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Top 10 risk factors - Why do planes crash?

Top 10 risk factors an airplane is in danger

By Danish GPublished 12 months ago 6 min read
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Top 10 risk factors - Why do planes crash?

Why do planes crash? Here are the 10 risk factors an airplane is in danger. These are some of the most common causes of aircraft disasters.

The 10 risk factors an airplane is in danger:

  • Nature

There is a process known as ‘super-cooling, where fine water drops 10 kilometers above the ground can cool down to far below zero without freezing. These droplets can turn into ice if encountered by a solid object. Even though airplane’s wings are heated to avoid the freezing, the turbines can get frozen since the rotor blades are not heated themselves. If ice sets in on the blade wheels, rotating at 10,000 cycles per second, then individual blades can actually break causing total power failure.

Though aviation industry now tells pilots to circumvent such stormy clouds, the storm systems in the equator and the American Midwest are usually thousands of kilometers long, thus forcing the pilot to go through and deal with it.

  • Wind

Wind from above, behind or the side could make an airplane flip over because it takes away the air from around the airplane’s wings. In such a case, the airplane will lose its altitude at a high speed. Also the passengers could get hurt from not locking seat-belts or from flying objects inside the plane. The most dangerous one of these is called a microburst. A microburst is a small, but strong downdraft that moves in a way opposite to a tornado and is found in strong thunderstorms. Flight crews around the world go extensive training to recover from microbursts since they are very fatal to airplanes that are either landing or taking off. Below are some of the fatal airplane crashes recorded in aviation history:

• 1956 Kano Airport, BOAC Argonaut

• 1971 Copenhagen Airport, Malév Ilyushin Il-18 (HA-MOC)

• 1975 John F. Kennedy International Airport, Eastern Air Lines Flight 66, Boeing 727-225(N8845E)

  • Software
  • Nowadays, aeroplanes rely on automatic landing when the pilot's visibility is less than 75 meters - typically at night and in fog. When human eyes are unable to see, technology completely replaces them. For example, an Airbus A320 was cleared for a Warsaw runway 11 approach in 1993 and informed of the presence of wind shear on the approach. During landing, the aircraft's wheels were sliding on rain-soaked tarmac and rotating insufficiently due to aquaplaning. The plane's computer was still thinking it was in the air, so it disabled the braking system. The pilots decided to steer the aircraft to the right as they approached the end of the runaway and an obstacle behind it.

  • Lack of sleep and exhaustion
  • Pilots are tired as a result of irregular work hours, long duty periods, circadian disruption, and insufficient sleep. Being awake for 17 hours straight is the same as having 0.5% alcohol in your blood. Furthermore, because three-minute take-offs and landings account for 80% of all accidents, pilots must maintain complete concentration at all times. With the autopilot turned off, the pilot must steer by hand. Furthermore, at 3 a.m., the body's physiological low point, one must focus completely. Pilots work shifts that can last up to 20 hours, which is longer than truck drivers.

  • Maintenance

Modern passenger planes have around 80 built-in independent computer systems that can serve as a backup in the event of a system failure. A single improperly maintained screw can be fatal to an aircraft. An elevator jackscrew can become stuck, leaving the pilots with no options.

Layers of fibres embedded in a resin matrix make up aircraft composite materials. This material delaminates from the inside out, leaving nothing visible on the surface. Ultrasound-based tools are typically used to detect such a material failure.

A small amount of icing or coarse frost can prevent a wing from producing enough lift. As a result, prior to takeoff, the wings or tail must be free of ice, snow, or frost.

  • Fuel

Unlike cars, putting fuel in the airplane is trickier. Putting too little fuel makes the destination unreachable, and putting too much fuel makes the flight performance inefficient. An Airbus A380 is said to double its dead weight by filling up on fuel. Moreover, weight and weather (strong headwinds for instance) affect fuel consumption.

  • Hijacking
  • Airplane cockpits have become bulletproof, are monitored by CCTV, and require a password to enter. Pilots do not negotiate with hijackers. The airport is where hijackers can get on board because dozens of different professionals provide services to planes such as cleaning, food delivery, baggage handling, and so on. Every hijacker carries a single bullet. So a future hijacker with a clean record can get a job at an airport or airline. The total number of take-offs worldwide is estimated to be around 31 million. As a result, the risk of hijacking appears to rise in tandem with the number of takeoffs.

  • Missiles

A passenger airplane could get hit by an ainti-aircraft missile from ground or sea. Passenger airplanes are not capable of dodging or counterattacking missiles, because of their heaviness and volume. If a missile hits the wings, the airplane is likely to explode mid-air because fuel is located inside wings. Commercial airplanes do not have a system to track missiles, so pilots’ only chance is to see the missiles coming from ground. A radar-guided surface to air missile (SAM) system, such as SA-11, is considered to be dangerous to civilian aircraft, because they [the aircraft] fly at steady speeds and altitudes.

  • The Language barrier and pilot errors
  • The English language is the standard working language in the aviation industry. Accents, on the other hand, can be misunderstood. Miscommunication can result in a major crash, especially during landing, because control towers can give incorrect information about landing runways. This situation becomes even more difficult when the pilots themselves limit visibility. Crashing can occur if the flight instruments are not properly monitored. Such mistakes can have disastrous consequences during landing or takeoff.

  • Suicidal action by a pilot
  • Pilots are the primary individuals onboard who must be in command of everything. Despite the fact that most air crews are screened for mental fitness, some pilots commit suicide. For example, in the case of EgyptAir Flight 990 in 1999, the first officer purposefully crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while the captain was not present. In the case of Japan Airlines Flight 350 in 1982, the mentally ill captain attempted suicide by putting the inboard engines into reverse thrust while the plane was close to the runway, killing 24 of the 174 people on board. Andreas Lubitz, co-pilot on Germanwings Flight 9525 (an Airbus A320-200), deliberately locked the pilot out of the cabin and crashed the plane in 2015. As a result, many airlines implemented new policies requiring at least two authorized personnel to be present in the cockpit at all times.

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Danish G

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