The Incredibly Stupid Error A Pilot Made That Caused The Crash Of A Passenger Airliner

The Incredibly Stupid Error A Pilot Made That Caused The Crash Of A Passenger Airliner

What was the most incredibly stupid (and avoidable) error a pilot made that caused the crash of a passenger airliner?

Aeroflot 593

The relief pilot let his kids into the pilot's seat (against regulations). His daughter went first. She turned the yoke, but the plane was on autopilot, so it didn’t do anything. The pilot just adjusted the heading on the autopilot so she thought she was actually turning the plane.

Next up was his son. They didn’t know that he applied enough force on the yoke that it disengaged the autopilot, though. So they went into a spiral and crashed. And if the son had let go of the yoke, the autopilot would’ve re-engaged and that wouldn’t have happened.

Air France 447

Sure, the pitot tubes had issues and their displays were messed up, but one of the pilots pulled back on his side stick the whole time, resulting in a stall. And the whole time, the Airbus was screaming “stall, stall”. Yet they didn’t realize until the last minute and crashed into the Atlantic. First off, how didn’t they hear the Stall horn? It was on all the way until they crashed. Second, the pilot who was in fault still didn’t seem to realize his mistake at the end. He was heard asking “but what’s happening?”. Lastly, stall prevention is one of the most basic techniques. So it shouldn’t have happened.

Air Florida 90

The crew — not used to flying in cold weather — attempted to de-ice the aircraft by sneaking up on another plane and have the hot exhaust melt away the slush that was forming, instead of delaying the flight by going back for another — proper — de-icing.

This explicitly forbidden maneuver clogged up engine sensors with slush and ice, causing them to read as if the engines were giving more thrust than they were actually giving, so the crew set the throttle low.

By the time they realized they should just put the throttle forward to get more thrust — despite misgivings about the plane behaving sluggishly all throughout the take-off — it was too late.

Eastern Airlines 401

They saw that a landing gear light that should’ve been lit up wasn’t. It turned out to be a broken bulb, but the while cockpit crew was focused on that issue that they never noticed when the autopilot disconnected, and they crashed.

United 173

A problem with the landing gear made them stay airborne. Working the problem they — like Eastern 401 — were so focused on this issue that they forgot to monitor fuel levels. They ran out of fuel.

And for comparison, the exact opposite of ‘stupid accidents’:

US Airways 1549

AKA miracle on the Hudson. The movie ‘Sully’ is based on it. Basically, the A320 took off, but hit birds and lost both engines. Sullenberger ditched the plane in the Hudson River, and everyone survived.

United 232

The DC-10 lost an engine, and elevator/rudder control. The pilots ended up crash-landing the plane, using the throttle to control pitch, yaw, and roll. Half of the passengers survived, but it’s a great example of CRM.

Air Canada 143 (AKA Gimli glider)

The 767 lost all engines, but the captain was an experienced glider pilot. He also knew an abandoned airstrip, which was turned into a drag-racing course. They landed there, and no-one was killed.

Although the problem that precipitated the situation is a real groaner: the ground crew used the wrong conversion table and fed the amount of fuel they had put in as imperial lbs instead of SI kilograms. effectively making the aircrew think they had twice the amount of fuel they really had.

Cathay Pacific 780

Both engines failed on the A330, the pilots set both engines to idle, but one engine was stuck at 76% thrust. They managed to land the plane in Hong Kong, with one dead engine, one engine stuck at 76% thrust. They were overspeeding, but everyone survived.

Sichuan 8633

The cockpit window burst and one of the pilots were nearly sucked out. Even worse, they flew straight into a thunderstorm, but everyone survived. Similarly, British Airways had an incident where a cockpit window shattered, and the pilot has sucked out the plane, onto the ‘roof’. Everyone survived after an emergency landing though.

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