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Gladwell's Culture & Air Crashes Analysis Badly Flawed 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-think-his-point-is-that-canadian-golfers-are-to-blame dept.
Koreantoast writes "As a recent Slashdot article showed, interest in Malcolm Gladwell's theory on the impact of culture on airline crashes has come up again following the tragic accident of Asiana Flight 214. Yet how good was Gladwell's analysis of the Korean Air Flight 801 accident which is the basis of his theory? A recent analysis by the popular Ask a Korean! blog shows serious flaws in Gladwell's presentation: ignorance of the power dynamics amongst the flight crew, mischaracterizations of Korean Air's flight accident record (three of the seven deadly incidents characterized as 'accidents' were actually military attacks or terrorism) and manipulative omissions in the pilot transcripts to falsely portray the situation. 'Even under the most kindly light, Gladwell is guilty of reckless and gross negligence. Under a harsher light, Gladwell's work on the connection between culture and plane crashes is a shoddy fraud.' Perhaps Gladwell should have asked a Korean before writing the chapter."
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Gladwell's Culture & Air Crashes Analysis Badly Flawed

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  • by Sir or Madman (2818071) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:37AM (#44260567)

    Same happened after the Tenerife crash, with people characterizing one of the crashing captains as an unchallengeable authority and trying to blame the crash on that. And yeah, not true it turns out. Whoda thunk it!?

    • Ah well just a matter of time and will be just plain old 'puters flying planes. And we all no they never make mistakes, nor do the people who build them and write software for them.
      • by RaceProUK (1137575) on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:24AM (#44261061) Homepage

        And we all no they never make mistakes, nor do the people who build them and write software for them.

        A point worth making for sure, but remember that avionics software is held to a much higher standard than most software. Because the software is directly responsible for human life, and the developer held accountable for failures, they test the shit out of it before even thinking about possibly building a release at some point int he future. But only after more testing.

        • by Mattcelt (454751)

          And yet the Mars Climate Orbiter still crashed...

          • That wasn't running avionics. That, and the passenger count was zero. Not to mention it was a mix up of units, not a software failure.
          • by lgw (121541) on Friday July 12, 2013 @02:37PM (#44263667) Journal

            That's the one that crashed because of the humans in the loop mistaking the units, right?

          • And yet the Mars Climate Orbiter still crashed...

            Comparing that to normal avionics software is silly. Before critical avionics software is deployed, it is run on an test plane with a human pilot backup. If something goes wrong, you switch it off, the pilot lands the plane, and then you debug the logs. This occasionally exposes bugs that were not caught in simulation. For an unmanned mission to Mars, this sort of testing is not possible. You just do the simulation testing as best you can, and then pray.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @04:08PM (#44264567)

              You're off by an order of magnitude.

              No virtual memory machines. No dynamic memory allocation. Every single line of code is directly traced to a requirement, and each requirement traces directly to the code that accomplishes it. Each possible code path tested against the range of plausible inputs. Each input to each function sanity checked, each error path validated against all identified triggers. Strong preference for a pure Harvard architecture, occasionally done in FPGA just so that you can't screw that up. Document each use of a pointer with justification for the deviation from programming standards.

              It goes through robust hardware in the loop (iron bird) testing for a year or 3 before it gets into an aircraft. Prayer is not part of the test flight; that's so fuckign boring and routine that I've never wondered what will happen in flight test. I pray through audit and have only been surprised twice by the iron bird.

      • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:02PM (#44261997) Homepage Journal

        Malcolm Gladwell. Can you really take seriously, the man who claims that Steve Jobs will be forgotten by history, while Bill Gates will be revered like Pasteur and Oskar Schindler [timesofisrael.com]?

        Gladwell's been savaged enough for his whole "Tipping Point" pseudo-mathematical twaddle. As a columnist for the NYT, he's a perfect Tweedle-Dum to Thomas Friedman's Tweedle-Dumber.

        What's less apparent to people is that Gladwell is a stooge, and lickspittle lackey to big industry.

        Dissident Voice has a great article on how he's used his podium to Astroturf for denial of benefits [dissidentvoice.org] to the insured.

        "Gladwell has yet to disclose a list of his corporate clients and how much they pay him. Here is a partial list compiled from various publicly available sources:"

        • Philip Morris
        • Lehman Brothers
        • Microsoft
        • AHIP (health insurance lobby)
        • Bank of America
        • SHRM (union-busting lobby group)
        • Genentech
        • PricewaterhouseCoopers
        • Hewlett-Packard
        • Retail Real Estate Industry

        Look into Project S.H.A.M.E., [shameproject.com] to fully expose the depth of this fraudulent, pseudo-intellect.

    • Saying that it's "not true" is wildly overstating the case. The results of the investigation were that, bottom line, the KLM captain took off without clearance. Several things contributed to that, including simultaneous radio transmissions (which meant that neither could be heard). Excessive cockpit deference may have been a contributor as well. It's not clear that it was, but there was enough evidence that it was to drive the industry to roll out Crew Resource Management over time.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        And...who could possibly imagine that some Koreans would be upset and try to dispute news, stories and theories that put them and their culture into a bad light???
    • Defense of Gladwell (Score:3, Informative)

      by globaljustin (574257)

      Or at least his theory about hierarchical cultures and airplane disasters...

      I lived in Korea as an English teacher in 2001/2002 and was part of a traveling soccer club...and have traveled extensively elsewhere in Asia.

      The idea that the Asia cultural notion of putting respect for a higher class could cause co-pilot's warnings to be delayed or ignored, contributing to the crash, is a sound argument.

      For the reasons Gladwell outlines, it is valid. I've seen it personally in many, many everyday situations, from

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:40AM (#44260591)

    Here is a comment going around from someone in the know, its even harsher than Gladwell was on Koreans.

    ----- hi
    enjoy your flight on Asiana..

    After I retired from UAL as a Standards Captain on the -400, I got a job as a simulator instructor working for Alteon (a Boeing subsidiary) at Asiana. When I first got there, I was shocked and surprised by the lack of basic piloting skills shown by most of the pilots. It is not a normal situation with normal progression from new hire, right seat, left seat taking a decade or two. One big difference is that ex-Military pilots are given super-seniority and progress to the left seat much faster. Compared to the US, they also upgrade fairly rapidly because of the phenomenal growth by all Asian air carriers. By the way, after about six months at Asiana, I was moved over to KAL and found them to be identical. The only difference was the color of the uniforms and airplanes. I worked in Korea for 5 long years and although I found most of the people to be very pleasant, it's a minefield of a work environment ... for them and for us expats.

    One of the first things I learned was that the pilots kept a web-site and reported on every training session. I don't think this was officially sanctioned by the company, but after one or two simulator periods, a database was building on me (and everyone else) that told them exactly how I ran the sessions, what to expect on checks, and what to look out for. For example; I used to open an aft cargo door at 100 knots to get them to initiate an RTO and I would brief them on it during the briefing. This was on the B-737 NG and many of the captains were coming off the 777 or B744 and they were used to the Master Caution System being inhibited at 80 kts. Well, for the first few days after I started that, EVERYONE rejected the takeoff. Then, all of a sudden they all "got it" and continued the takeoff (in accordance with their manuals). The word had gotten out. I figured it was an overall PLUS for the training program.

    We expat instructors were forced upon them after the amount of fatal accidents (most of the them totally avoidable) over a decade began to be noticed by the outside world. They were basically given an ultimatum by the FAA, Transport Canada, and the EU to totally rebuild and rethink their training program or face being banned from the skies all over the world. They hired Boeing and Airbus to staff the training centers. KAL has one center and Asiana has another. When I was there (2003-2008) we had about 60 expats conducting training KAL and about 40 at Asiana. Most instructors were from the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand with a few stuffed in from Europe and Asia. Boeing also operated training centers in Singapore and China so they did hire some instructors from there.

    This solution has only been partially successful but still faces ingrained resistance from the Koreans. I lost track of the number of highly qualified instructors I worked with who were fired because they tried to enforce "normal" standards of performance. By normal standards, I would include being able to master basic tasks like successfully shoot a visual approach with 10 kt crosswind and the weather CAVOK. I am not kidding when I tell you that requiring them to shoot a visual approach struck fear in their hearts ... with good reason. Like this Asiana crew, it didnt' compute that you needed to be a 1000' AGL at 3 miles and your sink rate should be 600-800 Ft/Min. But, after 5 years, they finally nailed me. I still had to sign my name to their training and sometimes if I just couldn't pass someone on a check, I had no choice but to fail them. I usually busted about 3-5 crews a year and the resistance against me built. I finally failed an extremely incompetent crew and it turned out he was the a high-ranking captain who was the Chief Line Check pilot on the fleet I was teaching on. I found out on my next monthly trip home that KAL was not going to renew my Visa. The crew I failed was given another check

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by intermodal (534361)

      I'm not sure how many others around here actually understood your post, but this basically confirms everything I was thinking as soon as I found out it was an Asiana flight. It's not a race thing, but a culture one (as evidenced by your Korean USAF pilot friend).

      Korean pilots have a reputation that they aren't doing anything to counteract, and some of what I've seen causes me to share your amazement that there are not more incidents than there are.

    • by The Evil Atheist (2484676) on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:32AM (#44261145) Homepage
      I can't believe how so many Slashdotters willingly up vote this unsourced anecdote.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And I can't believe how many slashdotters are so disconnected from reality that they can't acknowledge that different cultures have inherent strengths, weaknesses, corruptions, and virtues. And this despite the constant discussion about different corporate, industrial, and philosophical cultures and these same types of inherent strengths, weaknesses, corruptions, and virtues.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          "Different cultures have inherent strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it must be the cause of this aircraft accident". Sorry, but it is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. You have to prove the link, not merely make an assertion that one fact somehow translates into another.
          • by Jawnn (445279)
            The proof is a matter of public record. The experience of an instructor brought in to fix the problems evident in that proof, related here firsthand (thank you Captain AC) is strong corroboration. Jezuz H Christ. What else do you need?
            • How about the proof that the Asiana crash still happened? How do you explain that as a culture thing if you really believe the problems about culture really were fixed? By your standard of proof, I'd have converted to Evangelical Christianity and a believer in Young Earth Creationism.
        • And I can't believe how many slashdotters are so disconnected from reality that they can't acknowledge that different cultures have inherent strengths, weaknesses, corruptions, and virtues.

          What has that got to do with his post? He merely pointed out the folly of believing an A/C post claiming that it's "a comment going around from someone in the know".

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:42PM (#44262409)

        The original post is from pprune.org, dipshit. You know, the professional pilots forum. If you knew as much as you think you do, you would have known that.

    • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@hotmail3.14.com minus pi> on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:39AM (#44261781) Journal
      I would put a lot more faith in that post if it had been signed by a real person whose own credentials we could verify.

      An Anonymous Coward reposting an anonymous blog posting doesn't - or shouldn't - be taken without a rather large grain of salt.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:06PM (#44262045)

        There is remarkably little criticisms of the technical details in an overly technical post. This leads me to believe that the person is very knowledgeable in the field. The post is also very long and well written; a lot of effort and education went into the comment. If it is an attempt to troll, then we are staring at the Hope diamond of trolling.

    • And yet most reputable sources rate korean airlines as being some of the best in the world at training and pilot capabilities. Even if your story, and let's be blunt it's just an unsubstantiated story at best (posted as AC? No link? really?), were true it remains one man's opinion. If that man's opinion were true then why aren't asiana flights falling out of the sky regularly? Why do other airlines, who have their own pilots (far superior to asiana's if we believe this tale) to make informed judgements, c
  • Nevil Shute worked on the problem of making sure that aircraft were properly repaired. When the engine cowling is closed who knows if the work was done properly? His solution is a new religion of aircraft mechanics. Ordinary people pray 5 times a day, but we are special people responsible for keeping aircraft safe, we need to pray 50 times a day, each time we start a task, and each time we finish a task. The book he wrote "Round the Bend" by Nevil Shute is widely available in the bookshelves of elderly engi
    • we need to pray 50 times a day, each time we start a task, and each time we finish a task.

      This is a Warhammer 40K comment waiting to happen. Blah blah appease the machine spirits blah blah.

      • by tibman (623933)

        Did you perform the ritual oil change exactly as prescribed by the holy manual? Ah, good. The machine god is pleased with your dedication.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the "blog's analysis" of Gladwell's book is seriously flawed.

    Whether or not traits of South Korean culture caused airplane crashes in the past, the facts in Gladwell's book can't be refuted:

    1) South Korean air had a much higher crash rate than other airlines worldwide;
    2) They brought in a consultant to train the pilots. This consultant (a) forced them to speak English well (because air traffic controllers speak English worldwide, apparently), and (b) observed rigid command hierarchy, and broke it down so t

    • by Plumpaquatsch (2701653) on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:26AM (#44261087) Journal

      Let's not forget that the "military attack" which was supposedly not an "accident" happened because KAL Flight 007 was hundreds of miles off course (ignoring conspiracy theories of why this happened).

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wor f . n et> on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:28PM (#44262247)

      (a) forced them to speak English well (because air traffic controllers speak English worldwide, apparently),

      At civil airports, English is mandatory. It's an ICAO requirement, actually, that all communications take place in English using standard phraseology.

      In fact, the requirement has gone up to require ALL pilots and controllers be tested for English proficiency - even if you're in an English-speaking country and speak it natively. Yes, you have to submit to a (relatively simple) English proficiency test as part of your license.

      Apparently, native speakers who score the max (Expert) are exempt from future tests - those who score one below (Operational) must re-take the test yearly. Operational is the minimum required to pass.

      Note this only applies to civil aviation. Military airports and airfields are completely different beasts.

      And in Canada, Quebec likes to be different so all their controllers tend to greet initially in French and grudgingly speak English to Canadian aircraft. (International aircraft they'll happily speak English to).

      An example set of questions and responses:
      http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/standards/general-personnel-test_taker_guide-2296.htm [tc.gc.ca]

    • The Slashdot summary illustrates exactly why one should not "ask a Korean" about Korean social issues.

      If you work with Koreans, hang out with Koreans, talk with Koreans, or go to Korea you can learn a lot about how Koreans interact with each other. However if you directly ask or even worse, comment, you tend to get a bunch of denialism, white washing, false comparisons and missing of the point.

      Basically, you are free to admire the good parts, but when something is obviously really wrong, you should mind you

      • To generalise your point, would you also suggest that americans aren't entitled to comment on their own culture and that only outsiders can see clearly? Or do we have a double standard at play?

        I can assure you that the myth that americans are straightforward and don't avoid issues (to take one example from personal experience) is a load of toss.
        • by tibman (623933)

          Fat-ass war-mongering, garbage consuming, instant gratification obsessed, and overly sensitive prudes. Okay, we're good now. Americans are also too tactful at times. Being candid can come off as rude, yes. But rude and honest is better than nice and lying (usually).

  • How can this be? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:48AM (#44260679)

    I was assured [slashdot.org] on Slashdot that Gladwell was supported by evidence and logic and science, and anyone who disagrees is just being politically correct.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I think the problem is that weterners try to project western ideas and interpretations onto east Asian culture and end up misunderstanding it. Some quite prominent so-called experts do this a lot.

    • Re:How can this be? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Shortguy881 (2883333) on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:25AM (#44261077)
      Gladwell has never been one to adhere to scientific principles, he just spits out theories he likes and finds the evidence to support them:

      Criticism of Gladwell tends to focus on the fact that he is a journalist and not a scientist, and as a result his work is prone to oversimplification. The New Republic called the final chapter of Outliers, "impervious to all forms of critical thinking".[56] Gladwell has also been criticized for his emphasis on anecdotal evidence over research to support his conclusions.[57] Maureen Tkacik and Steven Pinker have challenged the integrity of Gladwell's approach.[58][59] Even while praising Gladwell's attractive writing style and content, Pinker sums up Gladwell as "a minor genius who unwittingly demonstrates the hazards of statistical reasoning," while accusing him of "cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies" in his book Outliers. Referencing a Gladwell reporting mistake, Pinker criticizes his lack of expertise: "I will call this the Igon Value [sic] Problem: when a writer's education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong."[58][n 1] A writer in The Independent accused Gladwell of posing "obvious" insights.[60] The Register has accused Gladwell of making arguments by weak analogy and commented that Gladwell has an "aversion for fact", adding that, "Gladwell has made a career out of handing simple, vacuous truths to people and dressing them up with flowery language and an impressionistic take on the scientific method."[61] Gladwell's approach has been satirized by the online site "The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator".[62]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Gladwell [wikipedia.org]

      • I read The Tipping Point and Freakonomics in the same time period, and found this to be very true. I was amused when Gladwell did the whole 'clean streets lower crime' sthick, with anecdotal evidence and what not, and Freakonomics happened to call bullshit on that, with statistics and data.
  • by Alomex (148003) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:52AM (#44260717) Homepage

    Sorry, but its the blog author who fails the bias test:

    Here, Gladwell completely neglects to mention that two of the crashes were caused by either military engagement or terrorism.

    First of all he does acknowledge it was a military attack. Second it's the blog author the one who fails to acknowledge said military attacks caused by the plane wandering away from its route, which is very much pilot error.

    In fact the write up in that blog is so biased and the overall tone so inflammatory that the original story should be modded -1 Flamebait.

    • Second it's the blog author the one who fails to acknowledge said military attacks caused by the plane wandering away from its route, which is very much pilot error.

      As another commenter noted, the blog author does acknowledge one of the military attacks was caused by the plane wandering away from its route. YOU, however, say "said military attacks", completely missing the author's other point that one of the attacks was when an NK operative planted a bomb on a plan in ABU FUCKING DHABI. Furthermore, he didn't deny that they were pilot error. He denies that it is a KOREAN CULTURE error. Gladwell's thesis about the Korean language was plain wrong. Your "pilot error" is n

      • by Alomex (148003)

        I was talking about the military attacks as you might have clued on from the subtle hidden hint in "said military attacks".

        You now bring up the terrorist attack and write it up in ALL CAPS as if that made it any more relevant to the explicit point I was making about "said military attacks".

    • by PPH (736903)
      I'd like to add that the blog actually reinforces Gladwell's position on the flight 801accident. The blog writer's translation of the cockpit chit-chat prior to the crash describes talk (in Korean) about the local weather conditions. Not a technical exchange that one would expect related to flying. But "It rains a lot here". That is just the sort of social lubricant people employ to ease into a conversation. Not just in Korea, but worldwide. Chatting about the weather. Whether Gladwell's interpretation was
      • I'd like to add that the blog actually reinforces Gladwell's position on the flight 801accident. . . . Not just in Korea, but worldwide. Chatting about the weather.

        Gladwell's position is that it is Korean thing. That chatting about the weather is a roundabout Korean way of saying they're in the wrong location.

  • For those who care - there has been new findings from the NTSB about the last part of the flight prior to impact.

    "In an interview with Korean Authorities the pilot flying reported that a flash of light occurred at 500 feet which temporarily blinded him, the NTSB confirmed that this was mentioned in their interview as a temporary event, too."


    Details: http://www.aeroinside.com/item/2761/asiana-b772-at-san-francisco-on-jul-6th-2013-touched-down-short-of-the-runway-broke-up-and-burst-into-flames [aeroinside.com]
    • I also read that the pilots were relying on the Boeing's automated flight speed controls rather than looking at their instrumentation and making manual adjustments.
      • Because that's what pilots of large, complicated planes do. You have to do a lot of things to land a plane. Automating some helps.

        It appears that the big problem is that he pilots were not sure exactly what the controls would do under the specific situation they were in.

        Of course, we have to wait months before the NTSB report comes up, but it is shaping up that a big problem was an unstablized approach [flyingprofessors.net] - basically attempting to land when a number of conditions were not appropriate for a safe landing. The

        • Because that's what pilots of large, complicated planes do. You have to do a lot of things to land a plane. Automating some helps.

          Regardless of whether the plane is on auto-throttle, a pilot still needs to check the speed and take over if necessary especially during a landing. Their speed was getting low and both pilots did not correct [chicagotribune.com] it until too late.

          Experts said even with auto-throttle active, the pilots should have been monitoring the plane's speed every few seconds, and could have manually taken control of the engines at any time.

  • Or simply (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Virtucon (127420) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:57AM (#44260777)

    The pilot was a trainee learning the capabilities and handling of the 777 and his co-pilot, the instructor was merely incompetent? I'll believe that before I believe cultural hierarchies resulted in the crash.

    This incident reminded me of another aircraft mishap involving SFO, a Compressor Stall with a somewhat rusty first officer at the stick on a 747

    [quote]
    On June 28, 1998, a UAL 747-400 that had just taken off from San Francisco International (SFO) experienced a number-three engine compressor stall. The plane shook violently, and the crew shut down the number-three engine. Then, instead of applying rudder, the first officer, who was piloting the plane, used ailerons and spoilers, further slowing the heavily-loaded plane. The stick-shaker stall warning activated, and the F/O pushed the nose over, getting so low that the ground proximity warning activated. The 747 cleared San Bruno Mountain, which is dotted with 600-foot TV towers, by less than 100 feet. At that point, the captain took control, dumped fuel and returned to SFO. In the aftermath of the incident, it was discovered many of the airlines' F/Os were flying for years without making any real-world takeoffs and landings.
    [/quote]

    What also came out of that incident was the fact that the first officer was getting instructions yelled at him from others in the cockpit [adversity.net] while a more experienced captain sat there with his hands off the controls in the left seat. Eventually the more experienced captain finally took control of the plane and landed it back at SFO. Never mind the fact that there's passengers in the back and that you nearly hit a mountain letting the first officer get some experience. It could have been a very bad catastrophe but instead it was a near miss.

    The FAA after that mandated that pilots had to do more "real" takeoffs and landings instead of mostly simulator runs.

    • I agree. That's the basic point the author is trying to make. There are a lot of people trying to explain this accident as some sort of strange, magical "cultural difference" when it can probably just be explained by straight up incompetence. As in any culture, sometimes people just screw up.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        I agree. That's the basic point the author is trying to make. There are a lot of people trying to explain this accident as some sort of strange, magical "cultural difference" when it can probably just be explained by straight up incompetence. As in any culture, sometimes people just screw up.

        but it's a cultural thing to get away with no real world takeoffs, deprived sleep, meth intake, taking a risk with known faulty equipment because it saves money and face, showing up to work while having a hangover, groping the flight attendants or any other such thing that would be considered unprofessional in some other culture.

        also shutting up about a problem you see to save face(even if risky) is a real asian thing... like showing up while having a hangover is a russian thing(why do you think their nuke

        • also shutting up about a problem you see to save face(even if risky) is a real asian thing...

          Which explains why Chinese history is littered with examples of ministers risking and most often losing their lives while criticizing the emperor, and those ministers later becoming revered as a model for loyal ministers. Please tell us more, since you know so much about us Asians.

      • by sjames (1099)

        I think in a sense people are HOPING there is some cultural explanation because otherwise it means that out of 3 pilots watching the landing, not one noticed that they were headed for a crash until it was too late to avoid it.

    • by Jawnn (445279)

      The pilot was a trainee learning the capabilities and handling of the 777 and his co-pilot, the instructor was merely incompetent? I'll believe that before I believe cultural hierarchies resulted in the crash.

      Believe what you like, but that one is probably wrong. The PF was a 10,000 hour pilot. He had only a few dozen hours in the 777, but a seasoned pilot does not need time in a specific model of aircraft to know that he needs to monitor airspeed and sink rate on final. That not one, but two seasoned pilots managed to miss those two key metrics until it was far, far too late can not reasonably be laid to incompetence alone. The question must be asked, "Exactly how did two experienced pilots screw this up so bad

      • Re:Or simply (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Virtucon (127420) on Friday July 12, 2013 @01:17PM (#44262765)

        Read the one post above about how little actual flying time pilots get these days. Takeoff, get to cruise altitude, switch on auto pilot.

        How much actual stick and rudder time, I mean actual handling the aircraft do pilots get these days? Not in simulators, but in the cockpit, actually handling the throttles, the flaps and all the other controls. For all we know those 10,000 hours were really more like 1000 in terms of actually taking control. You had other pilots in that cockpit and nobody saw the problem, typical. But at least they're still alive and now they can tell their side of the story and maybe something good will come out of this in terms of training or better automation, cockpit warnings etc. to help in these kinds of situations.

        Not to be macabre, but this happens all the time in air disasters.
        Look at the Airbus 330 crash from a few years ago.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/29/air-france-crash-pilot-error [guardian.co.uk]

        [quote]
        Captain, Marc Dubois, 58, was resting when the Airbus began encountering turbulance, leaving co-pilots David Robert, 37, and Pierre-Cedric Bonin, 32, in the cockpit.

        Bonin was at the controls when the speed sensors failed. When the autopilot reacted to the confused readings by disconnecting itself and handing control of the plane to the pilot, he reportedly hauled the aircraft up to 37,500ft in an apparent attempt to slow it down. As a consequence the A330's stall warning sounded, meaning that the plane's aerodynamics were not generating enough lift even though its twin engines were working normally.

        Robert, Bonin's co-pilot at the time, supposedly check-listing the emergency procedures, lost precious seconds calling the captain and failed to correct his colleague's error as the plane plunged towards the sea, said the report. Dubois had returned to the cockpit seconds before the crash but was unable to save the situation as it hit the Atlantic belly first.

        A French pilot told Le Figaro newspaper: "This manoeuvre (the pulling up of the plane) is totally incomprehensible. My colleague must have panicked."
        [/quote]

        Inexperience cost all those people their lives. Yes there was a mechanical failure in sensing true airspeed but the guys in the cockpit didn't have enough experience actually flying the plane, ignoring stall warnings and were relying on the autopilot.

        Somebody has to fly that plane and personally I'd prefer it to be somebody who's got experience at actual control vs. simulated runs or hours logged on auto pilot.

  • by sribe (304414)

    Mostly irrelevant, illogical, nonsense--the blog post that is.

    • Illogical? What, that the Korean language explanation doesn't exactly explain anything given the facts of actual language use?
  • Really. What does all this jibber jabber matter? It's not like these wrecks are happening on a weekly basis indicating some kind of systemic problem originating from a common location. Stop feeding the drama trolls. If anything, consider how lucky everyone else was on that plan. It's a uncanny there were so many survivors. Why doesn't someone blog about that. Back to work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:53AM (#44261351)

    Philip Greenspun pretty much systematically took apart the aviation section of Outliers back when it was published:

    http://philip.greenspun.com/flying/foreign-airline-safety

  • Sure, let's all bash Gladwell because he is nothing more than some media semi-famous guy and we obviously shouldn't take his word for granted just because of that. Altough strangely he is quite willing to give sources, and his books are full of them which you can check by yourself and see the truth, or at least, the reasoning behind his arguments.

    No, let's instead trust the Ask a Korean! blog, that completely unbiased source of scientific proof and meticulous and independent analysis of the real data behi

  • Not too surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:13AM (#44261525) Homepage

    I have to say, I enjoy Gladwell's books. They're interesting and thought provoking. However, I've noticed a sort of pattern. He gives lots of examples of his theories, and the examples always sound compelling, but whenever I know about the example he's using in detail, his analysis is generally wrong. They're not patently provably wrong, but just wrong enough to make me uneasy and think, "This is a really weak argument here. If I knew about his other examples in detail, would they be equally weak?"

    • It's like that with most things written by reporters - if you know enough about what they're writing, you realize that they're sort of wrong. And you start to wonder how much other stuff is wrong.

  • in a upon the original article [slashdot.org]. 'Nuff said.
  • What injury was there?

    Was the injury a foreseeable outcome of Gladwell's actions?

    Does Gladwell owe a duty of care to the injured person or people?

    Did Gladwell's actions cause the injury?

  • Joel Spolsky had this article [joelonsoftware.com] on Gladwell the expresses very well what has been annoying me about Gladwell and his books.
  • Most of the commentary on this accident is clueless. Wait for the NTSB report, and meanwhile, read NTSB reports of other crashes. Most airliner crashes have at least two causes, because the single-cause problems are known and have been fixed.

    This accident is puzzling because landing too slow and too short is a classic new-pilot error. Here, both pilots had many thousands of hours, and visual conditions were near perfect. This is going to take more work to unravel.

    • I remember hearing about the Airbus crash where the test pilot was strapped into an large passenger aircraft that had no way for a pilot to change anything; the test pilot made a bad decision that day.
  • When people are in Shock, they can do some interesting things. The difference at the end of the day is, "the decision I make, will it allow me to eat dinner?" In the event of a plane crash, the living will have made the best choice. And every landing you walk away from, is a good landing.

    But something interesting is happening. I saw the plane bounce up about 1 wing span, and people lived? I'm use to hearing about how the bodies have to be recovered.
  • I have to admit that when I first heard about the crash, Gladwell's work came to my mind concerning Korean aviation culture. This train of thought was repeated over and over again on Twitter [twitter.com]. This article [slate.com] talks about the past and present Korean aviation culture with respect to safety, and I think the writer is objective and reputable.

  • The incidents I read about that led to the doctrine of Crew Resource Management were from American carriers. Captains would try to do everything themselves and ignore their teammates.

    We're talking about a human interaction failure mode, not some exotic Asian culture thing.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday July 12, 2013 @02:51PM (#44263853) Homepage Journal

    Impact of culture? More like a culture of impact.

    Try the seafood platter!

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