it from every angle, trying their best to figure out exactly how it happened. Because we’re all such experts at air crash investigations now. The focus is, of course, icing. Granted, bad weather can be a factor in any accident, and the investigators will explore that thoroughly.
In an Associated Press story, the reporter (by the name of John Curran) quotes the NTSB as saying that the airplane “fell flat” onto the ground. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, fell flat? This genius reporter comes to that amazing deduction because the NTSB released a preliminary report saying that the plane came to rest facing away from the airport. Oh. Well of course.
Then, part-time expert air crash investigator and full-time idiot Senator John Menendez from New Jersey chimes in, saying he was told by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the plane “…made a 180-degree turn at 5,000 feet.” Maybe so. When it was up at 5,000 feet it probably did make such a turn, perhaps when it was in a holding pattern or when it was being vectored by ATC to the final approach course. This would be completely normal. However, the plane did not crash from 5,000 feet. It crashed from about 2,000 feet. So this little tidbit of the supposed “180-degree turn” is meaningless at the moment.
Ray LaHood should keep his big, fat mouth shut, and the Senator from New Jersey should also shut the hell up. Both of them should keep quiet about things of which they have no fucking knowledge.
Oh, but when did that ever stop anyone? Especially nitwit news writers, ignorant government officials and moron politicians?
I do not know much about this crash, but I can tell you one thing for certain: IT DID NOT "FALL FLAT."
Airplanes do not just fall out of the sky. I know we all have that fear…that every airplane up there is just a second or two away from “falling out of the sky.” The wings will suddenly and inexplicably “lose lift” and it will crash to the ground. But it does not happen that way.
This particular airplane crashed in a very small area. In other words, it did not leave a big, long trail of wreckage. So we know that it came down fairly steeply. That being the case, it came down nose-first, in a nearly vertical dive. Not “flat.” We can assume that it…the term we use is, “departed controlled flight.” Airplanes that are not under control are generally banking or turning or pitching, or perhaps all three. Sure enough, the NTSB preliminary report indicates that the Dash-8 was behaving in just such a manner. We can also be sure that the pilots were doing their damnedest to get the plane back under control. Unfortunately, it looks like they didn't have enough altitude to do so.
After any accident, we pilots talk among ourselves, going over the details of what we know, and speculating generally on what might have caused it. We know how aircraft fly, and we know the various things that can go wrong. But we know better than to come to any snap-judgments or instantaneous conclusions. We know better than to latch onto one bit of “evidence” and go, ”AHA! THAT’S THE CAUSE!” as so many seem to want to do (Fox News, anyone?)
All right. Airplanes don’t just suddenly dive out of the sky. So why would this airplane do that? Good question. And it’s one that we currently do not know the answer to. Could it have been ice on the wings? Sure. Could it have been something else entirely? Sure. When the wreckage is recovered and analyzed by the NTSB, we’ll know more. That will probably take more than, oh, a day. Sorry news fans, but it might even take more than two days.
In the meantime, the wild, idiotic speculation by the media and anyone who can muscle their way in front of a microphone and a camera just pisses me off.