If you were as glued as I was to TV over the weekend watching news of the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport, you'd be forgiven for feeling exasperated over the evidence-free speculation meant to fill hours of airtime in the hopes that some official explanation would come along. Of course, government investigators rightly take much longer than a normal news cycle to collect evidence and announce their findings, so in the meantime we had to hear (almost surely false) eyewitness accounts that a Boeing 777 had "cartwheeled" near a runway and still managed to come to a stop belly-down with its wings intact.
Sad to say, much of the commentary sent to email@example.com so far has been similarly speculative. It's hard to blame readers, since tidbits of information that make their way to the media tend to assemble a picture of events that won't necessarily be borne out in the final government reports.
That said, a few reader letters have offered opinions worth airing, including one providing common-sense advice: In this day of flip-flop casual wear, it's best to have your feet covered should you need to traverse a burning plane cabin to escape. Another common theme in the letters was what increasingly automated flying has meant for basic flying skills -- such as the ones needed to land a modern Boeing 777 in daylight and in near-perfect weather.
Here is a selection of letters on the Asiana crash.
Norm Zareski of Palos Verdes Estates says footwear matters:
"The Asiana accident in SFO will no doubt elicit many comments regarding survivability of such an event.
"As a frequent traveler and instrument-rated private pilot, I would like to urge all passengers to fly with adequate footwear instead of flimsy flip-flops or four-inch spike heels.
"The crash in SFO should have fliers asking themselves how far and how fast could I run in the shoes I'm wearing if my life depended on it.
"The accident once again proves that 'stuff happens,' and it's best to be prepared."
In a letter that will probably run in Tuesday's paper, La Cañada Flintridge resident Trent D. Sanders raises concerns about increasingly computer-aided flying:
"The crash of the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday highlights a very real problem: automation dependency. The article describes this as 'a growing trend among pilots to rely so heavily on computerized flight systems that they lose their own proficiency to fly an aircraft without assistance.'
"One aviation expert quoted in the article speculated that the Asiana pilots probably 'weren't accustomed to making visual landings without coupling their systems to the instrument landing system.'
"This doesn't just apply to 'foreign' pilots but also our airline pilots. And, most disturbing of all, this extends to the student pilot taking flying lessons at our flight schools, where the focus has become more on the instruments than learning to fly the airplane.
"If one doesn't have stick-and-rudder flying skills, all the instruments in the world won't help if the instruments quit working."