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Fort Lauderdale Plane Crash Report Blames Common Crash Cause: Inadequate Maintenance

07/31/2007
Aviation Disasters
BY

I am not a pilot. Generally, I fly big commercial airlines rather than small planes. And like most of us, I rely on a leap of faith that the plane won’t crash. Otherwise, I would be wringing my seatmate’s hand and calling for Mommy on every flight.

So it’s always a surprise to me to read that an airplane of any kind – commercial airliner, private jet, or cargo plane – crashes because of poor maintenance. Of all the things that could go wrong, this is the no-brainer, the one over which we have the most control. Yet, it is one of the most frequent causes of airline disasters.

At the end of July, a National Transportation Safety Board “probable cause” report announced that inadequate maintenance caused a total failure of critical machinery in a 2005 Fort Lauderdale plane crash that seriously injured three people (http://palmbeachpost.com/ 07/26/2007).

The mechanical details of the report mean little to me – lack of maintenance caused a bearing to fail, which generated uneven spin on a propeller, which separated a nose case, causing oil to pour out, dragging the plane down to a forced landing on a residential street before it burst into flames. What is meaningful to me is that all of this could have been prevented if the maintenance crew had done its job.

Aviation writers commonly discuss third-world aviation disasters in terms of what they call the “poor maintenance culture” in underdeveloped countries. But I wonder if we don’t have a “poor maintenance culture” right here at home. Much as we rail about the responsibility of Big Corporations and the harm they do by putting profits over public safety, we need to look at individual responsibility too.

Otherwise, a leap of faith will be all we have.

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