First MH370 in March, then followed by MH17, AH5017, and GE222 all in the span of a single week. While industry sources and experts point out the number of fatal aviation incidents in 2014 so far does not quite make it the year of commercial airline disasters, right now it’s hard not to think twice about getting on a plane.
So, a book with the title Full Upright and Locked Position: Not-So-Comfortable Truths about Air Travel Today is bound to catch my eye. Written by Mark Gerchick, an aviation consultant and former chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration, the book promises to lay out the political and economic forces that shape consumers’ air travel experiences.
Of all the places in the book I could have flipped to, I landed squarely in a section entitled “S–t Happens.” Happenstance, or augury? I’d rather not think about it. But here’s the opening paragraph.
When something as awful as an air crash occurs, we search for someone, or at least something, to blame or to fix. Angry postmortems and earnest investigations hunt the culprit or cause. The sad fact is that as commercial aviation has become so safe, fatal accidents are almost flukes – random events of little predictive significance, a confluence of rarities at just the wrong moment. Engineers rebel at the notion, but sometimes they’re mainly a matter of very bad luck.