Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Almost 1 in 3 pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses, aviation minister says (cnn.com)
506 points by imartin2k 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 342 comments

From the preliminary report:

'At 500 ft, the FDR indicates: landing gear retracted, slat/flap configuration 3, airspeed 220 knots IAS, descent rate 2000 ft/min. According to the FDR and CVR recordings several warnings and alerts such as over-speed, landing gear not down and ground proximity alerts were disregarded. The landing was undertaken with landing gears retracted. The aircraft touched the runway surface on its engines. Flight crew applied reverse engine power and initiated a braking action. Both engines scrubbed the runway at various locations causing damage to both of them. [...]'

I'm amazed that the airplane managed to become airborne again despite the engines being dragged down the runway with reverse thrust selected.

The fact that they where around 80 knots faster than they should have been probably helped a lot. That's a heck of a lot of excess energy.

Pilot here, for anyone confused about the comment... some aircraft reach a speed where it is near a stall and cannot create a positive climb gradient when it touches down. Generally increasing angle of attack (angle the wings are with respect to the airflow) produces more lift. This works until a point is reached where the aircraft stalls (slow speed or high AOA, there is a curve). Many aircraft land near this airspeed, it produces a nice landing. But if you are faster than this airspeed, you can still pull up and create more angle of attack, create more lift, and take back off. So if you are landing fast you can easily pull up. This is exaggerated in fighter aircraft where we land at speeds that are faster than the stall threshold and a drastic pull up at landing can almost always cause a climb.

From what I can find the Airbus also requires the weight on wheels and the wheels speed sensors to have spun up before it will apply reverse thrust. Obviously the brakes also only work when the wheels are down. Auto-spoilers wouldn't deploy automatically also.

If I understand correctly does that mean they tried reversers, but they didn’t work so that’s why they initiated a go round?

The initial report indicates they did try to, but many planes won't allow reverse power unless some other indicator (landing gear down an in contact with the ground) says they're on the ground.

So maybe they'll go to idle but won't reverse, because reverse while in the air would be bad.

Fun fact, the Shuttle Training Aircraft actually used reverse thrust in the air to simulate the (probably terrifying) rate of descent of the real thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle_Training_Aircraft

The excessive speed helped? Can you explain, I would imagine that going faster would cause more engine damage while being dragged.

Helped is probably the wrong word. I mean't that the aircraft had a lot of excess speed to get back into the air again, had it been at a normal approach speed you would probably have slowed down enough that it wouldn't have been possible to get it flying again.

There's a decision point past which your option to abort is no longer viable. Think of an overloaded plane attempting to take off. It may need 400 meters to brake. If the pilot continues to attempt to take off until only 200 meters of runway are left, braking is no longer an option.

In the case of the landing attempt above, reverse thrust and the very sketchy (ahem) landing configuration would typically bleed off too much speed to make a successful takeoff possible. Depending on the runway the implicit decision point might have been behind them virtually upon touchdown. With so much excess airspeed, though, while a safe stop was not possible they were still able to fly. It would have been a hell of a ride, though, and just thinking about abusing an airplane like that kind of blows my mind.

But would also mean there was more energy to be converted to lift when the plane increased its attitude to take off again :)

More engine damage, probably.

But the excessive speed is what allowed the plane to lift off again.

The pilot was reportedly well seasoned. I have my doubts about the quality of the report given the incredible mishandling of the situation.

"Imran Narejo, an official of the PIA Pilots Association, said Gul was a seasoned pilot with 18,000 hours of experience including over 4,000 hours in the A320."


In Pakistan, there is a culture of becoming overconfident and ignorant of the rules in the airline industry as the pilots age. This was also noted by the Aviation minister when he presented the PIA crash report to the assembly. It should be noted that two of the previous large crashes involving an Airblue and a Bhoja airplane were both concluded to be pilot error with the report pointing to overconfidence and negative attitude in cockpit, in addition to lack of regards for regulations for air safety and lack of training as well.

While I have no doubt this is true of Pakistan, it is true of many people who gain experience in a culture regardless of their age.

A while back some US Air Force pilots landed a B-1 bomber on Diego Garcia. The entire flight and the landing was flawless, other than the part where they landed with the gear in the retracted position. The report on the incidents finding was they simply went right past the item on the checklist like it never happened.

Ignorant of ... lowering the landing gears to land? It's just astonishing.

It gets really easy to miss something like that. I've not missed the landing gear - but something goes a bit sideways and you are out of practice - things get skipped.

I've, for example, left the carb heat on when I had to go around. The hot summer air, combined with a C152 at max load, made for a hair raising takeoff. At 500' or so, the instructor casually asked if I was going to turn off the carb heat, which improves engine performance quite a bit.

Figure I'll fly 30 or so hours this year. The normal workflows get rusty, which is why checklists are such a thing.

When someone does a belly up landing, what usually ends up being the expensive part is the prop smacking the tarmac, the engine must be rebuilt.

This is what it looks like from the inside. Notice the beep that the pilot... missed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K4QHpVXtxI

There is different between that an hearing an audible warning annoying the shit out of you saying “Too low. Gear. Too low. Gear.”

It's pretty common.

I don't fly retractable gear aircraft, but I did spend several months exclusively flying a Citabria. On my first flight back in a more typical Cessna 172, I went through the downwind, base, and final legs as usual.

After landing and getting the plane stopped, I turned to my instructor and commented that the landing sight picture seemed a lot steeper than what I had remembered.

He smiled and pointed to the flap switch, which I had completely forgotten about. The Citabria doesn't have flaps.

Gear up landings are one of the most common insurance claims for aircraft. It’s more common than you might think, even with experienced pilots.

Is there any kind of indicator in the cockpit to remind the pilot? A light? A voice (like the stall voice), that says, "Hey doofus, you're descending and close to landing, so LOWER THE GEAR!"

A friend of mine that years ago (pre-F-18) was a carrier-rated Navy fighter pilot had, after he got out, flown a Mooney for a couple decades. His wife also a pilot. He always went down the checklist verbally, every time. One time on approach he said: “Gear down. Three in the green.” meaning gear down and locked indicator on all three wheels. His wife said: “You do not have three in the green.”

The human brain is a funny thing. It will convince you of things that are not there just out of habit.

Yeah - checklists can become almost a chant, more music than informational.

"Pointing and calling" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointing_and_calling) appears to address this.

When I cross a road I usually quickly look two or three times to check traffic, even when it's one-way. This way, I make sure that even if I'm in a hurry, I'll likely take a look at least once at each side.

In this case, this video linked elsewhere in this thread described this happening here:


(I think this is meant to be an accurate simulation of the same type of aircraft under the same conditions.)

The current top comment in this thread also quotes the investigator report for this crash as saying

> According to the FDR and CVR recordings several warnings and alerts such as over-speed, landing gear not down and ground proximity alerts were disregarded.

So, yep. Although in the simulation, at least, this particular one is not a voice alert but is an annoying bell (with details of the reasons for the alert available elsewhere in the cockpit).

There is. Some planes beep, others literally play a warning "too low, gear, too low, gear" in the cockpit and headsets.

But gear up landings don't happen in a normal stable approach in nice weather. Gear up landings happen when something else is going on taking all the pilots' attention. Like in this incident they were too high, too fast and descending too quickly. That causes a lot of other warnings and distractions, so they completely didn't hear the gear warning.

You're not wrong at all, and there is. It's just surprisingly easy to filter it out. If something new or non-standard is happening (ATC gave you an unusual approach, there's a traffic conflict, etc) you WILL start filtering out the less important information such as the screech of a gear horn or some other in-your-face indicator right through touchdown.

The thing about flying an aircraft is while it's 90% boring monotony, takeoff, approach and landing are all extremely time sensitive operations. It's easy to become cognitively saturated or to "get behind the aircraft". You can only go forward and you're going really fast so everything has a deadline.

The best description would be like when you were learning to drive and you merged onto a highway the first time. Lots going on, can't slow down, just have to commit and try to keep up.

I’m not a pilot, but I think there’s a “too low” warning

Most airplanes have a "too slow" warning as well, e.g. a speed at which the gear ought to be down because there isn't any other reason to be going so slow except to be landing. The speed also factors into gear retraction, e.g. you are not going fast enough to fly, so gear retraction will not be actuated even if commanded.

This is indicative of a systemic culture of rule breaking. This is common in all government run systems. "The system is too arduous, doesn't reflect the 'real world.' We know better than the system, we know what really matters." Eventually you have a bunch of John Waynes playing fast and loose with the rules, eventually they become emboldened, and since the government is famously bad at policing itself, these attitudes are pervasive.

This happens at the highest levels, even. Consider Hillary Clinton and the communication of classified (and information that should have been considered classified regardless of markings) via her primary email server. It's a pervasive culture of rule breaking.

>This is common in all government run systems.

I do not believe all government systems result in systemic rule breaking but only those do that do not provide an reasonable way to get things done within the rules/regulatory framework.

>This is common in all government run systems

No, that is not at all true. There are lots of government run systems, like the health care systems in most developed countries, that are just fine. The problem with Pakistan is it has a highly corrupt culture in general and in government in particular. That is no doubt why so many of the airline pilots were able to get hired without a legal licence.

Your general claim and the fact that you bring up Hillary Clinton as an example makes me think that you believe in the crackpot libertarian view that modern societies would be vastly better if we basically got rid of the government except for a few, narrow areas.

> crackpot libertarian view that modern societies

Which group, government or 'crackpot libertarians', were responsible for more deaths in the last century? I'll wait. I'm sure if you ask those in Iraq, they'd vastly prefer the US Government was more libertarian (or any NATO government, really). I understand wanting to trade blood for convenience, as long as it's not your blood.

Oh dear, you are making the argument that if it is very bad to be wrong in one irrational way, that makes it just fine to be wrong in another irrational way. Wouldn't it be better to be just, you know, right?

> The pilot was reportedly well seasoned.

In routine operations of the plane under normal conditions. If they hadn't gone through proper training, they might lack knowledge of how to respond to abnormal situations.

The report corroborates the witness, video, ADS-B, and ATC recordings we had hours after the crash. It adds more details we couldn’t determine at that time, but otherwise it looks to be quite accurate

This channel has done an excellent job of analyzing the available data [1] https://youtu.be/76osJupy_P8?t=16 and the latest [2] https://youtu.be/xu69Lkf9BYc?t=8

"PIA has grounded all its pilots who hold fake licenses, effective immediately."

I would have thought anyone with a fake license was already grounded. It sounds like they knew this was an issue and just looked the other way.

It is a power issue. Everyone was aware, but the remaining pilots refused to let the authorities do anything.

The only reason this is happening is because of Covid-19. No flights, so pilots can't threaten to boycott flying. Let's see if the authorities have enough political capital to follow through with firing them all.

Couldn't these companies just sponsor the pilots to complete their pilot training program? If they really do need the pilots that badly, and the fake pilots demonstrate an interest in the job, why not just pay for their flight training directly and keep them grounded until that training is complete?

That training would probably fail. I've seen a few licensed pilots with a real license from a country that isn't ICAO standard (and I'm going to guess Pakistan is like that as well) sit in flight training. They didn't do very well, lots of bad habits, not a very enthusiastic attitude towards a training they think they don't need.

> Couldn't these companies just sponsor the pilots to complete their pilot training program?

Well, that training costs close to $100,000, takes up to 2 years, the fake pilots would have to pass several written, practical and medical tests.

> They didn't do very well

In Asian culture, staff only get promoted (one-way up) over time. So the concept of failing one of your pilots is a hard sell for local examiners - it would be scandalous behavior to flunk their sim ride.

S. Korea rotates in US CFIs until they find compliant ones that will endorse, otherwise they're sent back to the US. Or they just use locals to rubber-stamp logbooks.

One of the few recent US airline accidents was the SFO Asiana crash, which is the poster child for "not doing very well." (although why SFO turns off their ILS all the time is bizarre.)


"in Asian culture"

why are you using Korean anecdotes to explain a Pakistani problem?

Last I checked, Pakistan was in Asia....?

I think the point is, that Pakistan and Korea are culturally very different. Different languages, different religions, different traditions, different histories, etc. So claiming they both share "Asian culture" is rather dubious since it isn't very clear what is this "Asian culture" which they allegedly both share.

Some Asian countries do have some common cultural heritage. Japan and Korea were both heavily influenced by Chinese culture, for example. But, Pakistan and Korea, what common cultural heritage do they have?

Well to be fair, S Korea did copy Pakistan’s five year economic plan in the sixties.

> I think the point is, that Pakistan and Korea are culturally very different.

No, we're talking about aviation, and the point is this.

Both have a large percentage of ex-military pilots in civil aviation. The military is hierarchical, same as Asian culture in general.

Both SK and likely Pakistan would fire a contract US CFI for busting a pilot on a sim ride, and then have a local massage the results into a pass.

If you worded your point as "countries with hierarchical cultures and whose aviation industry is dominated by ex-military pilots have this problem" I don't think people would disagree with it to anywhere near the same extent.

It isn't making that point, it is making it in combination with the fallacious assumption there is such a thing as an "Asian culture" (as opposed to "Asian cultures")

Is it only Asian countries which have hierarchical cultures and aviation industries dominated by ex-military? Might some countries in other continents have the same situation? Conversely, might some Asian countries lack that situation?

> I don't think people would disagree with it to anywhere near the same extent.

I never asked for your agreement.

If you want to explore that further, here's an exercise for you. Name one Asian country over 50 million people that doesn't revere their elders.

Back to aviation ...

The West adopted CRM decades ago, which really helped with interpersonal issues in the cockpit. The concept of pilot flying (controls) and pilot non-flying (FMS and radio) are used, and takeoffs and landings are alternated.

Other countries have been slower to embrace CRM, and military and traditional cultural hierarchy issues made that more so. So there are still issues where the captain tells the co-pilot to just sit there, and the co-pilot is afraid to tell the captain of deviations, resulting in accidents.

I give Lionair credit for the excellent CRM during their first 737 MAX incident handling, where a 3rd pilot was able to work with the active crew to save the airplane. (The second incident caused an accident.)

> Name one Asian country over 50 million people that doesn't revere their elders.

Reverence for elders is by no means unique to Asian cultures, it is found in cultures on other continents as well. It is widespread in African cultures, and in the indigenous cultures of the Americas and Australia. It used to be a big thing in European cultures too, but its importance in European (and European-derived) cultures has greatly declined compared to what it was a few centuries ago.

Maybe rather than "Asian culture" one should say "non-Western cultures"? European-derived cultures, with their contemporary reduced respect for elders compared to most other cultures, are really the odd ones out here.

> Back to aviation ...

It would be interesting to see a comparison of aviation safety records between airlines from different continents, based on actual data. (One could try to perform such an analysis using JACDEC data, e.g [1], although I myself haven't done it.)

[1] https://www.jacdec.de/Order/2019_JACDEC_AIRLINE_RISK_RANKING...

Asia stretches from Turkey to Japan has 59% of the worlds population. The idea that there is a single unified Asian culture is absurd. A salary man drinking with his workmates in Shinjuku has very little in common with a devout sober Muslim in the hills of Tajikistan.

Hell the cultural values of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have diverged and they share a common history.

I think you misunderstand the situation. From the point of view of the fake pilots, everything was just fine: they were doing a great job, the missing or dubious licenses were just a small formality, and the authorities couldn't force them to do anything...

I assume it was only "everyone" inside the airline? Because if I as a potential passenger knew that 30% of pilots in my country were flying with fake licenses, I wouldn't set foot in another plane...

> No flights, so pilots can't threaten to boycott flying.

But why would pilots with valid licenses boycott the government preventing pilots with fake licenses from flying?

Wouldn't the valid-license pilots want this, because with less of them their salaries will go up? I can't imagine any scenario where people who passed a test would want people who didn't pass it to get the same benefits...?!?!

It is a state owned company. Pay scales are fixed, and everyone gets a fixed-known pension for life after retirement. So, getting your colleagues fired is not beneficial to you economically [1].

However, an accountability process that looks into the doing of pilots will get both valid license and invalid license holders in trouble, because I assure you, lots of valid license holders are also doing lots of other illegal things. So, its better as a group to resist all attempts at accountability and reform.

[1] Also, you will be surprised how unambitious most people are. Religion being premier in everyone's life means that they care far more about what happens after they die, rather than trying to improve the life and society they have now. Yes, the irony of having fake licenses being not exactly good for their afterlife is lost on them.

I can assure you that those people care as little about the afterlife than the current life.

I've heard that Garuda ended up replacing lots of their Indonesian pilots with foreigners. Maybe this will play out the same way: there won't be a lot of flying for Pakistani pilots to boycott, because the rest of the world will ban them.

It's concerning that they have such a specific number of pilots with fake licenses. It's not like this is something surprising that they're rushing to respond to, at least that's the impression I got from the article.

If the issue is that someone else is taking tests for the fakers, how do they know who's a faker? They could flag the obviously incompetent people for extra testing, and possibly some of them have been informed on, but how do they know precisely who is a faker? Some of the pilots have a military background (flew for the air force) so those can be presumed to be real pilots, but the rest?

I hope against hope that when they say they don't have a licence we're talking about something less egregious than 'never had any formal training as a pilot'. Something like didn't bother getting a type rating for the specific aircraft type or failed to renew their licence at the correct point.

> If the issue is that someone else is taking tests for the fakers, how do they know who's a faker?

I can only talk about what I've heard in India.

1) No test is done. An official with access to blanks just prints another one for $1,000. The govt. could match up tests with the complete list of pilots with authorized licenses and get an exact count.

2) An impostor does the written and practical (flying) tests. This is common in IT also.

I love the confidence they express in knowing all the pilots with fake licenses.

I haven't checked, but is the original comment even in English? It could be translated, in which case I would not read too much into the tone.

“It’s okay, we’ve made illegal stuff illegal now”

I am sure they posted a Letter in all the airports "Do you have a Fake Lic. DO NOT FLY ;) "

I saw this too. This is one of the most nonsensical statements I've ever heard. I don't even know where to begin with this one.

Older article, but apparently Pakistan carts its nuclear weapons around in regular delivery vans: https://www.wired.com/2011/11/pakistan-nukes-delivery-vans/

I personally think this is a bad idea.

It's not a completely illogical approach. An armored convoy stands out like a sore thumb in Rawalpindi. An ordinary slightly beat up, 6-8 year old Suzuki Bolan does not. Maybe send out a few decoy high security vehicles with uniformed crews going in a few different directions, and then send out the Bolan going elsewhere.

Bolan: https://www.google.com/search?q=suzuki+bolan&client=ubuntu&h...

If an armored convoy is not enough to protect your nuclear weapons, then you have an entirely different problem that needs solving first.

> If an armored convoy is not enough to protect your nuclear weapons...

The concern appears to be, at least partially, "the Americans will watch the convoys via satellite and know where we've got them all stored".

Considering the article it looks like they know either way.

The idea is not perfect secrecy, but plausible "we might have one more than you think you know about" that matters.

I think its an intelligence thing, protecting nuclear weapon movement from foreign satellites/drones etc.

The history of Pakistan in a nutshell

Pakistan has several armies, foreign and domestic, operating in its territory.

You're right Pakistan's problems are many and epic.

But saying "Hey, I have a great idea, you should solve your problems!" is not brilliant advice. They've already thought of that.

Might be true, but that won't stop Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons.

They've already had them for a few decades.

In software circles, this is called "security by obscurity" and is frowned upon. And if it's a bad idea with software, I'd argue it's also a bad idea with nuclear weapons.

People constantly misuse that quote to claim that "obscurity" should never be used. This is false; denying your opponent information is a critical component of a well-designed security process.

It should not be the only mechanism employed.

(I have no clue what, if any, other measures Pakistan employed.)

You are absolutely correct. Having worked in the field I can tell you that Security Research into iPhones is a lot harder than Android.

You have the full source of major important components of Android (like the OS Kernel), and you have very little of that for iOS. They've both got great, constantly advancing security models, but the iPhone's extra layer of security will continue to give it the edge (in my opinion at least).

As an end user I use obscurity as my means to deny information - for instance at ATM when asked for a pin I would purposely touch a few more keys to break the sequence on the ATM machine.

Yep, I should have clarified that's what I meant. Agreed that obscurity should not be the only strategy employed.

Pakistani nuclear command and security forces are operated as cells isolated from the civilian government and regular army for a good reason.

Executing a process covertly doesn't imply "security by obscurity".

Unless you are opposed by an all-knowing god, security through obscurity can be a useful part of a defense-in-depth system.

The United States also transports nuclear weapons in ways that are not obviously a transportation of nuclear weapons, including in seemingly unarmed semi-trucks for thousands of miles.

Its a pretty effective way of moving things that need high secrecy and present logistical challenges in required protection. In the past highly valuable items have been moved using mundane methods with little fanfare.

Except if you have a spy in the group that transport the bombs, they just tip off some people with guns to grab it. And given the number of Islamist extremists in Pakistan and how much they would love to have a bomb, it seems rather likely that sooner or later they would get a spy installed.

Your argument makes sense, but if you have the resources to hijack a heavily armed convoy, you can probably more easily hijack a number of delivery fans separately.

There may be substantial non-visible security assets nearby. The USSS has minigun-equipped SUVs, for example; you wouldn't necessarily know they're there until the six barrel gun pops out of the sunroof and opens fire.

There's something to be said for subtlety. The US President travels around in a giant motorcade; the UK PM travels in an unmarked Jag with a couple motorcycle escorts.

Back in the 90s, a friend publishing an edition of a letter of Columbus needed to take the original document to a photoengraver in South Central Los Angeles to get plates made for the book. He was instructed to carry the document in a plain paper bag to make it unremarkable.

> The USSS has minigun-equipped SUVs, for example; you wouldn't necessarily know they're there until the six barrel gun pops out of the sunroof and opens fire.

So that scene with Nick Fury in Winter Soldier isn't far removed from reality?

Correct. There's very 90s video here:


Not sure if you intended to link to some QAnon propaganda account, but there are other sources of that same info.

Here's a video showing the vehicle in action:


Vendor's product page:


I also noticed the "Q" in the video opening, but youtube appears to indicate the video was uploaded 10 years ago (Sept 4, 2009). Wikipedia's page on QAnon [1] indicates it began in October 2017. It appears the video is a promotional from the Dillon Aero company, and the "Q" graphic appears to be something they included (again, based on upload data, 10 years ago). It seems plausible the "Q" in the video is meant to refer to something different.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QAnon

Edit: also see the same video from 2007 from another uploader:


It appears "Q" might refer to the product here. Or perhaps it is a James Bond reference.

You're correct. I don't know what the Q refers to, but probably not what I thought. I apologized to OP. I also am sorry to you, for making you do the homework I should have done instead of rushing to condemn. I didn't intend to make this worse by my actions, but I can only admit my mistake and do better in the future. Thanks for your info.

Sorry about that, just the first one to come up in my search. I just watched a few seconds to confirm it was the vehicle I was thinking of. (Too old to edit/delete. Argh.)

I apologize. I should not have assumed it was associated with the other Q. I feel like I'm part of the problem for assuming it was. I didn't do my homework, and I accordingly deserve to admit my mistake.

Please, don't be sorry. You didn't mean anything wrong, and I was actually wrong.

Maybe dang can help you remove it.

Meanwhile the Finnish President heads outside for a beer after the massive Trump and Putin motorcades have driven off (shutting down half the city in the process).


That is more of a lack of power than anything else. Trump and Putin have the ability to end modern civilization in a matter of hours. The Finnish President has nowhere near that kind of power.

It helps if the escorts pay attention, though: https://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUKKBN23O27W.

Didn't want to add politics to this, but i hope they get more funding for safety. Sadly, most of the funding they get from US and other Western countries is gobbled up by the Army which is the most powerful institution in the country. Their economic situation is a little worse now and it is likely they will become a vassal state of China in the future as well. China will take the role of USA in the country if it goes the other way.

So you want to give them more money even if you know that money is systematically misused? Pakistan will become a vessel state of China, its totally inevitable. Pakistan is 1000x more valuable to China then it could ever by for the US.

The US should stop the idiotic believe that Pakistan is an ally. They simply are not, and have not been for a long time. It is well known that the support the Taliban. It is well known they are one of the main pushers of radical Islam. The only real value they ever had was to help against the Soviets when they invaded Afghanistan.

And to do that the US ignored the warnings that they were developing nuclear weapons and basically created anti-western radical Islam.

> The US should stop the idiotic believe that Pakistan is an ally.

Do they actually believe it, or do they just pay lip service to that idea for realpolitik reasons? The US has repeatedly accused China of assisting Pakistan with their nuclear weapons program. It's hard for any of us to say what the truth is in that matter, but either way I don't think the potential relationship between Pakistan and China has been ignored.

I don't know about the nuclear weapons program.

But I defiantly believe they are a bad ally. I don't know what exactly they have done to get such a high status as an ally in the US. I think it never made sense really and the US has not benefit from the alliance.

I know some of the history of how it came about but even if you read those, the strategic calculus behind it was flawed.

> But I defiantly believe they are a bad ally. I don't know what exactly they have done to get such a high status as an ally in the US.

They opposed India, which was opposed by China, and the US spent the post-Vietnam period cozying up to China, because it opposed the USSR.

So, to answer your question, they haven't done anything other than be the enemy of an enemy of an enemy of an enemy.

Yes and they would have done so in any situation anyway. I not saying absolutely no support or cooperation with Pakistan on anything ever. But the level of ally the became made no sense.

The problem is that the general public is very fond of conspiracy theory for every problem under the sun. Every issue will be attributed to malicious intent of India, USA or Israel (somehow that comes into the mix). If the general public does not evolve, how would the army or govt.

The foreign aid is being used to purchase political support (largely in the army), as is typical. The issue is political economy, not shortage of money.

Why should foreign countries be funding them at all?

>but i hope they get more funding for safety

Here’s a wild idea: don’t try and fill the hole with money; if you can’t afford to safely move your nukes, you can’t afford your nukes, ergo you shouldn’t have nukes.

>Here’s a wild idea: don’t try and fill the hole with money; if you can’t afford to safely move your nukes, you can’t afford your nukes, ergo you shouldn’t have nukes.

Pakistan is playing in a geopolitical game that also involves the US, China, India and other nations much stronger than it. Large countries have a track record of being willing to throw small regional powers under the bus for their own gain. Pakistan, rightfully in my opinion sees having nukes as their only way to be dangerous enough that nobody will try to screw them out of their sovereignty. It's no surprise that they'd rather have nukes unsafely than not have them at all.

Ukraine is an excellent example of this. They voluntarily relinquished their nuclear weapons, and now Russian troops have invaded the eastern part of the country.

I’m not so sure that nuclear weapons would help in these kinds of regional conflicts against Russia. It’s not that Russia officially invaded Ukraine (although in practice it did), but it stirred up local population (of largely Russian ethnicity) and then gave them logistical support and protection. So, if Ukraine had nuclear weapons, what would it do with it? Strike Russia, who has many more nuclear warheads, and stronger anti-nuclear protection? Nuclear weapons are for USA, China, Russia, and maybe France/Europe, because they are not going to use it. Maybe Israel, whic is so tiny and surrounded by rrivals, that it has no choice but to have something to scare the neighbors with. Maybe India, because it’s big enough. For everyone else, nuclear weapons are a liability, because if they ever use it, they are going to be wiped out by the big boys for not obeying...

> Strike Russia, who has many more nuclear warheads, and stronger anti-nuclear protection?

Yes, what's use of a superweapon if you can't make use of it?

From my childhood experience, some times you need to commit without reservations to completely hopeless, no chance fights, as the only hope for a way out. Strong adversaries often don't expect the weak to even attempt to fight back.

There is a whole major plot in one of the Three-Body Problem books about this issue. It arises in maybe a kind of contrived way, but then it's explicitly posed in more or less the way you said.

The point is that the results of using it would be:

- would the weapons be neutralized in most or all cases by Russia before it reaches the targets? Perhaps yes? I don't know much about that sort of thing.

- it would give a carte blanche to Russia to wipe out Ukraine, which it has the means to do if it comes to total war.

That's why I'm skeptical that nuclear weapons bring more benefits than trouble for smaller players.

> it would give a carte blanche to Russia to wipe out Ukraine

But the final result would be the same as Russia deliberately bombing themselves and amputating a big chunk of their own country forever. The radioactivity would not stop in the Ukranian frontier. All nuclear weapons are boomerangs

I agree that Ukraine couldn't have usefully threatened Russia over Crimea. Likewise nukes are no use for minor conflict in Kashmir.

But the game the Pakistanis imagine is different. Their concern (as I understand it) has always been that an existential war for them could be a small, regional, thing for India. Nuclear weapons are a way to change that.

I believe the same fear explains a lot of their meddling in Afghanistan. Having some chaos on their border is one thing, but having a serious independent country which could one day choose to ally with India is regarded as a mortal risk.

Good points. It maybe would have deterred Russia from invading at all, but that's debatable.

On the opposite note, Russia (USSR) was "invaded" (sort of, from the point of view of many Russians) by the "West" 30 years ago, and USSR was butchered out, despite USSR having thousands of warheads. Which were completely useless...

That's a funny way of saying the Soviet Union could no longer imprison have of Europe, and their subjects were set free.

I agree with your statement, but I am not sure official Russia shares that view.

Owning nuclear weapons may deter foreign threats, but it may also empower domestic threats if those nukes aren't controlled properly. If a general announces one day that he's the king because men loyal to him have control of the nukes [or even just one], what could the government of Pakistan do but surrender?

Well, sure, you can believe that, but you can't make it happen. If you try to, they're more likely to molon labe you than anything else.

The politics is complicated. They do not call it a nuclear bomb only for Pakistan, but they call it one for the entire Islamic Ummah (it would be better for you to Google it). Primary target has always been India though, although the point is that constant state of disarray is what the army wants.

I mean their own Pakistani government is known for harboring terrorists and it is also where Bin Laden was found.

It's not the best of countries.

Osama was CIA friend in past. Kindly don't stirr useless debate.

The Brits moved the plutonium or HEU (don’t remember which) for their first bomb around in quite ordinary lorries:


I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but there’s certainly precedent.

The plutonium pit for the Trinity test was carried from Los Alamos to the test site in a 1942 Plymouth Special Deluxe: http://nuclearsciencemuseum.blogspot.com/2008/08/first-plane...

The British still use trucks to transport their nuclear weapons. Search online for "TCHD Convoy" for some pictures. America also continues to use trucks, in some contexts.


US nuke transports don't look that impressive either: https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-nuclear-couriers-201703... (of course it is entirely possible that Pakistan doesn't have much in the way of hidden security around those, but flying under the radar seems to be a common theme for this business)

"The axles are designed to explode to prevent a trailer from being towed away."

Smart. Reminds me of how in movies or TV shows if the person being kidnapped would just go limp instead of following the kidnapper, 99% of the problem could be solved right there. Don't aid the enemy.

This might not be as bad as it seems.

At least in the US, the inherent security of nuclear weapons is kind of incredible.

I can't be bothered to find a reference, but it's expected that an agency with nation-state level resources in possession of a weapon _and_ its blueprints still would not be able to detonate it.

The term to google here is permissive action link

How do you think toxic waste is carried over the US/Canadian border?

Hint: it's trucks and trailers.

There's a significant difference between toxic waste and fully functional nuclear warheads, though.

This can not be true. I don't want to believe.

On a smaller but more widespread scale is the issue of fake licenses for driving automobiles. It is common knowledge how you can get these licenses easily in "some" (similar) countries without ever giving a driving test and/or going through any sort of written exam where you have to go through the rules of the road.

Some argue that they are only endangering their own lives on the road but one can see how that is complete BS when you are on the road and come across such drivers.

If people were put through an extremely arduous journey to get their driving licenses with the possibility of them being taken away when you break a certain degree of rules, people would have a strong motivation to not be negligent on the road.

When I took my driving test in India, 3 other candidates ('coincidentally' all female) were made to sit on the backseat, with me at the wheel and the examiner next to me. After the test (in which only I drove), all 4 of us were granted licenses.

The queue for the test was managed in this way - pick one male and pick the 3 next females in queue and pack them up in one car with only the male to drive. I guess they for whatever reason didn't trust women to pass the test by themselves (or they were just sure they knew how to drive?). Or didn't want to waste time testing everyone.

And the test itself ? Take a U turn and stop the car. That's it. I don't know why they even bothered doing the test. Plausible deniability I guess - all of use technically 'took' a test.

Oh after I got out of the car, I asked when my motorcycle test would be, since I had applied for a 2 wheeler license as well. And they just told me you passed the 4 wheeler driving test right? Don't worry about it, we'll send the 2 wheeler license as well.

This was in a major city. If you happen to be in a village or town they don't even bother with this pretence of a test. No wonder India has the highest rate of road accident related fatalities.

I actually watched someone get a fake driver's license in the California DMV once a long time ago. (This was at the old location at the corner of Latham and Showers in Mountain View.) I was taking the wyritten test after having moved there, and there was a woman (around 18) also taking the written test and blatantly cheating. She had the book with the answers out in plain sight and was just reading them and discussing them with her friends who were also taking the test.

The DMV employee noticed and warned the woman to stop. She put the book away for a brief moment, then got it out again. The DMV employee saw all of this. The same thing kept happening, and the DMV employee kept giving toothless warnings. Finally, the DMV employee allowed the woman to turn in her test. As far as I know, assuming she passed the driving portion of the test, she got her license that day.

On one of my first visits to the DMV in San Francisco, I saw an employee ask around for the test key (this was about 10+ years ago, so they had a physical sheet of paper that was the key of correct answers) and hand it over to a test taker. I just assumed that it was some form of an internal testing thing, until I ended up behind her in the line to get photographed, when I realized that she was actually an applicant.

In such countries, the low level corruption plays a big part in that. It's hard to pass the tests when everyone wants money directly from you. Pay a driving instructor, fail, try again, pay another guy, fail, repeat until you realize maybe it would be best to just buy it by bribing someone higher up :/

Exactly. You know that you're going to end up making a "facilitation payment" to an official to get something done after you've met all the actual, legal requirements.

What is your incentive to meet those requirements when the "bribe" to that same official to get that same thing done is the same amount of money, only you don't need to go through the legal hoops?

As a matter of law, for U.S. companies the former is legal under the FCPA whereas the latter is not. For individuals ... the incentives are all to heck.

Believe or not, in Russia, we had fake civil servants including fake judges, and prosecutors.

Fake academicians, and fake professors.

My favourites were fake doctors, with fake general surgeons included.

Ah, the best I think really were the fake dentists...

For what it is worth, the driving license process has become much more legitimized over the last decade. It is still a total farce, in the sense that the test is a complete joke. But at least most people are going through the legal process rather than paying someone off.

This was cleverly achieved by the state disrupting the "bribery" market at all these govt offices. You used to pay this dude 5000 Rupees to fast track your license, how about you pay us Rs. 5000 officially, and we will fast track it for you. Before you paid Rs. 10,000 to the guy to get your document without leaving your house, how about you order the document on our website, pay Rs. 10,000 and we will courier it to you.

Its really impressive how much of an impact this has made. We still have a long way to go, but things get better every year.

Adding big hoops to jump through and lots of ways to lose the ability to legally do something that is more or less required to be a functioning member of society in many places does not seem wise to me. People wouldn't be breaking the law in order to drive if being able to drive wasn't a really big deal.

I understand the point you're trying to make, but being given the ability to pilot a multi-ton vehicle at 70+ mph clearly needs testing requirements. They needn't be overly burdensome, but absolutely need to consistently apply. If someone has to search out a place with no literally requirements, as the parent comment states, they really should not be driving.

Why shouldn't people be able to loose the ability to steer high-speed vehicles if they choose to endanger other people's lives (by driving drunk, significantly speeding, disregarding right of way, etc.).

Similarly dangerous behavior in other areas of life often carries prison sentences, so just loosing a license doesn't seem that bad.

They would also have strong motivation to never bother to get training or a license.

That's a win-win for public being safe from negligent/undisciplined drivers and for environment with increased use of public transportation.

There's plenty of EU countries where this is the case too. I personally know people who have got their license back after being caught drink-driving because they knew the right person and how much to pay.

Regarding the motorcycle test coming for free after passing the car test (as another commenter points out), this was common practice too. In the UK if you passed your car driving license before 2001, you can drive a 50cc moped without any training or learner plates.

This is not the case anymore. You must pass the test in the country where you reside.

As for scooters... they're stupidly easy to ride, amd hardly faster than a bicycle which requires no safety equipment or training. Cyclists in Berlin are a greater danger to themselves in my opinion. Some aren't familiar with EU road rules. I wasn't until I got my licence.

Fun fact: they actually replaced my Canadian licence with a German one without any tests. I didn't even know what the yellow diamond sign meant. It's a good thing I started over with my motorcycle licence.

Start at the 4 minute mark here:


Infuriating series of events. It's not simply a matter of pilot error, it's criminal negligence.

For every choice he had to make on the approach, he made the wrong one. He literally did everything wrong, and ignored every warning.

It's almost inconceivable that someone could screw up as badly as he did.

> For every choice he had to make on the approach, he made the wrong one.

*As they did. 2 pilots, both ignored the warnings from the airplane, and the initial ones from the tower about approach speed and altitude.

There's an updated video from the same channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO5rXxJRmf4

I'd start at 4:50.


(If you don't remember how to add the time, you can use https://youtubetime.com/ )

You can also right-click any Youtube video and choose "Copy video URL at current time".

Not available in all YT clients, though.

Why doesn't ATC demand they come in to line, the copilot didn't appear to explain the very high approach (7000ft when they should be 3000ft) ... is there a benefit to it??

First thing I learnt on a flight sim: slow down or you can't extend gear.

Is the co-pilot allowed to smash the pilot in the face and take over when they realise they're ignoring basic instructions?

They're both pilots, or, if you want to put it that way, both co-pilots. The ranks are typically "Captain" and "First officer" and what ought to matter in a well-trained team is Pilot Flying versus Pilot Monitoring (sometimes other phrasing is used but that name scheme is pretty clear what's happening).

It takes explicit training to overcome a human tendency to defer, and that means training for all crew and especially cockpit crew. This is called Crew Resource Management and it involves learning interpersonal skills that enable the team to prevent individual human errors from having grave consequences.

CRM is most often important in the cockpit, in this example to get the pilot flying the plane to agree that this approach is bad and they need to try a fresh approach.

But CRM extends beyond the cockpit because in some incidents it's vital to remember that the rest of the crew are experts too, just not in flying a plane.

It took me too long to get this so I’ll leave it here:

Colloquially we call all aviator people as “pilots” but technically the person on the left seat is Captain and to the right is First Officer/Pilot/Co-Pilot.

Like on marine vessels, the original idea is that the captain has the full authority to his ship and his first officer steers it under his order.

That extra hierarchy lead to several accidents so newer concepts such as PM/PF or CRM rules were conceived, but as far as terminologies go that’s what captain/officer stands for.

Well, it's his life on the line, so sure he's allowed.


> Why doesn't ATC demand they come in to line

Time and workload permitting, ATC should inform aircraft of deviations. But most ATC, even in the US, are not pilots.

And ATC instructions are required to be followed except in an emergency, but "demand" is not the right word, as the captain is the final authority in civil flights.

> Is the co-pilot allowed to smash the pilot in the face

Well, that would be unusual, and doing it on final pretty hazardous. But in the Germanwings and probably MH370 accidents, that was the only option to avoid those accidents.


In small airplanes, instructors are prepared to override the rudder by evaluating how strong students are ("So, do you go to the gym?"), and purposefully focusing maximum force on the rudder controls.

Is any cockpit audio removed from this?

It's pretty damn silent for two guys who are about to smash an airplane into a residential area.

You're only hearing the transmissions they made (likely recorded via the ATC side). Any in-cockpit conversations/panic would not have been recorded, or at least not released.

> Any in-cockpit conversations/panic would not have been recorded

They are recorded.

or at least not released.

Sounds like it's just the ATC. Cockpit recordings aren't typically released except in transcript form, I believe.

I'm genuinely, in a completely non-judgmental way, interested to understand what systemic forces lead to such a staggeringly high percentage of this brand of fraud.

I grew up in Pakistan. Simply put, this is due to a culture of nepotism and corruption.

There are thousands of credentialed pilots but very few pilot jobs in Pakistan. A job with the PIA is highly coveted and ensures life-long financial security and social status (this perhaps explains the overconfidence of the pilots when dealing with ATC). These jobs are usually handed out to people who have the right connections with the right people in power. Some of these candidates with the right connections only needs one of those thousands of desperate licensed candidates to sit in an exam for them. PIA is also said to have thousands of ground staff hired as favors by the ruling politicians all around the world.

Also worth mentioning that it wasn't always like this - pilots and executives from PIA were behind the launch of Emirates which is one of the most successful airlines in the world. So it is really a sad story of decay and is a representation of the deterioration in other parts of the country's society.

When the pilots fail to lower the landing gear, perhaps it is time to shut down the state-run airline that runs on a huge loss and serves the top one percent of the most poor populations in the world.

I frequently have to do engineering projects in many of *stans, and African countries (currently stuck in one thanks to quarantine.)

Very often, using a "fixer" is the only way to do anything, as the "proper way" to do things is defunct as such (like entire ministry offices, and sections only working on the paper)

I'm genuinely scared by how much those "fixers" can do, as it seems to be no red line whatsoever on what even a man of my meagre income by tech industry standards can get with them.

A pocket change of a man making low 6 digit income can make section chiefs of ministries running circles around you.

One time had a problem with digital signature server of a tax office being down few days prior to the filing deadline. Called a fixer, fixer calls "a man in the ministry" with the same name, and surname as a vice-minister, 10 minutes later a fax with a tax certificate pops. Later I learned that thousands of companies in entire country had to pay huge fines for late filling because government server was down, and none of them were given any leniency.

In simplest of terms its corruption. When people stop believing that hard work will pay off they look for shortcuts or they leave the country.

Decades of nepotism, which leads to corrupt courts and once law is up for sale everything rots

Pakistan’s Prime Minister reads Ayn Rand.


Maybe I'm weird, but my first thought is that this is a great opportunity to compare accident rates between licenced and unlicenced pilots.

The one thing I have noticed about the PIA air crash is the effort some people have put into trying to explain the crash. Some of them have simulated the whole trip! It's quite depressing, especially since the errors are quite bizzare and the plane crashed into a residential area but thankfully no casualties in the areas.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUOn6FrDPwg

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM9ZrliDkNA

One ground fatality and 7 ground injuries, so not good, but not horrifying.

oh wow, ok, didn't know that there was one fatality.

The fact that the landing gear lever was pushed down into the extended position, and then the plane decided not to deploy the landing gear because of the overspeed issue is a horrible UI.

The lever should refuse to budge unless moving it will in fact deploy the landing gear. These pilots are horrible, but that doesn't mean we can't improve the controls still.

I get your point, and I'm sure that was an area of discussion during the system design. From my perspective, though, it introduces a potential failure point that may not be worthwhile.

If you want the lever to not move when the landing gear controller will ignore the command, then you need to lock the lever in place. If that locking mechanism fails during a normal approach, you have an airplane landing with gear up.

I'm sure the FMEA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Failure_mode_and_effects_analy...) in this case will conclude that it's more likely that the lock will fail closed than that the checklist was ignored and both pilots will not realize that they're trying to lower gear at too high a speed since that requires three faults to occur: ignore checklist, pilot in command attempting gear down at airspeed too high, and copilot not noticing that.

It would be particularly hard not to notice, as the gear not down warning would be sounding for a good portion of the approach. In the PIA case there seem to have been multiple warnings sounding that the pilots did not resolve - it's hard to say why, perhaps alert fatigue related to not following normal landing procedures normally.

Uh? The UI was giving them plenty of warnings and alerts. They have supposedly been trained thoroughly on all of this.

Flying didn’t become as safe as it is today by relying on the pilots to be perfect

The UI is preventing the pilots from extending the landing gear and causing it to be structurally damaged. In short, the UI is trying to prevent a mistake from having consequences.

Perfect? No. But no one, not being capable of noticing clear warnings has no business operating a vehicle, especially a commercial airplane. It is actually the corner case, that the airplane refused to deploy the wheels. Usually, there is a technical problem preventing the deployment. So checking that the landing gear actually deployed should be one of the most fundamental things a pilot does, as well as looking out for error messages.

Looking at the damned airspeed indicator was all it would have taken.

They were distracted. Why on earth would you object to the idea of better feedback? If the lever is locked until the plane is willing to engage the landing gear, it's more safe than the current UI.

Shouldn't it be more like you get rumble feedback and the stick pushes back against you, hard, if there's an overspeed warning? But if the stick is pushed again, all the way, requiring considerable manual force, then landing gear extension is attempted?

Why do I say this? Well then the pilot has autonomy, if the overspeed warning is an error, or you have a problem reducing speed you can still attempt to fly the aircraft?

I mean sure, there'll be a speed at which gear extension just causes a crash, but there's also presumably mid-ground.??

Edit: total armchair aero engineering it; also in this case it might just have caused a problem at greater altitude ... but then at least there's time to correct things.

A stick shaker for over speed on the landing gear lever (much like the stick shaker for stalls) seems a good idea.

What happens if the lockout mechanism breaks and prevents a pilot from selecting gear down when the landing conditions are right?

(I guess they could go for the gravity deployment backup mode, but that would be rather extreme option for a broken solonoid (or so on) on a control lever).

Anything can break in a plane which is why you design redundancy into the system. You could provide a manual override switch too.. but at least it would be a conscious act done by the pilot who is aware of the situation.

I can't believe anyone is defending the current UI given we have an obvious example right in front of us of how it can fail.

Actually there is a gear override lever behind the copilot's seat in a hatch in the ground.

I think people are fixating on one problem here as an example of how broken the UI is. What about the problem where a pilot gets great down, does a go around, and forgets to put the gear up? In this case, how could anyone defend not having the plane out the gear up automatically, with warnings?

Just because we have an "obvious example right in front of us" does not mean it is the only failure mode that needs to be considered in the design of the system.

Thank you. There is lots of room for improvement. Why everyone is so intent on defending the status-quo given its obvious deficiencies is mind boggling.

I find your certainty about something you appear to know nothing about mind boggling. Every crash is a deficiency of sorts, so let’s just tell Airbus to build planes that don’t crash! Easy! Let’s just have peace instead of war! Obvious!

It is not sufficient to point out “obvious deficiencies”, one must also point out possible improvements. As other posters (with more patience than I can muster) have pointed out, it is not obvious how to improve this. Putting a lock in place to prevent movement of the lever adds another level of complexity that can itself fail. This is well known and has been extensively studied (a classic paper is No good deed goes unpunished: Case studies of incidents and potential incidents caused by protective systems [0]).

Listen, for example, to this episode of “Undercover Economist” Tim Hartford’s Cautionary Tales [1] (though the example given might itself be problematic [2]).

Airplanes are extraordinarily safe already (look at the amazingly low accident rate, given those fallible, sometimes even negligent and incompetent people that fly them).

Contrary to your facile assertion “There is lots of room for improvement”, there are very few obvious improvements. Change something and you might prevent one accident but enable another one.

As an example: terrorists enter the cockpit. Easy, obvious: lock the door! Ok. Suicidal pilot locks out the other pilot and flies into a mountain. Easy, obvious: unlock the door. GOTO 10. It’s not obvious. These are hard problems that many competent people have thought about in depth. That’s why “everyone” is so “intent on defending the status-quo”.

In other areas, there might be “obvious improvements”, eg regulatory matters, but even there it’s not easy. Aviation is operating within an international framework, there are rules and international treaties and regulatory bodies and stakeholders and so on.

But my main point is that it’s absurd to accuse Airbus of overlooking an obvious improvement without even a cursory understanding of the matter.

[0] https://aiche.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/prs.68...

[1] https://timharford.com/2019/11/cautionary-tales-ep-3-lala-la...

[2] https://leancrew.com/all-this/2019/11/galileo-and-failure/

> But my main point is that it’s absurd to accuse Airbus of overlooking an obvious improvement without even a cursory understanding of the matter.

Who made such an accusation? The only way you can assume that's my assertion is if you think the UI of an airplane is literally perfect already. If there is room for improvement, which obviously there is, it's not necessarily because anyone was negligent, it's because we're constantly learning and improving.

I find all of your arguments unconvincing and tied to the status quo rather than acknowledging that improvement is possible sometimes even in obvious ways given new information.

Just because there is the potential for poorly thought out improvements, does not mean that every suggested improvement adds a prohibitive level of complexity. You've failed to demonstrate that such a prohibitive level of complexity would be added with my suggested improvement... you've simply asserted it.

On top of everything, you've not provided any credentials showing you know any more about the situation than I do, yet you seem every bit as confident.

> I can't believe anyone is defending the current UI given we have an obvious example right in front of us of how it can fail.

Well, it's also an example of the saying "when you make something foolproof, God invents a better fool". They made enough mistakes here it's clear these pilots were a ticking time bomb; the only way we're fully preventing that issue is to replace pilots entirely with an AI.

Every layer of this type of complexity adds risk. Seriously, MCAS was designed to increase safety, but instead added risk.

It may be better to go to full automation then to start having various controls be locked (with the issues around those added mechanisms).

There are already LOTS of situation on airbus in particular where the plane simply will not do what you tell it. Overall this has saved a lot of lives (envelope protection etc).

You CAN almost always override / remove the safety envelope (pull breakers to get to direct law etc) but why. These plans can now be flown by relatively junior pilots (or in this case by folks with potentially fake pilot licenses).

What if the gear lever erroneously prevents the pilot from lowering the gear when he needs to? Such a system introduces additional failure modes.

The altimeter and airspeed indicator was all they needed. They were high and fast and attempted to dive to the runway. Piss poor flying.

> The lever should refuse to budge unless moving it will in fact deploy the landing gear.

That introduces a new and nasty failure state, "lever locking mechanism gets stuck".

It's not hard to have an override switch. But it would at least make the pilots 100% aware and actively engaged. You have an example right in front of you how the current system is deficient.

Surely you understand there are teams of engineers debating things like this when designing planes, right?

You certainly don't seem to have a deep grasp of aerospace engineering, so maybe trust that others who do have asked these questions.

Where in the report does it say that it was the plane and not the pilots that retracted the landing gear? As far as I know, there is nothing in the flight software that automatically deploys/retracts the landing gear, it's under the pilots control.

In the video linked above the gear stays retracted (with overspeed alarm sounding!) until the speed reduces. The speed doesn't reduce until they go-around and the engines fail. The gear then extends which bleeds airspeed, they turn hard, lose altitude and crash 1km short; with a massive loss of lives.

It doesn't seem right that their approach could be so fast? So perhaps the pilots themselves lowered the gear.

A comment on YouTube suggests that the gear does behave that way, it holds the command to lower gear and enacts it when airspeed falls sufficiently?

I was talking about the first approach. On the second approach they did lower their gear, expecting to land. But both engines died and they lacked the power to reach the runway.

Back to the first approach, if you look at the report with the graph of the speed/altitude, the landing gear is retracted just after they are told by ATC to abort the landing and go around. See page 11.


There are many reasons why the landing gear might fail to fully extend and lock.

There is no way the lever can know about all of these ahead of time.

Which is why the checklists require the pilots check the landing gear status lights to check the landing gear is down and locked.

Of course, and that wouldn't change. But why on earth does that preclude the idea of better feedback for the case where the plane wont even try to extend the gear even if you were to lower the lever?

They did not try to lower the gear on their first landing. It would have lowered. They raised the gear. It was in the commanded gear up (stowed position) when they landed and the indicator would have shown it was up.

This would make the control less reliable as well as more expensive and heavier. Additionally, there are other factors which may prevent the gear from deploying so you need to check even if the lever successfully moved.

The standard is to have indicator lights showing the actual position of the gear, and alarms if you are coming in to land without the gear deployed. If these pilots were truly incompetent, they were likely used to having a wide range of alarms constantly going off and probably ignored the alarm.

This is quite scary actually, something I didn’t think would happen. I can see people faking engineering degrees or even medicine as they can then try to evade all work and get away by relying on the team. Pilot is not that, they have to fly it and they kill themselves too if things go wrong.

The Pakistani situation is actually not unique.

There are precedents, for example:


A Mexican government Learjet plane carrying the Secretary of the Interior crashed in Mexico city due to a mishandling of the landing approach by the pilots (they flew to close to a 767 and got blown away by wake turbulence).

The pilots were in fact not qualified, and in fact got fake licenses to operate the Learjet from corrupt flying schools.

> Pilot Martín Olíva and co-pilot Álvaro Sánchez, were not certified to operate the Learjet 45. The investigation concluded that both pilots had received fraudulent certifications: Captain Olíva lied about the number of training flights he had made, and had issues on the few training flights he did complete, while Captain Sánchez lied about being a Learjet 45 instructor. Both men had taken advantage of a corrupt system to get false training documents and some unsigned Learjet 45 certification forms from their flight schools. These revelations led Mexican authorities to suspend the licences of both flight schools.

I heard this anecdote in India, and I'm not sure if it is apocryphal. There was a small airline flying turboprops to service a Himalayan region. Someone asked whether it was safe to fly these planes and the response was as hilarious as it was scary: "Yes, sir. It is very safe. They used to have 11 planes, 10 of them crashed and now they are really really careful with the one left" :)

Reminds me of a story I was told while learning how to design experiments and a/b tests.

In World War 2, some company was experimenting with the kind of material to use for combat aircraft wings. When they did their initial trials, they saw that the planes coated with the new material came back with more bullet holes. Off hand, that would seem like a reason to dismiss the new material. But, digging into the data, they realized that planes with the old material were actually crashing when they got their first bullet hole and the planes that were making it back, even with bullet holes, all were coated with the new material.

I think that account gets it a bit wrong. Here's what Wikipedia has:


> During World War II, the statistician Abraham Wald took survivorship bias into his calculations when considering how to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire.[10] The Statistical Research Group (SRG) at Columbia University, which Wald was a part of, examined the damage done to aircraft that had returned from missions and recommended adding armor to the areas that showed the least damage, based on his reasoning. This contradicted the US military’s conclusions that the most-hit areas of the plane needed additional armor.[11][12][13] Wald noted that the military only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions; any bombers which had been shot down or otherwise lost had logically also been rendered unavailable for assessment. The holes in the returning aircraft, then, represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still return home safely. Thus, Wald proposed that the Navy reinforce areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed[10]:88, since those were the areas that, if hit, would cause the plane to be lost. His work is considered seminal in the then-nascent discipline of operational research.[14]

That's coincidental; according to Wikipedia, Wald and his wife perished in a plane crash in India.

That seems to just be about picking the correct success criteria. It seems here the key success criteria should be which version of the plane makes it back most often. Which plane has more bullet holes is clearly secondary to that.

Heh, this reminds me of a flight my friend took from a small island country. The side of the plane proudly displayed in big letters "Fly is Safe". I don't think he was reassured...

edit: whoops, can't spell "plane" this morning

If it was the plain it was ok

The plane in Spain falls mainly in the rain.

Reminds me of this anecdote from Guatemala. They are boarding the plane and the women notices that the pilot is very young. She asks, "Are you sure you're old enough to be flying this plane?" He replies: "Don't worry ma'am, I come from a long line of pilots. My grandfather was a pilot and my father was a pilot too."

Took a while :)

I don’t get it! Can someone explain?

The key word is "was"!

To me it simply sounds like all of the unsafe planes crashed and now the safest one is the one left ;)

Damn right... survival of the fittest.

That actually happened in SE Asia.

One airliner had a couple of incidents, including a tail strike which damaged the pressure bulkhead, and then crashed.

That boosted the reliability average of all the other remaining airliners in the region.

Sounds like Nepal airlines

Fake planes beats fake licenses

Way to take a joke and extrapolate it to the truth. Many friends worked hard for their licenses.

> I'm not sure if it is apocryphal

Seems likes they took it with a reasonable grain of salt?

You'd assume that licenses are centrally managed, and always given out by authorities with good credentials that are hooked to the central database, and that this becomes even more true the "higher up" you get, e.g. for certifications on bigger planes.

I don't think most people appreciate the level of regulation that ensures safety and quality of life in Western countries. Go to many countries outside of that spectrum and you may still see beautiful architecture and more. Now did the team that worked on that project have the necessary experience to drive a safe and long lasting solution? Does the concrete and steel used follow good standards? This means that it may not have critical structural problems today, but in 5 to 10 years, you may have to reconsider your infrastructure. By doing shoddy work, you have a higher rate of catastrophic failure, larger carbon footprint and many other issues.

I believe regulation is an essential tool for society, but it is not the whole story- morality plays as large a part.

Once the regulation is set, it can easily be undermined. BPA was banned by regulation, so industry developed analogue chemicals with the same properties and began using them.

Certain aspects of concrete & steel are regulated, so unethical effort goes into subverting the idea of the law while following the letter. Or they start sourcing the steel from outside the jurisdiction of the regulation (eg radioactive material is disposed of in China by mixing with steel made for export https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/the-growing-global...)

Not trying to be disagreeable, it's just a thought that has been bothering me.

I used to work in a very process-heavy industry: control software for Medical Devices. People would ask about the benefits of following a rigorous process and my answer was always the same: Process sets a minimum standard, but unless people believe in producing a quality product, that minimum is all you'll ever get.

Oof, that hit close to home. In fact, even when people want to create a quality product, management will find someone who'll just do the minimum faster and for less.

Which is exactly why any Quality initiative has to be supported by management, or it's a waste of time.

You comment reminds me of a quip floating around the maintenance side of commercial aviation that's along the lines of "this industry is full of bean counters trying to find dumb corners to cut to save a penny because it's illegal to cut all the smart ones".

But you’re agreeing.

Variable morality is a problem.

The solution is (imperfect as it often is, as BPA ex illustrates) effective regulation.

Effective regulation is synonymous with “making individual moral differences irrelevant.”

> Effective regulation is synonymous with “making individual moral differences irrelevant.”

I think it's more illuminating to phrase the problem in terms of externalities.

Things need to be set up to ensure that the profit motive cannot lead to the following thinking: Rather than spending $100m on doing the project to a high safety standard, I'll spend $70m, introducing a mere 1% chance of catastrophic failure and hundreds of deaths.

1% is of course far too high a probability, especially if this line of thinking is being followed in hundreds of different projects, but the odds may look fine to the manager.

Without regulation, companies can be incentivised to take corner-cutting risks where they profit by the upside, and we all bear risk-of-death on the downside (failing aircraft, collapsing buildings, etc).

With regulation, companies are required to meet a certain bar. Reputational harm can also incentivise companies to invest in safety, but it's not enough; regulation is needed.

I strongly agree. For laws to work effectively, there needs to be a critical mass of support for them in every group involved.

Morality is out the window once someone's mortgage is in the mix.

In capitalist societies any morality driven endeavor will very quickly be driven to the ground by its amoral competitor. And in public organizations the moral are quickly driven out because they threaten the amoral.

Also, of course, there are cases where regulation fails, and it’s never 100% successful. But the situations you mention are where people refused to adjust regulations as needed.

I’m curious to see examples where morality has prevented undesirable behavior on a large scale.

The history of the world tells us that ethics is a very weak control. In particular where profit is concerned. Capitalists have proven time and time again that they will pass whatever costs they can to others, the users of their product, the public or the workers. No doubt the many of the managers at 3M(just one example of zillions,) went to some sort religious institution and if you asked them they'd profess to be moral people. Zero dependence should be made on morality as a regulator.

Let me add, perhaps there's a moral basis behind the regulations ("don't have machinery that chops worker arms off") but morality should have zero role to play as an implicit or explicit part of the regulation. "we don't have to include in the regulation "install shields on equipment to prevent harm to workers" because we expect the factory owners to take the necessary steps, based on their being moral people, to prevent it." Expecting good behavior based on the expectation of morality should never be part of any regulation.

>Go to many countries outside of that spectrum and you may still see beautiful architecture and more. Now did the team that worked on that project have the necessary experience to drive a safe and long lasting solution? Does the concrete and steel used follow good standards? This means that it may not have critical structural problems today, but in 5 to 10 years, you may have to reconsider your infrastructure. By doing shoddy work, you have a higher rate of catastrophic failure, larger carbon footprint and many other issues.

High labor costs in the western world drive construction techniques. We (try to) build stuff that never breaks because we can't afford to fix things if they break. Low labor costs mean structures can be replaced more often and built for a shorter lifetime. It's folly to pretend that those engineers designing shoddy Chinese apartment complexes that occasionally fall down during construction don't have the same formulas and simulation tools at their disposal. They just have different inputs and design constraints. They know that if they build 100 buildings and ten fall down it's still cheaper than 100 better buildings where none fall down. There's no point in building a 100yr building if it's gonna be bulldozed in ten.

It's hard to think of a more critical design constraint than "don't collapse while there are people in the building."

>It's folly to pretend that those engineers designing shoddy Chinese apartment complexes that occasionally fall down during construction don't have the same formulas and simulation tools at their disposal. They just have different inputs and design constraints. They know that if they build 100 buildings and ten fall down it's still cheaper than 100 better buildings where none fall down. There's no point in building a 100yr building if it's gonna be bulldozed in ten.

Not quite, it's more of a deliberate fraud made possible by political corruption in the contract awarding process where they also know they won't be liable for rebuilding because they'll be long gone. The calculus is different than what you described.

If the contractor illegally adulterates the concrete mix to save money because they're politically connected and know they can get away with that, it hardly matters how good the building design was.

Except for all the people that die when it falls down...

In some places, life is considered cheap.

Hiring engineers and following their plans is expensive, if you can skip one or both of those, you can undercut your competitors bids.

What I've found is that outside of these fields (civil/mechanical/chemical engineering), people greatly underestimate how much math goes into projects like these. I'm a programmer now, but I used to be a mechanical engineer in aerospace. We used far, far more math in a hands-on way in the latter. We'd calculate bolt stacks: https://www.dimensionalconsulting.com/bolt-stacks.html on every bolt in a helicopter. There were a lot of bolts.

Everyone should be worried then that the airlines have outsourced aircraft maintenance and repair to other countries where the FAA has little to no oversight.


My folks witnessed a death as an adhoc concrete structure was pulled from a pier onto a person below. I guess noone anticipated someone would use the structure as a boat tie off point. By happenstance the person crushed was the person who put up the structure some decade or more back. I don't know if its callous but I only remarked that kind of structure would almost certainly be illegal in the US.

A sad inadvertent application of Hammurabi's Code.

And yet the construction here in the US have reputation of doing shoddy works, not doing work on time, and being more expensive than they should be, while skirting any regulations any way they can.

Or at least that's my impression.

> skirting any regulations any way they can.

Here in india we don't skirt regulations because no one knows what regulations are supposed be followed. :)

That is my impression of certain projects/contractors at least, like the replacement eastern span of the Bay Bridge and how it immediately developer those foundation leaks, cracked welds, failed bolts, etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_span_replacement_of_th...

They do have that reputation, as in many western countries to varying degrees, but there's large difference (in my mind) between corruption that affects finances and corruption that affects safety.

The latter is rather rare in a place like the US, and when it happens, the problem will generally be discovered and fixed before people die. In the case that the problem results in casualties, there is almost always a process of oversight, media and public attention, and adapting of protocols to mitigate the risk of a similar situation in the future.

From a western perspective, if you travel to Pakistan and observe the safety/quality of electrical wiring and gas heating/pipe systems, they're shockingly poor. Harsh economic realities mean that not everyone can wire an office or house to the same safety and quality standards that we would see in North America.

In my personal opinion the only reason why there are not a constant amount of electrical fires killing people is that brick and concrete structures don't catch on fire very well. The same shoddy electrical wiring in a north american environment with wood-frame construction would be a catastrophe.

The same cost cutting and compromise approach should not be taken to civil aviation.

Over the long term however the bad quality of the utility safety is a cost. Both in people killed and repairs needing to be made. It is another case in which it is cheaper to be rich.

You can also correlate the safety and quality of life with wealth.

Rich societies can afford to spend resources to make things safe. If the mechanism is government regulations, a strict liability legal system, and/or a civic minded population is secondary.

In the nuclear industry this is called "procedural use and adherence". It's one thing to have a written "de jure" way of doing things, but quite another to actually follow said rules.

I'm assuming it's regulation, cause I'm super happy the utility poles around me don't look like this [0]. There's even comments about how people die because nothing is grounded there.

[0]: https://old.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/gn16k8/cable_managemen...

I'm not an expert, but those look to my eyes like data (cable/phone) wires, not power distribution. A crazy rats' nest, but probably not dangerous?

I'm curious to know how it got to that point. Do they have 3 or 4 competing cable tv services in the neighborhood, all with their own infrastructure?

I like the stereotyping of the entire "East" as one incompetent shit hole. The last I checked infrastructure in the US is crumbling. Each new thing also costs an insane bloated amount leading to a refusal to build new infrastructure altogether. Being in the west doesn't guarantee many things and being in the east doesn't either.

It's crumbling because it hasn't been maintained since the 50s-70s, not because it's shittily built. To be fair.

The new Metro extension out of DC to Dulles airport is literally crumbling... concrete is failing, the maintenance yard is sinking into the ground, plus it's over-budget and over-time. For the concrete, the apparent answer is "we'll inspect it more" instead of holding the contractor accountable and making them replace it. Because reasons.

Boston recently spent $21B on the Big Dig project. It was shittily built. It leaks, and the tunnel ceiling collapsed.


An exception to this is the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_International_Univer...

To add to your voice, sure, the "west" may have the reputation of good engineering, and the "east" have one of "shoddy slap-bang it all together", but one needs to keep up the vigilance to maintain a good reputation.

Just to make you think about western engineering and oversight, here's one word: 737MAX.

My point was to judge on a case by case basis. If we don't do that, how can we expect the common layman to.

Apparently there's chatter in recent days on China's internet regarding the Three Gorges Dam, and how it's setting / warping due to reservoir backpressure (pictures in link): https://www.theepochtimes.com/experts-warn-of-chinas-three-g...

Apparently there's heavy rainfall this year. 300-400 million people live below the dam. I'm unfamiliar with domestic travel restrictions within China, but I can't imagine it's gotten better with the ongoing pandemic, so you can't really plan ahead and move out of the way until the rainy season ends.

I want to believe there's something wrong with the camera that made that specific image distorted. Or that the government recognizes the problem and is fixing it. I like it when things are boring.

It's worth noting that your source, The Epoch Times, is run by Falun Gong and is basically anti-CCP propaganda. I don't trust the Chinese government as far as I can throw them, but getting info from The Epoch Times has the same problem in the other direction.

For what it's worth, that looks like distortion I've seen in other Google Maps images. This South China Morning Post article includes a satellite photo released by the Chinese government to show everything is fine: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3017927/no-p...

> For what it's worth, that looks like distortion I've seen in other Google Maps images.

I'd like to think that I would've noticed before reading your comment but I saw the picture after... it looks pretty obvious though, especially to the right where the distortion follows the stitching line where there is clearly different light.

Even if the distortion were believed to be real, some of the discontinuities in the structure would be so severe as to be catastrophic.

That's great, thanks for the better link! The image did look a bit weird to me (I don't think the facility would be usable in that condition), and it seemed a bit incredible that there would be that much settling after only 10 years, but I'm not sure what to believe anymore and it feels like the worse scenario is always the true one. Really glad I'm just being Chicken Little, we have enough stuff to worry about.

Look no further than the Coca Codo dam that China built for Ecuador. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/24/world/americas/ecuador-ch... Not only did it basically cost Ecuador any sovereignty it may have had, the project is a complete disaster. Equipment is degrading at 10x its depreciation schedule. The dam has never been able to function at the output levels it promised, and the deaths that have occurred during and after its construction is reminiscent of another massive Chinese construction project, some kind of wall, I think.

Yeah, that’s just a crummy image that looks like it’s been projected onto terrain. You see the same wavy effect on stuff all over google earth, which that appears to be from.


Here's an extreme shot from the edge of the dam. Obviously it didn't deform that much and stay standing.

Yep, the issue here is that it's projecting it over the old terrain height maps that were created before the dam was built. In Google Earth Desktop, you can fix this by unchecking "terrain" and can see that the base image is perfectly straight.

I don’t think concrete warps like that. If you check out the google satellite image, it really looks like a warped image.

I’d say the dam is fine.

I was about to reply that the same thing happened last year, but then I noticed that your link is also to an article from 2019. I wonder why it's become news again. Maybe because it's the rainy season right now?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact