This week's Germanwings Airbus crash -- and recent reports that the co-pilot may have crashed the plane deliberately -- have left travelers questioning the security of air travel. How can we board a plane when incidents like this happen?
As long-time pilot Patrick Smith explains, he's not afraid to get back in the cockpit, even in the wake of disaster. Here is his response to this week's events, excerpted with his permission from his website Ask the Pilot:
I’m not sure what to say.
For pilots, that a colleague may have intentionally crashed his plane and killed everybody on board, is not only horrific but embarrassing, and potentially stigmatizing to the entire profession... I worry now is that every time a plane goes down and the reason is not immediately obvious, people will begin proposing suicide as a possible cause. (However)...
Pilots are human beings, and no profession is bulletproof against every human weakness.
All the medical testing in the world, meanwhile, isn’t going to preclude every potential breakdown or malicious act. For passengers, at a certain point there needs to be the presumption that the men and women in control of your airplane are exactly the highly skilled professionals you expect them to be.
It would seem, to some, that the number of plane crashes over the past several months has skyrocketed... but you need to look at things in the larger context.
The accident rate is still down, considerably, from what it was 20 or 30 years ago, when multiple large-scale accidents were the norm, year after year. What’s different is that, in years past, we didn’t have a 24/7 news cycle with media outlets spread across multiple platforms, all vying simultaneously for your attention.
The media didn’t used to fixate on crashes the way it does today.
These fixations tend to be short-lived, but they are intense enough to give people the impression that flying is becoming more dangerous, when in fact it has become safer. The past decade has been the safest in civil aviation history, and the cluster of serious accidents over the last year, tragic as they’ve been, is unlikely to change the overall trend.
To read more from Smith, visit Ask the Pilot.