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Exclusive: SFO near miss might have triggered ‘greatest aviation disaster in history’

Exclusive: SFO near miss might have triggered ‘greatest aviation disaster in history’

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Old Aug 15, 17, 9:33 pm
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The Mercury News (who has arguably been the news organization covering this incident the closest) today wrote a fairly scathing editorial, accusing both Air Canada and the FAA of a cover-up, both in terms of the CVR and the lack of drug/alcohol testing.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/08/1...sfo-near-miss/
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Old Aug 15, 17, 9:50 pm
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Originally Posted by kjnangre View Post
The Mercury News (who has arguably been the news organization covering this incident the closest) today wrote a fairly scathing editorial, accusing both Air Canada and the FAA of a cover-up, both in terms of the CVR and the lack of drug/alcohol testing.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/08/1...sfo-near-miss/
Were they the principle investigator of this incident? Or likely another "fake news" media trying to boost its subscription?
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Old Aug 15, 17, 9:55 pm
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They are journalists so they must be right.
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Old Aug 15, 17, 10:14 pm
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It's pretty clear that the pilots and the air traffic controller should have reported this immediately. Maybe they didn't have to by the letter if the law, but they certainly should have if they were being honest.

It stinks of coverup.
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Old Aug 15, 17, 10:23 pm
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Originally Posted by lespoir View Post
Were they the principle investigator of this incident? Or likely another "fake news" media trying to boost its subscription?
Originally Posted by upgradesecret View Post
They are journalists so they must be right.
The editorial board presents confirmed evidence and makes a rational argument based on that evidence.

You guys completely ignore the evidence and the argument, and instead chose to attack the authors.
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Old Aug 15, 17, 11:11 pm
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Originally Posted by kjnangre View Post
The editorial board presents confirmed evidence and makes a rational argument based on that evidence.

You guys completely ignore the evidence and the argument, and instead chose to attack the authors.
Alright, enough. No need to pile on the hyperbole ("a few dozen feet and a few seconds of creating an airport inferno the likes of which this nation has never seen") following that righteous Mercury News report on "this terrifying episode".

Lost in the rush to claim "Cover-up!" is that the quoted confirmed evidence includes and is largely based upon FDR data released by the very same people accused of said cover-up. FDR stands for Flight Data Recorder, aka: the other black box. While we unfortunately lost the audio on the Cockpit Voice Recorder - and if this incident doesn't spur a change in CVR data retention rules, I don't know what will - we have the benefit of far more hard data in the form of what the airplane was doing at any given moment at and leading up to the incident. That you know how close the AC plane came to colliding with the PAL jet is precisely because of FDR data, which will provide hundreds of individual streams that detail various aircraft instruments, systems and control inputs. Granted, it will reveal the 'what', but may fall short of revealing the 'why'.

The editorial was quick to point accusatory fingers, and my sense is that the news outlet is less a moral guardian of public safety, and more concerned about losing access to a potentially juicy or explosive scoop. Ironically, the largely-sensationalist media accounts of aviation accidents and incidents fuel the desire by pilots' unions to limit/ban cockpit video and audio recordings. Part of the official argument against changing the status quo is ostensibly for aircrew privacy - and to prevent macabre public release of pilots' final words. I don't believe for a second the unions actually care about what deceased pilots' families may hear or read following public release of CVR audio or transcripts. Rather, there remains a deep distrust between many pilot groups and their employers. Post-mortem audio can't affect an aviator's flying status, but if the pilots fly away as they did in SFO, it's feared to be a potential - indeed probable - career ending event. 'Better' to have less incriminating video and audio evidence available when summoned to the Chief Pilot's office.

The editorial was dripping with implications such as "the pilots were never tested for drugs or alcohol" and "The FAA, which was responsible for having only one air controller working traffic in the tower at the time".

Again, the fact that the airline, the FAA and the NTSB aren't rushing to provide reporters intimate details of any punitive action - prior to the completion of the investigation - is likely the chief irritant that spurs the media to broadcast claims of impropriety.
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Last edited by CZAMFlyer; Aug 15, 17 at 11:23 pm
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Old Aug 16, 17, 6:32 am
  #757  
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Originally Posted by kjnangre View Post
The editorial board presents confirmed evidence and makes a rational argument based on that evidence.

You guys completely ignore the evidence and the argument, and instead chose to attack the authors.
And can we keep the "fake news!" crap out of here, makes me want to vomit. Yes the media gets thing wrong, yes you need to use judgement, not some grand conspiracy. Let me get the waaaaaaahmbulance...
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Old Aug 16, 17, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by CZAMFlyer View Post
Alright, enough. No need to pile on the hyperbole ("a few dozen feet and a few seconds of creating an airport inferno the likes of which this nation has never seen") following that righteous Mercury News report on "this terrifying episode".
It's only hyperbole if the distance and time together with potential for disaster were exaggerated in the article and not meant to be taken literally which isn't the case according to the facts of this incident. If you're going to pillory the publisher please do so for overly dramatic diction if anything. That is of course merely MHO as a poster.
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Old Aug 16, 17, 9:24 am
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Originally Posted by kjnangre View Post
The Mercury News (who has arguably been the news organization covering this incident the closest) today wrote a fairly scathing editorial, accusing both Air Canada and the FAA of a cover-up, both in terms of the CVR and the lack of drug/alcohol testing.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/08/1...sfo-near-miss/
Let's dissect this editorial a bit:

Headline: "Air Canada, FAA hindered investigation of SFO near-miss". No evidence is presented in the body of the editorial to substantiate that AC or the FAA "hindered" an NTSB investigation. You can't hinder an investigation until it has started, after which there is no evidence of hindering by any party. Unless perhaps the Mercury News is referring to these organisations not answering press questions thereby hindering the Mercury News' investigation in which case it is not worthy of an editorial.

"...key evidence from the cockpit voice recorder was erased and the pilots were never tested for drugs or alcohol. It’s a bureaucratic cover-up that conveniently protects the federal agency and the airline involved." I think it is a stretch to call it a cover-up. As the editorial subsequently acknowledges "The NTSB, in turn, excuses all this by noting that federal rules did not require that it be notified because there was no collision." You can't cover up something that isn't required to be reported in the first place.

"The fiasco highlights the need for new federal laws or regulations mandating immediate reporting of near-misses and the grounding of aircraft and pilots until after National Transportation Safety Board investigators are called in." Agree, although grounding of aircraft gets very expensive very quickly, so one needs to be careful about how one defines a near miss and at what point the aircraft and crew can be released.

"The FAA, which was responsible for having only one air controller working traffic in the tower at the time, took more than 24 hours to notify the NTSB. The delay allowed Air Canada to use the plane for three flights in which the cockpit recorder was taped over multiple times." True, but glosses over the big issue of only recording 30 minutes of conversation. This should be live-streamed or maintained for an extended period. Storage is cheap.

"It was business as usual, despicable behavior on the part of Air Canada, which refuses to answer questions during the investigation, including whether the pilots have since been grounded." Given that this was technically a non-reportable situation (based on current law), it is a stretch to call AC's behaviour "despicable" for allowing the pilots to fly. Disclosing whether or not the pilots have been grounded would likely be a violation of Canada's privacy laws unless agreed by the pilots. I also suspect that the Mercury News is confusing itself with the NTSB - I am sure that AC is cooperating fully and answering questions to the authorities having jurisdiction - which is the NTSB and possibly Transport Canada. There is no requirement to answer the press's questions and I'm sure that AC has concluded that answering ongoing press questions will just keep this story alive longer.

"Jim Hall, former NTSB chairman, told Gafni that those reporting guidelines should be addressed in the investigation. “This was probably the most significant near-miss we’ve had in this decade,” Hall said. “I think splitting hairs on this issue on an incident of this significance is a disservice to safety.”
He’s right. The investigation into this terrifying episode should have started immediately." Agree. Hopefully when the investigation has concluded the public will gain full insight into what occured and changes will be implemented including near miss reporting and changes to cockpit voice recording.
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Old Aug 16, 17, 12:26 pm
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Originally Posted by tcook052 View Post
If you're going to pillory the publisher please do so for overly dramatic diction if anything.
I believe that I did just that in a very clear manner. "Overly dramatic diction" is another way of saying "sensationalism", and given the combination of drama and a heavy bias, I'm surprised the Mercury News might expect any official party to speak to them about the ongoing case.

I also pointed out the pillory-worthy fallacies of much of the content of the editorial, and The Lev later added an eloquent expansion of the theme of my post. FT member kjnangre didn't lend much weight to his/her argument by selecting that particular article.
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Old Aug 16, 17, 3:53 pm
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Originally Posted by CZAMFlyer View Post
Alright, enough. No need to pile on the hyperbole ("a few dozen feet and a few seconds of creating an airport inferno the likes of which this nation has never seen")
It's not hyperbole. It's FACT. A high-speed collision between an A320 and a fully-fueled 789 (and very likely a 3rd plane) would have very likely been the largest inferno at a US airport.

Originally Posted by CZAMFlyer View Post
The editorial was dripping with implications such as "the pilots were never tested for drugs or alcohol" and "The FAA, which was responsible for having only one air controller working traffic in the tower at the time".
Those aren't implications. They're FACTS also. They have been confirmed by the NTSB.

I know, I know, when you're trying to spin a story to get people to buy your own version of reality, it's annoying when someone keeps reminding you about facts and truth. My apologies.
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Old Aug 16, 17, 4:52 pm
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Originally Posted by kjnangre View Post
It's not hyperbole. It's FACT. A high-speed collision between an A320 and a fully-fueled 789 (and very likely a 3rd plane) would have very likely been the largest inferno at a US airport.



Those aren't implications. They're FACTS also. They have been confirmed by the NTSB.

I know, I know, when you're trying to spin a story to get people to buy your own version of reality, it's annoying when someone keeps reminding you about facts and truth. My apologies.

The general purpose of the news media is to report on the facts or truth as they know it. In addition, in order to keep readers engaged, the stories must have some exciting words, charts and/or videos.

The recent bit for the Mercury News was an editorial.

The editors accused Air Canada and the FAA of hindering the investigation, and then called it a "bureaucratic cover-up".

This was followed by comments meant to excite/scare the readers:

"That technical rationalization belies common sense. Air Canada Flight 759 came within a few dozen feet and a few seconds of creating an airport inferno the likes of which this nation has never seen."

I am quite sure everyone fully understands how close this came to being a serious disaster.

You and the Mercury News are free to blame the pilots, the ATC etc, but don't you think it might be worth waiting to hear from the NTSB and the TSB?

---

Also in addition to the discussion here on AC FT, some might also want to read the discussion and analysis on PPRuNe.

Here are some very valid questions asked in response to the editorial from the Mercury News.

QUOTE:

"This article raises several questions:

Is The Mercury News an authoritative source on air accident and investigation & safety?

Do they have additional information that is generally not known the public?

The article makes no specific claim about additional sources that I could see, so I am going to assume that they have about as much information as PPRuNe has found."



He then goes on the address the 13 claims he noted that were made by the newspaper editorial.

An excellent post IMHO.

http://www.pprune.org/9863435-post833.html
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Old Aug 16, 17, 5:38 pm
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Originally Posted by 24left View Post
You and the Mercury News are free to blame the pilots, the ATC etc, but don't you think it might be worth waiting to hear from the NTSB and the TSB?
What we're doing is presenting opinions (based heavily on the facts available). With the hope that others will point out flaws in reasoning, or add new facts that we weren't aware of. Ultimately, we can get a better understanding of what happened and why. That's why I was frustrated yesterday when people were writing posts attacking the authors. That in no way advances the discussion and brings us no closer to the truth.

Of course I'm very interested in the NTSB report and, when it gets released, I will very likely drop whatever I'm doing that day and read it carefully. But that's likely a year away. Do you think there should be no discussion in the meantime?

The pprune post you reference makes a very similar complaint: "judged & convicted, case closed, throw away the key". I have absolutely no authority nor intention of convicting, closing cases, or throwing away keys. And I seriously doubt that the Mercury News does either, pretty sure it's just a newspaper. The complaint is silly, IMO.
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Old Aug 16, 17, 7:14 pm
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My goodness. How can the claim of a cover up be anything more than an accusation without any fact to back it up? The only supporting evidence is that an event which was not reportable wasn't immediately reported. Should there be a review of the criteria for immediately reporting an event? Perhaps. But it appears that the current regulations were complied with.
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Old Aug 16, 17, 7:19 pm
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Originally Posted by kjnangre View Post
It's not hyperbole. It's FACT. A high-speed collision between an A320 and a fully-fueled 789 (and very likely a 3rd plane) would have very likely been the largest inferno at a US airport.
tccook52 addressed the choice of the word hyperbole early this morning, to which I have already replied. The language and general tone of the Mercury piece was designed to excite, rather than inform.

As a minor aside, I think you'll find that the plane would have missed the UA1 789 without correction, and likely have collided with the PAL 773. The data presented seems straughtforward.



Originally Posted by kjnangre View Post
Those aren't implications. They're FACTS also. They have been confirmed by the NTSB.

I know, I know, when you're trying to spin a story to get people to buy your own version of reality, it's annoying when someone keeps reminding you about facts and truth. My apologies.
The comments about the drug testing and tower staffing are indeed facts. But an intelligent reader views them in the context presented, and we are left hanging - waiting in vain for the unsupported intent of the Mercury author that raised the issues. "There was ONLY one controller on duty at the time" is a great example. What is gained from adding the word 'only'? That is what I mean by implication. Let's not pretend an editor is unaware of the meaning and influence of the words he or she selects.
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