Jumping to Conclusions

The recent crash of the Asiana 777 flight 214, at San Francisco has illuminated the public’s tribal character trait of jumping to conclusions and looking for convenient scapegoats.

There is a general undercurrent of comment that this accident must simply be a case of pilot error and whilst it may prove to be so, we should not be so quick to allocate a convenient and simple cause to a complex accident. In this respect, I think that the US NTSB Chair, Deborah Hersman has played a very professional straight bat, just as she has done with the Boeing 787 battery investigations. She has consistently said that, commentators should wait for the facts before drawing conclusions. Only then can thoughtful and sustainable changes be made to prevent or reduce the chances of a recurrence.

Hersman is a very experienced and astute safety professional who knows that accident investigations can sometimes lead to unexpected conclusions, and a safety investigation agency should never paint itself in a potential embarrassing public corner by any careless deviation from the facts. Although the media and through them, the general public lust for simple answers, the reality is that the causal factors relating to any incident or accident are often numerous, interrelated and complex.

Deborah Hersman has thus far been impressive in her public comments and has previously articulated the role of the NTSB as “the conscious and the compass of the transportation industry”, and in doing so has cleverly calved out a respectful leadership niche for the USA safety investigation agency.