Wednesday, May 11, 2005


The very first aviation accident

Botched attempts to fly had claimed many lives before the Wright brothers finally launched mankind into the exciting aviation era.

Yet the first aviation accident was destined to happen even as the Wright brothers were still trying to perfect, demonstrate and develop their invention further. It happened in 1908 and is a fascinating part of the history of air travel and aviation accidents.

Much has changed since that first aviation accident.

The most notable is probably the fact that a vast majority of aircraft accidents now happen during take-off and landing. That first aviation accident happened differently.

There were just two people involved. The pilot Orville Wright and Lt Selfridge who was the first secretary of the army’s Aeronautical Experiment Association (AEA) and a man who had followed the experimentation of flying right from the beginning, personally flying and surviving on a few of those dangerous contraptions.

In fact Lt Selfridge was on course to being one of the nation’s leading military aeronautical engineers when that fateful Sept. 17, 1908 aviation accident cut his life and career short.

The aviation accident was later described by Wright himself in a letter to his brother, Wilbur. Here it is:

"On the fourth round, everything seemingly working much better and smoother than any former flight, I started on a larger circuit with less abrupt turns.

"It was on the very first slow turn that the trouble began.

"...A hurried glance behind revealed nothing wrong, but I decided to shut off the power and descend as soon as the machine could be faced in a direction where a landing could be made.

"This decision was hardly reached, in fact I suppose it was not over two or three seconds from the time the first taps were heard, until two big thumps, which gave the machine a terrible shaking, showed that something had broken...

"The machine suddenly turned to the right and I immediately shut off the power.

"...Quick as a flash, the machine turned down in front and started straight for the ground. Our course for 50 feet was within a very few degrees of the perpendicular.

"Lt. Selfridge up to this time had not uttered a word, though he took a hasty glance behind when the propeller broke and turned once or twice to look into my face, evidently to see what I thought of the situation.

"But when the machine turned head first for the ground, he exclaimed 'Oh! Oh!' in an almost inaudible voice.

When the craft hit the ground Selfridge was thrown against one of the wooden uprights of the framework and his skull was fractured. He died later that evening. He was 26.

Wilbur was hospitalized with serious injuries but lived to fly again.

Online shopping where you can quickly compare prices, is really the only way to guarantee that you save money. That's why is the easiest way to purchase your auto insurance online. It is so easy that in some states the whole process can be completed and you can have proof of insurance in your hands in 15 minutes. The goal here is for you to see how much you can save with their services and this site is very easy to use. There is really no better way to get a free online car insurance quote. You will not only save lots of cash, but you'll also save your precious time.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Safety at Airbus

We usually have very short memories.

And maybe it is just as well because if our memory spans were closer to that of an elephant, It would be very difficult to board a plane. (For those unfamiliar with the Elephant-memory-thing, these huge beasts will remember a vital route leading to water that they used once 10 years earlier during a famine to get to a life saving water hole just on time.)

For example the events of September 11 are quickly disappearing from our minds whenever we board a plane these days. Did you fly in the month of September 2001 shortly after the 11th? If you did you’d know what I’m talking about.

But there is yet another safety issue that the folks at Airbus will be anxious to forget.

This was the controversy surrounding one of the best selling airlines they have ever produced - the A320. This aircraft had some highly publicized crashes, very early on. Indeed there are some questions that still linger over some of the air crashes involving the A320. The A320 flew for the very first time in 1984. It began life as a commercial flyer in 1988. It quickly became the fastest selling airliner in the world for several years.

Probably the most memorable A320 crash to experts was the June 26th 1988 one when an Air France A320 crashed during an air show in France, killing 3 passengers. Officially the crash was blamed on pilot error, many questions remained unanswered including a bizarre development where Switzerland’s institute of forensic evidence and criminology determined that the plane’s flight data recorder had been substituted after the crash, placing doubt on the entire investigation.

Many of the A320 accidents were linked to pilot error in using the then brand new fly-by-wire system (more on this later). As this aircraft matured, however, these accidents and the loss of life that went with it (a triple figure digit I believe) did not seem to affect the popularity of the airliner.

The Airbus A320 is a short to medium range commercial passenger jet that was cleverly targeted at the market segment occupied by the then popular Boeing 727 and 737. Actually the guys at Airbus designed an aircraft with a fuel burn of only around 50% of the 727.

Today, more than 2,360 aircraft of the A320 family are in service. The 320 family includes the A319 and A318 short-bodied versions and the A321 stretched version. The A319 entered service in 1996, the A321-100 in 1994 and the A321-200 in 1997. The A318 made its first flight in January 2002 and entered service in July 2003.

What is a fly-by-wire system? This is where the pilot controls the flying of the plane using electronic signals rather mechanically with pulleys and hydraulic systems. This kind of technology has developed today to a point where a computer is literally added between the pilot and the plane. Fly-by-wire has many advantages including the fact that it makes the aircraft lighter because it eliminates bulky hydraulic systems. The computer is also able to perform hundreds of minor adjustments more than a human can in a second, thus making flight smoother, especially in commercial planes. Fuel economy also results.
Some experts believe true fly-by-wire is inevitable in cars in the very near future although certain elements of the thinking have for example already been incorporated in auto braking systems.

Back to the subject of this post, many of this early day A320 accidents were attributed to pilots not understanding the then brand new fly-by-wire system properly. So today that is probably all history, even for Airbus.

Still it will be interesting to see how the new technological developments in the new A380 work out as the aircraft goes through rigorous testing over the next few months.

You can rely on this blog for all the latest developments.

By the way, have you notice how difficult it is to obtain any would-be negative information on commercial airliners, especially their accident and safety records. Below I publish a list of the top 5 safest aircrafts.

Meanwhile it would be useful to keep everything in perspective with the words of the man who invented flying himself.

Wilbur Wright once said;

"If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds."

That isn’t even safe to do anymore in many cities of the world today.

1) Boeing 777
2) Airbus 340
3) Airbus 330
4) Boeing 767
5) Saab 340
Sources:, Boeing, FAA. Statistics valid through June, 2001.

Quick Quip:

Not all the diamond jewelry in the world can buy a good air safety record and yet accidents will always be there. If after centuries of trading, silver prices are still unpredictable; as are accutane lawsuits, in comparison air safety has had a splendid record.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Free Satellite TV!