EgyptAir Flight 804

With the loss of EgyptAir Flight 804 this past week, speculation again goes to terrorism. It is a possibility, but probably not in this case. Reports in the media indicate the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) information reported smoke detected on board the aircraft before the eventual loss.

The media, speculating as it does, reported two different possible sources of the smoke – earlier reports was that it came from the avionics bay in the fuselage, the latest media missive points to one of the engines. In the latest report by CBS and the AP, there was positive news – searchers have found the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.

Until a thorough investigation and analysis of the CVR and FDR is complete, we really won’t know what has happened to this airplane. Everything in the news to this point is conjecture. Keep that in mind…

When it comes to accidents, we have to focus on the facts.

Many are strong proponents of Boeing products. Many pilots, cabin crews, and passengers prefer to fly on Boeing products. Indeed, there is that saying, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.” Why is there such a consumer loyalty to a brand of airplane? For the most part, this blind loyalty is a result of each company’s marketing departments. Couple this with media coverage of the latest airliner-involved accident.

Again, we have to go back to facts.

At the top of the list of the safest airliners are the Airbus 340 and the Boeing 777, respectively sitting at number one and two. Lufthansa Airlines introduced the Airbus into service in 1993 and the 777 first saw revenue flights in 1995 with United Airlines.

As of last September, the Airbus 340 has not had an accident causing a fatality. Over the course of the airplane’s history, there have been three aircraft lost due to non-flying ground accidents and two in-flight losses, one a take-off incident and the other following a landing.

Various operators have lost four 777 hulls over the course of the airplanes history. The first fatalities attributed to the 777 occurred at the San Francisco International Airport when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 landed short of the runway during a visual approach.

When it comes to 777 hull losses, the events themselves might be a bit questionable. Contained within the list of 777 losses are mysterious disappearances and acts of war. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. Four months later on July 17, a surface-to-air missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the in eastern Ukraine. In context of an actual aviation accident, the first 777 loss happened in London when British Airways Flight 38 crashed short of runway 27L at Heathrow Airport.

In analyzing the data, and sticking to the facts, it is apparent the global airline transportation system is the safest mode of travel. The greatest threat comes from acts of war, hijacking, and other criminal activity. On the operator’s side of the house, the biggest threat is that of flight crews not understanding automation well enough to use it properly (see my blog on Automation in Aviation).

Regarding which airplane is safer, it is, again, personal preference. The Boeing aircraft seem to have less automation and dependency on electronics; their airplanes rely more on the basics. On the other hand, Airbus is more fly-by-wire and computers.

For some, electronics and computers can be a little frightful.


©2016 J. Clark

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