Incompetents at the Controls

The deadly consequences of putting mediocre workers in important positions are illuminated in the freshly released transcripts of the conversation between the pilot and copilot of the doomed flight at Buffalo in February.  These fools crashed a plane into a home, killing 50 people.  In hindsight, it’s all so obvious and almost predictable.

My pal and former work husband Paulie used to say, “The Koebel brothers are everywhere”,  referring, accurately, to Stan and Frank Koebel, the siblings whose incompetence and lack of knowledge led to the E Coli disaster in Walkerton’s water.  That Stan kept a fresh bottle of liquor in his desk for daily nips certainly didn’t help matters. 

The FAA forbids personal chatter in the cockpit below 10-thousand feet but as the plane descended into Buffalo, the transcripts show the 47 year old male pilot flirted openly with his 24 year old female copilot.  Earlier in the flight they both remarked on the amount of ice on the wings in a sort of, ‘Holy cow, that’s a lot of ice! Ice like that could be dangerous.  Holy cow! But let’s talk about ourselves instead.”

The copilot was exhausted from a ski vacation and a previous red-eye flight.  The pilot had barely passed his flight exams and had little or no experience on the type of plane he was flying, with all of those oblivious lives on board.  In fact, the FAA says that if he had known the plane well enough, he could have saved the flight with one shift of a lever.  He shifted it alright, but in the wrong direction, sending them all to their deaths.

The pilot yammered on, inflating his accomplishments like a peacock fanning its feathers open to attract a mate.  The copilot yammered back about her wealth of experience (at 24?!?) seemingly feeling as if she had to prove her right to be in the cockpit.  All the while they ignored or glossed over the ice build-up that led to the fatal mistake.  It has come to light that the pilot had recently failed competency exams several times before finally sneaking through and hadn’t logged much flight time at all.  Lawyers are licking their lips over the mounting evidence to support negligence on the part of the airline.

Fortunately, folks like these are the exception rather than the rule.  Proof is in the thousands of flights that take off and land safely each and every day.  But the transcripts are fascinating and show how little regard these two in particular had for the tremendous responsibility that was on their shoulders and that when you’re a passenger who’s mid-flight, you really have no idea whether your life is in the hands of true professionals or just another example of the Koebel brothers in action.