Bad Behavior and Fatigue Led to Plane Crash

Bad Behavior and Fatigue Led to Plane Crash

After thorough investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that the cause of a fatal 2004 airplane crash was the crew’s unprofessional behavior, fatigue, and failure to follow landing preparation protocol. 

Shortly before the Corporate Airlines flight 5966 airplane accident that killed the crew and 11 of 13 passengers, the pilot and co-pilot were joking with each other, talking trash about co-workers, and discussing Philly cheese steaks.  When the plane’s warning system alerted the pilots of the rapidly approaching ground below, the two joked and cursed at one another.  They had ignored guidance about the appropriate speed at which to approach the runaway and when to do so. 

“I was extremely disappointed in what I heard [on the cockpit recorder].  From the beginning to the end, it was unprofessional,” says Mark Rosenker, acting chair of the NTSB.

Fatigue was also established as a primary contributing factor to this fatal airplane accident.  The pilots were attempting to land their sixth flight of the day after more than fourteen consecutive hours on the clock.  According to safety experts, this airplane accident is an example of how increased workloads and limited rest can impair the crew’s performance. 

For the second time in 12 years, the NTSB requested that the Federal Aviation Administration update its regulations regarding pilot work rules. 

In light of financial struggles, many airlines are trying to squeeze more hours out of limited pilots in the interest of cost savings.  In the past, many pilots were able to negotiate shorter shifts through labor agreements.  With so many large airlines filing for bankruptcy—including United, Delta, Northwest, and US airlines—these agreements are being tossed aside and pilots are forced to work 16-hour shifts.  

Spokespeople from the airline industry argue, with little supporting evidence, that the existing FAA rules “ensure a safe environment both for our crews and the flying public.  This isolated incident does not appear to draw those rules into question.”

Many airlines, including JetBlue and others, are trying to skirt around the already-questionable FFA regulations regarding pilot’s hours of duty and rest.  JetBlue’s pilots are not members of a labor union, which may make them more vulnerable to abuses in the name of corporate profit and productivity. 

Under the aviation protections established by other several other countries, the pilots in the deadly Corporate Airlines flight 5966 (which was flying under American Airlines) airplane accident, would not have been making the Kirksville flight on that tragic day.  Maybe its time we improved our aviation standards to ensure the safety of crews and the public: to make people more important than profit. 



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