Death From Above

By James Strauss

The Internet can be a terribly accurate but often unresearched data base for things many people never think to research.  One of those things involves death by pilot suicide.  For example, between 2011 and 2021, the second leading cause of deaths to passengers and crew in commercial aircraft was by the pilot of such an aircraft deliberately crashing the plane and killing everyone aboard (Bloomberg News, July, 2022).  If the same thing happened to the mystery flight called Malaysian Flight 370 into the Indian Ocean was added to that total, then the major cause of loss of life in commercial aviation for that time period would be just that, the crew or part of the crew taking a whole bunch of innocent and helpless passengers flying directly and unknowingly (it is hoped) to their near instant deaths.  Since 2021, the leading, that’s right, I’m not getting this wrong, cause of all commercial passenger deaths is death by pilot suicide.

Why am I writing about this relatively unknown and rather grisly subject?  Airline safety is at an all-time high with deaths caused by commercial crashes at all time lows.  My point is not to make people shudder at the idea of entering one of those aluminum tubes for flights at about five hundred miles per hour.  My point is about some arcanely and silently being considered by all the major commercial aircraft operators in the world. In 2023 major players in the game, such as Fed-Ex, HDL, and even Airbus, the largest producer of commercial airlines in the world (since Boeing surrendered that role by becoming rather complacent and incompetent) met with members of the European Union and the FAA in America to discuss the building and operating of single pilot commercial aircraft.  It is likely that by 2027 commercial freighters may be allowed to fly with only one pilot, but the other airlines are clamoring for this to be a situation that will allow them to be able to convert over to one pilot passenger aircraft, basically without limits on distance to be flown.

Before 1980 all of the larger, non-regional, passenger aircraft in the nation were flown by a pilot, a co-pilot and a flight engineer (who was generally also a qualified pilot).  The flight engineer position was phased out due to cost.  An airline pilot of a larger commercial passenger aircraft today, flying for almost any of the major airlines, makes almost a third of a million dollars a year.  The airlines saved a fortune by getting rid of flight engineers that cost about one third of that.  The airlines today are after that third of a million dollars and are banking on having the discussion about single pilot aircraft converted into the plusses and minuses regarding sleep deprivation and safety equipment being installed in the potential single pilot aircraft to avert abnormalities in flight.  Things such as automatic emergency landing software that allows an unpiloted aircraft to find a landing place and then safely come down without human assistance.

In the first real organized meeting of those interested in single pilot commercial air, not one whit of one word was discussed about pilots coming suicide and taking hundreds of souls with them when they do it.  Now, the number cause of passenger deaths, is totally ignored because of some cost savings by airlines that are already rolling in cash, thanks to the support they got during and after the pandemic, as well as the allowances that were made to give the survivors a basic monopoly on flying, charges, emissions and more. People today express the fears they have to being in a car that is piloted by a computer, with no other driver on hand or able to take over.  But an automobile that is remotely piloted by a computer with sensors, if making an error, will only kill or damage a very few humans, not hundreds or more, if you might count deaths on the ground where a major airliner goes down.

As far as I’m concerned, and hopefully others agreeing, I’d rather depend on a computer to not have one elusive electronic thought about committing suicide than depend on that same effect to be exhibited by a single pilot, any single human pilot.  Is this entire issue to be left to the people who make these kinds of profits (and generally are flown around on private jets) or will magazine media, like Aviation Week and Space Technology (which provided these detailed in its October 16-29 issue (pages 32 through 34), be able to reach mainstream media to prevent this kind of coming insanity.  If you don’t think this is likely to happen then please consider just how stupid people in the sixties and seventies would have considered passengers willing to pay hugely exorbitant fees for them to have luggage accompany them on all flights.

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