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The human element in airplane disasters

Whether it's a long flight across the country or a short jaunt across Texas, an airline flight requires you to place your trust in many factors over which you have no control. You must trust that the plane is in good working condition, the pilot is well rested and competent, and the crew is capable and alert.

Nevertheless, each year planes fall from the sky or make dramatic landings, injuring and killing passengers and those unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place on the ground. While investigators may attribute some accidents to mechanical failure or other factors, most airplanes crash because of human error.

Pilot error

Recently, you may have seen media reports of pilots hailed as heroes for their quick, calm action in saving their passengers during doomed flights. While it is true that a skilled and experienced pilot can make the difference at a critical moment in your flight, pilot error is also the most common reason for plane crashes.

Despite the improvements in technology for piloting planes, those in the cockpit have many opportunities to make errors. Recent studies show that pilot error is the cause of plane crashes about 50 percent of the time, which is an increase over previous years. Such mistakes may occur during the programming of your flight, the calculation of fuel, or any of the many steps and actions required of a pilot while you are on board the airplane.

In addition to pilot error, other issues may be contributing factors in a plane crash, including:

  • Sabotage: 10 percent
  • Mechanical failure: 20 percent
  • Weather: 10 percent

However, each of these also has an element of human error. For example, air traffic controllers or pilots who fail to discern the severity of an approaching storm, or ground crews who inadequately de-ice a plane or clear a runway may contribute to a flight disaster.

Mechanical error

Maintenance engineers often work long hours, yet they are responsible for the upkeep and repair of airplanes. In several instances, fatigued mechanics have made critical and deadly mistakes. Dispatchers, fuel service workers also play a part in the smooth running of your flight. Human error in any of these positions may result in an air catastrophe.

Human error may originate with the manufacturing of the plane or parts of the plane. Poor engineering or design may lead to catastrophic failure. Manufacturers of those parts may have overlooked key results when they tested the safety of the model.

Plane crashes often result in devastating loss of life. If you have suffered injury or lost a loved one in a catastrophic plane crash, you have every right to know the reason for the failure that brought about this devastating loss. Speak with an attorney with experience in airplane accident litigation to learn about your legal options.

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