Friday, 27 March 2015

The Law of Unintended Consequences made a grisly reappearance over the French Alps [updated]

The Law of Unintended Consequences made a grisly reappearance over the French Alps yesterday. A law passed without thought immediately after 9/11 mandating all cockpit doors be sealed condemned 149 passengers and crew to their death -- as what appears to be their copilot's murder-suicide pact with himself plunged their plane into a mountain with every one of them powerless to enter the cockpit to stop him.

It’s a situation no-one would want to be in.

It’s a situation no human being would want to put another into.


In those terrifying seconds before the impact they knew was going to kill them those poor souls outside the cockpit had their chance at life taken away from them by two mad acts, one by a copilot and the other by legislators. They were given no chance to save their lives when those in the cockpit wanted to take the plane down.

I suspect every one of those poor souls trying to gain access would be able to offer a stunning counter-argument to those calling for secure cockpits, if they were still alive today to make it.

Instead, “the tragic consequences of this unbreakable security have been writ large on the faces of relatives of his 149 victims…”

[Hat tip Julian D.]


  1. Security theatre has just claimed the lives of 149 souls. That is an avoidable tragedy.

  2. So what is the libertarian solution? no legislation? I don't think libertarian airlines would have many willing passengers.

  3. Dave: Why do "libertarian baiters" always have to commit reductio ad absurdum? I'll leave you to think about it and answer your own question, if you're interested in doing so. Or did you just come here to try to score cheap points?

  4. PC, Thank you for the news and reality. As I say; you are the best blogger in NZ. All else are in awe.
    You do not lock me out for facetious comments as they over there do.

  5. We will continue to be strong PC, some pain and unhappiness, or tragedy will not divert us.

  6. Greig: A rational, practical critique would be to mention the policy applied elsewhere in the world where it is required to have two people in the cockpit at all times precisely to prevent this type of incident.

    But apparently the libertarian response is to ignore this & use the tragedy to score cheap points against legislation in general without offering any solutions.

  7. I see many airlines not already doing the sensible reacted instantly with a commonsense approach to this, fortunately, very rare scenario by requiring two people on the flight deck at all times. The CAA however is making plans to have meetings about when to meet to decide what the options may be.

    Of course we musn't talk about the reasons for the locked door in the first place.


  8. "Of course we musn't talk about the reasons for the locked door in the first place."

    Ah so it was the fault of the muzzies after all (as well as the gummint upon which all of the individuals' ills can be blamed)! Phew, for a moment there I was wondering how they could be held responsible, thanks! More freedumb is called for. That'll solve it (whatever it is).

  9. @Dave: In a free market it would be up to individual airlines to determine security arrangements for those entering their aircraft and for maintaining the aircraft's safe operation while in the air. So it would not be up to anyone else to specify what the appropriate security arrangement should be. However, that is not the context which any airlines operates today. They must follow the rules set down by the authorities.

  10. Those who argue for a reinforced flight deck door to keep the bad guys out, must answer a simple question: what happens if the bad guys are in the flight deck and the good guys are on the other side trying to save their own lives (as was the case with German Wings)? How could anyone possibly advocate an environment where passengers (some of whom, like me, may be pilots) are put in a situation where they can do nothing but wait for their bodies to smash into the ground at over 700km per hour. Because I could list many ways in which (even with the new rules that there must be two in the flight deck at all times) bad guys could take control of a flight deck. There is no way of ensuring that those on the flight deck (authorised or not) are the good guys.

    If you get comfort from airport security and the reinforced doors then good for you. But we need to recognise that it is simply security theater which doesn't, in my view, make flights any safer. And if there were bad guys in the flight deck then we have to give passengers every opportunity to save their own lives. At the moment they must simply accept their terrible fates.

    Here is that question again: What happens if the bad guys are in the flight deck and the good guys are on the other side trying to save their own lives?

  11. "What happens if the bad guys are in the flight deck and the good guys are on the other side trying to save their own lives?"

    Dunno, but freedumb is the answer, you said so yourself.

  12. Christ. I give up. Julian gives you a perfectly sensible answer and you'd all rather score points than think about it. Fuck it. You lot are welcome to each other.

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  14. Here is another scenario that occurred recently where the pilot was locked outside cockpit.

    In a video he shot on the plane, the pilot is shown saying: "I got locked out of the cockpit. The door jammed, we can't get back in."

    So the reinforced door has the potential to result in a catastrophic outcome even if there are no bad guys in the flight deck or the plane.

  15. Remove all regulation on cockpit access and everything else do to with air travel. Allow the doors to be taken off! Simple! What could go wrong? Oh wait...

  16. Aviation security theater is just what it is. Any pilot or even baggage handler can tell you that. But it is also a self fulfilling proficy. The attention by media on aviation even if it is just a four seater Cessna attracts crazy buggers wanting their moment in the lime light or push their agenda.

    I drive busses. Large busses on long haul trips. Auckland - Wellington. A 12 hour journey in huge double decker busses. Me, the single crew member / baggage handler runs the whole show.

    No security checks, no checks for bombs or weapons. Yet, we load 73 people into these things and whistle along some pretty hairy stretches of road in all kinds of weather conditions.

    A crazy driver can choose to kill himself and take 73 passengers with him. A crazy passenger can plant a bomb and in fact disappear at a stop thus saving their own skin. Not to mention a raft of potential mishaps as these buses only have a few centimeters clearance on either side.

    Yet. Aviation gets a ridiculous amount of attention and the little single driver bus service does not (Happy with that). The difference between the two transport methods. One get's off the ground and drivers get paid shit compared to pilots yet have no autopilot to fall back on.

    I have been an airline pilot and now drive buses. There are a lot of similarities between the two.

  17. Chaz sarcs... Allow the doors to be taken off! Simple! What could go wrong? Oh wait...

    Why not? Except for normal operations of the plane, where 'a please do not enter the cockpit without permission' sign suffices, you have stated the flying format in which passengers are safer.
    They know the stakes if a madman takes control.
    They act, and are capable, sans door, of doing so.
    J Cuttance

  18. Instead of bringing up the obvious common sense solution (two people in cockpit at all times) it seems with libertarians their ideology comes first and any solution has to fit around this.

    What happens if the bad guys are in the flight deck? It's much more realistic to screen the pilot & co-pilot for mental health issues than to hope there will be more sane passengers than insane ones. Or to hope a terrorist group doesn't book the majority of seats on a flight.

  19. Dave - Instead of assuming you know the right answer (as to what's the safest) and therefore the government has to legislate for it, why do you not trust the airlines to make that call? That's the real question here, not the relative likelihood of the various scenarios being offered.

  20. Mark - I don't trust airlines to make that call for the same reason I wouldn't trust a liquor distillery in South East Asia or a building in Bangladesh or imitation products made in China.

    I've heard there is an unregulated Chinese domestic airline that also flies to North Korea. You would happily use this if it flew to NZ?

  21. Dave - The defining attribute of those first 2 examples is poor quality, not a shortage of regulation. Poor quality exists in both a non-regulated and regulated environment. The predominance of 'leaky' buildings in the over-regulated NZ building industry is an example of the latter.

    The defining attributing of the 3rd example is intellectual property theft (which a libertarian should not support), so irrelevant to the discussion.

    In those examples you have identified a risk and made the decision to avoid it, and you don't need regulation to make that choice. Others by contrast may choose to take the risk - for instance if you're subsisting in Bangladesh and the choice is between substandard accommodation and no accommodation at all. Enforcing western building codes would just remove the option of the former, for whom something is better than nothing.

    Another example closer to home is a choice between the local (possibly greasy) fish and chips, and a good restaurant. You don't need to outlaw the former to enjoy the latter. Regulations that forced restaurant quality standard on a fish and chip shop would just remove one of your choices.

    In any case the analogy to airplane security is tenuous; because the debate above is not between those who want cheaper and less safe planes, and those that don't - but different views on what actually is the safest. All reputable airlines live or die by their security record, and safety is their paramount concern. They are strongly motivated to take all relevant facts into account (which will vary between airlines and which country they fly from), and make the safest choice. Some will be better at it than others, but that's life - and not a fact of reality that regulations can outlaw.

    Regulations that force a choice on all airlines regardless of context does not necessarily ensure greater safety - and even if it does, it may come at a cost that makes the airline uneconomic. All safety measures have to weigh up the likelihood & consequence of an accident, against the cost of implementing it. It would arguably be safer to put a 2nd bus driver on all buses just in case the 1st driver gets tired or flips out, but would it be economic, and would the extra cost justify the reduction in risk? Probably not.

  22. Mark - "reputable airlines live or die by their safety record"

    That's true. And in theory any business that kills people will go under and therefore this commercial motive, according to libertarians, is enough & regulations aren't necessary.

    But in the real world this underestimates greed and overestimates how rational people are. In reality when there are no regulations business owners cut corners until something happens.

    In India and Bangladesh they pack 100 people into a building designed to hold 70. Then they increase it to 120 to make more money. Then 150, and so on until the building collapses. It's not a coincidence this is an ongoing issue in countries with lax regulation. Yes developed countries still have problems such as leaky buildings but these incidents pale in comparison with the disasters in countries with no regulations.


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