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No system, human or mechanical or computer, is perfect. Human pilots have crashed more airplanes and are more likely to crash airplanes than automated systems. Human pilots have also saved airplanes when the systems fail. For the foreseeable future, it's probably best to have both, but nothing in life can ever be perfectly safe.



Is there a site somewhere that attempts to catalog

1) instances where the flight computer prevented an incident due to pilot error

2) instances where the flight computer caused an incident

I understand it's not always (if ever) so black & white, and I'm sure there's a better way to break things down. But it'd be interesting to read something that attempts to keep some kind of score.


It's a question that can't really be answered. It's sort of like asking about

1) instances where your alarm clock prevented you from being late to work

2) instances where your alarm clock failed to wake you up

How could you possibly determine how often your alarm clock prevented you from being late? You can certainly tell how often it fails to do it's job, but you can't determine how often it's success is necessary because there aren't any near misses to detect. With no control group there can be no comparison.

You could count incidents which the flight computer is helpful, but you cannot count incidents that never happened in the first place because of the flight computer.


OTOH, Airbus and Boeing use different systems. Some alarm clocks kick you out of bed, shower you, and drive you to work. Other alarm clocks just pull the covers off and poor cold water on you, but still require you to do the rest.

So you could analyze instances where the latter proved insufficient and try to guess whether the former would have been sufficient.

The bigger problem is probably that there just aren't enough useful extreme incidents to be draw any conclusions. Or maybe there are. That's why I'm most curious if anybody has even tried. All I ever hear is that air safety has increased along with an increase in computerization. But that tells me very little. Everything about the aircraft and its ground support has been getting better, not to mention the training of the humans.


It's worth pointing out Qantas is the exception to your point. More incidents on Qantas flights are due to causes outside of the crew's control than due to human error. Even then, Qantas hasn't lost an airframe or had any fatalities since the dawn of the jet age.


> Even then, Qantas hasn't lost an airframe or had any fatalities since the dawn of the jet age.

They do have a record as a safe airline ( though Southwest and Ryanair are probably 'safer' given the number of short-haul daily flights they operate ) but QANTAS also go to extreme lengths to maintain that reputation.

For example in 1999 one of their 747s, reg VH-OJH, overran the runway in Bangkok after aquaplaning. The insurers examined it whilst it lay on a golf course and wrote it off as uneconomic to repair. QANTAS however decided to proceed on its own initiative, to maintain its 'no jet losses' reputation, and spent over $100 million on repairs. Probably more than or just about exactly what the aircraft was worth at that time.

They actually had another 11 years service out of that one before it was sent to Marana for storage.




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