Lion Air out of Indonesia then Ethiopian Airlines each suffered an airliner falling out of the sky, killing all aboard. Cause? Unknown. Probable cause? Malfunction of the autopilot, possibly due to a faulty sensor, possibly compounded by pilot’s error. Political consequence? Politicians and bureaucrats in every country flying the Boeing 737 Max 8 grounded the aircraft.
At the risk of being called “racist”, it should be noted that neither airline was operated from an advanced country, nor were the pilots from advanced countries. Would Delta or Lufthansa have performed better? Possibly, nevertheless, as described below, American pilots flying for domestic airlines have performed poorly in emergent contexts.
One aspect of flying is clear. Unlike politicians, pilots fool no one but themselves — then not for long. A second aspect confirms the basic law of Biobehavioral Science; namely, in a given context behavior has its consequences. In the context of piloting an aircraft, the consequence of committing an error often is swift and powerful.
A True Story
Holding a commercial license with ratings for instrument-flight and multi-engined aircraft, this writer possesses hundreds of hours of piloting various makes and models in general aviation. Some years ago on a flight from Santa Monica to Oakland, California in a twin-engined Piper, he activated the auto-pilot to intercept the ILS (glide-slope) to the runway. Immediately, the aircraft began gyrating one way then another. What to do? Deäctivate the auto-pilot — immediately! Happy ending!
Did the pilots on the two, ill-fated flights deäctivate their auto-pilots in a timely fashion, be that malfunction the cause of the crashes? In the case of Lion Air, maybe not.
A Second True Story
In 2010, Colgan Air Flight 3407 bound for Buffalo fell out of the sky, killing all aboard. The airliner had encountered icing increasing its weight while disrupting smooth airflow over its wings. The disruption eventually “stalled” the aircraft (i.e., no longer generated sufficient lift to keep the aircraft aloft and under control). It was on auto-pilot. Chatting and inattentive, the aviator and aviatrix in the cockpit eventually did deäctivate the auto-pilot. Too late! Being close to the ground, one pulled the yoke backwards instead of pushing it forwards. Mistake! Doing so only aggravated the stalled condition. Pilot error! Consequence of their behavioral deficits? Death for all aboard. Unhappy ending!
Mother Nature forgiving? Fat chance! Violate her laws — pay the price. Context and consequences, as it is said in Biobehavioral Science.
A Third True Story
A two-engined airliner was flying at an assigned altitude of 42,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean bound for new Zealand. Nature called the pilot-in-command (PiC). Obligingly, he departed the cockpit, leaving the co-pilot in command. The aircraft was on auto-pilot. Upon returning from the lavatory, the PiC found his inattentive co-pilot reading a book as the air speed drifted downwards, and the aircraft slowed to slightly above a stall. Cause? A rare malfunction of one engine (“roll-back”).
Without seating himself, the PiC rushed to push both throttles and the yoke forward to increase airspeed. (Attitude of the aircraft determines airspeed; whereas, power determines altitude.) Next? He slapped the book out of the co-pilot’s hands.
The startled junior-aviator screamed, “You can’t descend! We’re at an assigned altitude.”
The PiC replied, “Dummy! It’s three o’clock in the morning. We’re over the middle of the Pacific. Better we should we fall from the sky while requesting San Francisco Air Traffic Control for a reässigned altitude . . . a request that will take twenty minutes to be approved?”
In piloting a powered aircraft (versus a sailplane or glider), altitude and fuel are the two, major safety-factors. Tens of thousands of feet of altitude combined with proper response by the PiC allowed the airliner to arrive at its destination safely. Happy ending!
Three rules of flying in order of importance are the following: aviate, navigate, communicate.
In cross-country flying, another important, operational rule is the following: plan your flight — fly your plan. The rule adheres to the three guidelines of the Scientific Method — specificity, objectivity, and accountability.
specificity n.: Defining events in a way that differentiates those events from other events that may be similar but not identical.
objectivity n.: Referring to events that are observable and measurable either directly or indirectly; and
accountability n.: Observing and measuring events in a way that is verifiable and can be made public.
A flight plan is specific with regard to departure, route, altitude, primary destination, and alternate destination. It is objective with regard to progress. It is accountable with reporting either by radio or by being tracked via radar and, ultimately, with regard to return to Earth — one way or another.
Would that those three guidelines were observed by politicians and bureaucrats in the operation of the nation! Instead of hard and fast procedures in accord with the laws of nature, we suffer from personal opinions reflecting arrogant ignorance and abstract ideologies divorced from reality. Try operating an aircraft in that manner! You might be bold, but you’ll never be old.
As this fragmenting, declining nation on fire plunges towards the dark abyss of socialism as foolishly favored by the young, those who support that ill-fated trajectory, for whatever their reasons, might pause to ask themselves, What qualifications do these purveyors of political, economic, and social putrefaction possess? To fly an aircraft legally and safely, the pilot must have achieved a specified, objective level of proficiency as accounted by his passing examinations. To govern the nation? (Note: Training as a lawyer actually diminishes proficiency as a legislator.)
There is a means, however, by which to promote government by the qualified in accord with the laws of Mother Nature. That means is the employment of Biobehavioral Science via its derivative, the Science of Human Behavior. Where can you find it? One place is Retribution Fever, where politics and science intersect. The novel presents a detailed map.