Notable Aircraft Mishaps
Although the aviation industry has demonstrated an unparalleled safety record over the past few decades, occasionally mishaps still occur. Whether the aircraft crashes during civilian or military operations, a mishap investigation will be conducted to determine responsibility and prevent future accidents. In the modern era of aviation, aircraft mishaps are almost exclusively caused by human factors. This differs considerably from the earlier periods in aviation when actual structural or mechanical failure of aircraft would commonly be the cause of tragedy (see ‘The First Aircraft Mishap‘ below).
Flight Surgeons, Aviation Medical Examiners (AME’s) and aerospace physiologists are considered human factors experts. They can expect to be consulted during mishap investigations for this expertise. In the military, flight surgeons often assist or lead the mishap recovery and response. Although these occurrences are tragic, they do lead to improvements in flight safety as the sequence of events leading up to the mishap are evaluated. Being involved in a mishap response or investigation is one of the most challenging, but rewarding duties for any flight medicine professional.
Lastly, we are highly sensitive to the fact that these tragic mishaps have, and still do, have significant impact on loved ones of the victims. Focusing on the cause analysis and lessons to improve flight safety in NO WAY should eclipse the memories of loved ones lost in aviation accidents.