Tuesday, March 08, 2005

On The Mark -- Now Boarding: Flight Coincidence

Maybe it's because I had a ticket on Delta 191 that crashed into a field near Dallas that I can't let this story go. I'm still haunted by the image of a business colleague who came up to me at the hotel pool in Ft. Lauderdale to tell me I'd better hurry up and get dressed or I'll miss the plane. I had told him that I decided at the last minute to take some time off and was heading down to the Bahamas. He said, "Lucky dog. Hey, what do you think of this teddy bear I got for my kid?" I didn't realize at the time how lucky I was. He and several other friends and colleagues never made it home.

Last week I wrote a post on the British Airways 747 that lost an engine at take-off in Los Angeles and still continued on its flight to England, although the plane had to land in Manchester because it didn't have enough fuel. This incident generated some press and a lot of second-guessing by U.S. officials and former pilots. BA shrugged it off saying that the plane is designed to make that long flight with three engines, what's all the fuss?

Well, that same BA 747 (with the failed engine replaced) took off from Singapore a few days ago, and again experienced failure with the engine that had just been replaced about 3 hours into the 11-hour flight. BA officials again decided to continue on with the flight, which landed safely in London.

Amazingly, according to the Wall Street Journal, the BA spokesperson's response, "It's perfectly safe to fly with three engines." (Or, so it seemed, we told you so.). Going by the book -- yes it is safe to fly with three engines, although U.S. regulations state that a pilot should land at the nearest airport if this happens (British regulations have more leeway) and most people in the aviation industry say it's risky to continue on because, what happens if another engine dies?

Recently, the European Union adopted new rules that state that a EU airline must compensate passengers for long delays, as much as $788 per passenger. The British pilots' union said that the new regulations could pressure pilots to take more risks to save money. Really? BA denies this, of course.

Maybe it's a coincidence, as BA claims. Same plane, new engine, but still, it was the No. 2 engine that failed both times. Seems to me it's too much of a coincidence (especially within days of each other) to risk 300+ lives.

I bet if they would have taken a vote of the passengers (and informed them of the plane's previous engine failure), the pilots would have had no choice but to land the plane back in Singapore.

In any case, "Flight Coincidence" is not a plane I want to board if I ever fly BA.


B2 said...

Wouldn't want to fly it... but "Flight Coincidence" would be a good name for an 80s rock band.

Janet said...

This story puts my Jude Cole story to shame.:(

On The Mark said...

Nah, your Jude Cole story was great...and upbeat!

Chandira said...

That's IT, I'm booking my dad onto Virgin next September.. Arrghh................
Thanks for the ngihtmare.. ;-)
Sorry about your friend. That sucks.
I know somebody with a similar 911 Twin Towers story.

On The Mark said...

Chandira -- sorry to give you nightmares. I would consider Virgin, too.

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