Humans at Helm: Is Any Flight Safe?
Published: September 27, 2013
Cellphone videos and such have made images of airplane calamities fairly
familiar, but often they are seen only as scary snippets on the news.
The Smithsonian Channel went with an alarmist title, “Terror in the
Skies,” for the series it begins on Sunday night, but the program serves
up much more than just alarming videos of crashes, near crashes and
The series, as might be expected from a corporate cousin of the National
Air and Space Museum, provides some serious context to the terrifying
images of a pilot having an in-flight breakdown, planes being blown
around like toys while trying to land in heavy wind, and worse.
The opening episode, “Pilot Error,” explores issues like pilot training,
fatigue and how increased automation might leave pilots bored or
distracted. Flight safety is all about certainty, but sometimes the
person at the controls is the least certain thing in the equation.
“We’ve seen equipment get ever more reliable over the years, engines,
the design of air frames,” says Deborah A. P. Hersman, chairwoman of the
National Transportation Safety Board, “but one of the factors that
hasn’t changed is, we still have the same human being.”
New York Times Article