A Preventable Disaster in Aviation Essay

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There is a common belief that airplanes are designed with safety in mind, given that the area that it travels through is actually rather dangerous and inhospitable, which is the upper levels of the atmosphere. In addition, it is not difficult to consider the risks involved in traveling at such altitudes if the method of transportation used is not completely built for the task. In this sense, throughout the years, there has been a continuous evolution of airplanes and other aircrafts, not only focusing on the amenities but also placing vital importance upon safety (Faith, 1997).

However, there are of course instances when potential safety risks are not identified unless the actual related accidents or disasters occur. Hence, in essence, lives are sacrificed in the process. This was the case observed in the ValuJet Flight 592 Disaster. Considering that the occurrence of an aviation disaster is rather rare, the general public, the media, and the government often place their focus upon aviation disasters during such events (Faith, 1997).

Thus, it is important to understand the disaster by identifying out how it occurred, assessing recovery and relevant findings, and of course determining the implications of the aviation disaster unto aircraft safety in order to gain insights regarding such aviation disasters. Course of Disaster ValuJet Flight 592, a DC-9, was piloted by Captain Candalyn Cubeck along with the aid of First Officer Richard Hazen (Pilotfriend, n. d. ). After routine procedures of loading the equipment and baggage and allowing all registered passengers and crews to alight, the plane took off towards its intended destination.

The flight occurred on May 11, 1996, in which 110 individuals including the crew and the passengers were aboard the plane which intended to fly from the Miami International Airport to the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (Pilotfriend, n. d. ). However, things did not go as planned as it was only six minutes after takeoff wherein electrical problems began to manifest, causing various difficulties to the crew (Pilotfriend, n. d. ).

Aside from the hydraulic systems, it is evident that a common passenger airplane also requires an efficient flow of electricity in order to provide power for its various systems on board which aid the pilot in controlling the plane. Thus, the presence of electrical problems is really of serious concern. In fact, from the conversation of Cubeck and Hazen in the cockpit, as derived from the cockpit voice recorder, there was a mention of electrical problems together with initiation of the functions of the battery charger (AirDisaster, 2008).

As mentioned, electricity is apparently required in maintaining the various systems of the airplane at normal functional capacity. Thus, after the onset of the electrical problems, the pilots mentioned that they were indeed losing everything. As a result, the pilots decided to contact Miami International Airport for support and at the same time implied that the best possible action to take is to return to the airport (AirDisaster, 2008). However, even before the tower controller began to assess the situation, an even bigger problem occurred.

As the pilot was beginning to describe their situation, the horns sounded which indicated the presence of fire in the DC-9 (AirDisaster, 2008). Of course, this further alarmed everyone on board, since not only is fire capable of destroying equipment, it is also capable of suffocating everyone inside the plane. In reaction to the onset of fire, the first officer told Miami International that are in need of immediate landing as specific areas of the plane have evidently caught on fire (Pilotfriend, n. d. ).

As mentioned, since the interior of the plane is an enclosed space, suffocation is a possibility from the occurrence of fire, and as engineers have expected the possibility of such a problem, oxygen supplies to facilitate proper breathing are placed on board. In the case of ValuJet Flight 592 however, the oxygen supplies failed to function, hence further crippling the breathing of the passengers as smoke moved through various areas inside the plane (AirDisaster, 2008). During this incident, Flight 592 was actually not that far away from Miami.

In fact, together with an altitude nearing 16,000 ft, Flight 592 was only roughly 100 miles away from the borders of Miami (Pilotfriend, n. d. ). As the problems continuously became more and more aggravating, the crew did not give up in their attempts to gain support from Miami International Airport. However, even with the specific instructions given by the airport controller and continuous communication support, ValuJet Flight 592 eventually crashed in the Everglades before reaching the airport (Pilotfriend, n.

d. ). Recovery Efforts As with any aviation disaster, the first protocol done by authorities upon learning of the incident is to assess the possibility of any survivors. In this case however, the chances were bleak as the plane crashed nose first with intensity towards the Everglades (National Geographic Channel [NGC], 2009). As expected, the force of impact has truly resulted in a catastrophic outcome. The position of the aircraft can also be considered as an additional factor to the tragic plane crash.

Because it was flying downward at a steep angle, the impact became even more deleterious. If it was flying in a normal flying position, there might have been a possibility of skidding across the terrain. For the numerous rescue personnel, moving towards the site was no easy task. In fact, the task required the use of air boats in order to be conducted (Pilotfriend, n. d. ). Upon reaching the site of impact, the possibility of having survivors was even more diminished as fragments of the plane were seen scattered along the terrain.

Aside from the fact that the plane was severely damaged and may even be considered as complete wreckage, the site of impact was also covered in the fuel released from the fuel containment units of the plane (Pilotfriend, n. d. ). Since continuous contact with fuel does indeed have negative effects upon an individual, its presence required the rescue team to take additional measures for their protection while searching for potential survivors. Upon receiving protective suits, the search for survivors continued; however, none were found throughout the search operation.

In fact, out of the 110 individuals on the plane, only 37 bodies or remains were recovered (Pilotfriend, n. d. ). After the initial search and rescue operations, the actual investigation begins. In order to understand how the disaster occurred and what has caused it, clues from the wreckage must be found. One method in which clues may be derived is through the analysis of the actual parts of the plane and if possible, the reconstruction of the whole plane from its remains. In this way, the parts where the problems may have started can possibly be identified (Faith, 1997).

The search for parts of the plane was also unsuccessful however, as only three fourths of the total components were found throughout the search which lasted several weeks. Most parts were badly damaged and therefore did not have significance to the search for relevant information (Pilotfriend, n. d). During such cases wherein the general parts of the plane are of no significance to the investigation, the focus on finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) is evidently intensified.

The CVR holds information regarding the actual conversations of the crew of the plane and between the pilot and the airport controller as well; on the other hand, the FDR records data pertaining to the status of the plane at any given time during the flight, including information on speed and altitude (National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB], 2004). Due to the fact that the CVR and FDR are both designed to withstand extreme conditions, they remain intact even in such crashes.

In this case, the CVR and FDR were eventually found, and both served as the basis for investigation and the reconstruction of the events that led to the disaster (Pilotfriend, n. d. ). In general, the search for survivors were in fact a failure since none were found, but such results must not be blamed upon the search and rescue personnel. The crash was indeed very intense as exhibited by the fact that even the components of the plane were severely damaged and none were used for purposes of investigation. In fact, as discussed, even with the physical barriers present, the search continued throughout its course.

The most important factor to consider in this case is the fact that even though they were difficult to locate amidst the debris and the oil spill present on the terrain, the search for the CVR and FDR pushed through and were successful. Aviation Safety Instead of having their own inspection and technical crew similar to those found in other firms, ValuJet reduced their costs by hiring another company for conducting a number of routine operations (Catholic University College of Bruges Ostend [CUCBO], n. d. ). This presents a case analogous to the outsourcing methods of several businesses worldwide.

The company that conducted various routine operations for ValuJet was SabreTech (CUCBO, n. d. ). Thus SabreTech was very much involved in the inspection and maintenance procedures done on ValuJets DC-9 airplanes. One task required before a plane takes flight is proper loading of shipment cargo. In this case however, it was not done properly as the loaded oxygen canisters were improperly loaded. The canisters had misleading details regarding their contents, and their safety caps were not being properly secured and in some cases missing (Candiotti, 1996).

In fact, there are protocols regarding the proper loading of oxygen canisters as it really has the potential to cause problems if they are not properly stored. The science behind this is that in oxygen canisters are used in normal situations through a chemical reaction involving sodium chlorate. In addition, upon the initiation of the chemical reaction by an explosive charge, the canister heats up, with its temperature rising to more than 200°C (CUCBO, n. d. ). In the case of ValuJet Flight 592, the oxygen canisters maintained the potential to function since they were not entirely empty.

In this sense, given that there were held in the cargo compartment, it is not difficult to understand why a fire could indeed start inside the plane. In fact, it is highly probable that the initial electrical problems that were experienced and reported by the flight crew were due to the increasing temperature or fire that was moving throughout the cargo hold, affecting the wires that connected the various systems in the plane. As a matter of fact, it was determined from the official investigations that the only possible source of the fire was the volatile oxygen canisters (Candiotti, 1996).

Hence, SabreTech was in fact to blame for the fire that ignited in the cargo hold. The reason for this is that their employees who checked whether the items being shipped were in fact in their proper state and location allowed the oxygen canisters to be loaded even without proper assessment. Aside from the fact that the oxygen canisters were not properly stored and closed, they were also placed near the tires which caused thick smoke to emanate once burned (CUCBO, n. d).

However, numerous employees were actually given the task to check and select which items are to be placed in the cargo hold and if the locations of the items are of no potential risk. In fact, negligence was exhibited not only by the ramp agents but the co-pilot as well (CUCBO, n. d. ). As a result of the events, SabreTech faced criminal charges regarding the murder of those individuals on-board Flight 592. In addition, three of their employees, who were the ones supposed to properly check the cargo, faced other charges as well (CUBCO, n. d. ).

This presented a fact that safety regulations and protocols must not be handled lightly and must be taken seriously and conducted accurately. Hence, in a way, it presents a message that there should be more focus upon safety if the chances of such disasters occurring are to be minimized. As a result of the case, SabreTech went out of business, serving as a deterrent example for other companies that also deal with safety measures as lightly as they did (CUBCO, n. d). It was also identified that there were no alarms or detectors for heat or fire present in the cargo hold of Flight 592 (Candiotti, 1996).

In effect, the National Transportation Safety Board had suggested specific solutions to such problems. It has strictly recommended that not only should fire alarms be installed in cargo holds, but fire suppression systems must be added as well (Candiotti, 1996). The Federal Aviation Administration has considered the recommendation, deeming it necessary to place such changes. In effect, it has initiated the transition of the idea from being a recommendation into becoming a fully mandated rule in which aircrafts with no fire detection and fire suppression systems should install such devices (Candiotti, 1996).

Conclusion It is rather clear that the ValuJet Flight 592 disaster is not an accident but rather a case of disregard for the rules and protocols. One must keep in mind that rules and protocols including the proper completion of safety checks are not merely additional tasks but are in fact vital in assuring the survival of individuals that travel through the use of airplanes. Another important point to consider from the disaster is that if only fire detection and prevention systems were placed in the cargo hold, then it would have not spread and caused much harm.

Therefore, as mentioned beforehand, even though the aviation industry seems to be focused upon passenger safety, there are times when accidents do happen before problems are identified and changes are made. As observed in the case of Flight 592, it was indicative that changes in terms of employee aptitude and technology must be applied.


AirDisaster. (2008). Valujet 592 CVR Transcript. Cockpit Voice Recorders. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://www. airdisaster. com/cvr/vj592tr. shtml. Candiotti, S. (1996, November 15).

ValuJet 592 Crash to be Blamed on Oxygen Canisters. Cable News Network. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://www. cnn. com/US/9611/15/valujet/index. html. Catholic University College of Bruges Ostend. (n. d). The Crash of ValuJet 592. KHBO User Pages. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://users. khbo. be/lodew/Valujet %20flight%20592. htm. Faith, N. (1997). Black Box: Why Air Safety is No Accident The Book Every Traveler Should Read. Wisconsin: Motorbooks International Publishers and Wholesalers. National Geographic Channel. (2009). Everglades Plane Crash.

Seconds From Disaster. Retrieved May 21, 2009 from http://channel. nationalgeographic. com/series/seconds- from-disaster/2572/Overview#tab-Photos/1 National Transportation Safety Board. (2004, September). Cockpit Voice Recorders and Flight Data Recorders. National Transportation Safety Board Aviation. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://www. ntsb. gov/aviation/CVR_FDR. htm Pilotfriend. (n. d. ). ValuJet 592. Flight Safety Civil Aviation Disasters. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://www. pilotfriend. com/disasters/crash/valujet592. htm.

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