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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"What Were You Thinking?" and Other Rhetorical Questions

The head of the FAA gets a DUI.   If you are at all interested in aviation, how do you not write about it?
When something like this happens, the question is always, “Why did he do that?”.  That’s the right question, but not usually asked with the correct intent.  By that I mean it is usually asked in the same rhetorical manner as my wife when I can’t find my keys.  “Where did you put them?”, she lovingly will ask.
We all seem shocked when other people make, what seems to us, obviously poor decisions.  “Hindsight is 20/20”, as they say.  At the same time, one of my most favorite quotes comes to mind, “There are no new types of airline accidents, only short memories.”.
Writer, Christine Negroni, has one of the best aviation blogs online.  Her latest post, DUIs, Bankruptcies, and Little Old Ladies Who Claim to be Strip Searched, touches on Administrator Babbitt and other newsworthy issues.  Lots more interesting topics are explored at her blog, Flying Lessons, .  
Here is my comment to her post.
You are right on.  It is very sad.  Although Capt. Babbit's role as Administrator is as much political as aviation related, this incident is as relevant as it is sad.
It's sad because his alleged DUI was 100% preventable.  It's relevant because this incident exactly mirrors a major cause of accidents in the industry he is tasked to administer, poor decision making.
Aviation safety is all about resisting the threats and managing the errors that come with our humanity.  This dynamic is the essence of Human Factors in aviation, a subjest that is addressed in this blog as well as it is anywhere.
I'm sure Randy Babbitt had no more intention of receiving a DUI that night than an airline crew begins their flight intending to run off the runway at their destination.  Did he have a car service at his disposal?  I think taxis are still available in his area.  These options were available to him just the same as options available to crews before their accident.  
Additionally, it's incredibly ironic.  I've read speeches by Mr. Babbitt making these same points.  It just demonstrates that we are all human.

1 comment:

  1. Jim,

    I think your comment on poor decision making skills is spot on. Let's not forget, however, that alcohol has a profound effect on decision making, mental awareness and reasoning skills. Alcohol does this by interfering with nerves that help you suppress doing something we would otherwise know is a poor decision. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess this is why it is illegal to drink and drive.