Aircrash Investigation

My favourite program at the moment is Aircrash Investigation, shown on the National Geographic channel. Each week the program starts with a re-enactment of a real aircrash followed by a documentary showing how the investigators established the cause and the resulting actions to prevent recurrence.

Aircrash Investigation – the plot

What impresses me is the way they carry out an investigation. They do not just look for a single cause, they look for a reason why that cause was allowed to happen. For example, last weeks crash was caused by an ice build up. Most investigations would have ended there, but this investigation went on to conclude pilot fatigue was a major factor, and the way pilots schedules were organised was part of this.

I have been trying to take this methodology into the work place. Presently, when disaster strikes, a shout goes up “Who pressed the wrong button”. The culprit is then dragged to Human Resources for a severe beating. The question “Why does this low paid operator have the power to press the factory self destruct button?” remains unanswered. I am sure the majority of business complaint investigations are just a “find a scapegoat” event rather than a thorough look at their systems.

Aircrash Investigation – the bad bits

Anyway, the TV programme has some annoying features that make me cringe whenever I watch it. Every week the crash is the “worst {insert type eg midair/runway/nighttime/…} aviation incident in {insert place eg Canada/Europe/US} since {insert year} and the conclusion always “shakes the aviation industry to the core”.

Aircrash Investigation – reconstructions

The program includes mini-reconstructions of the investigation, which normally includes silent extras. The narrator says “they had the outer panel removed”, the character in the reconstructions says “Remove the outer panel” and a silent extra pretends to remove a panel. That is another thing that makes me cringe, apart from the duplication of narrative, I wish the extra would say something like “okay” or even “whatever!”.

The pre-crash dramatisation always includes some ironic reference to the future events eg “The Hudson river looks beautiful today” just before they crash land on it. When they find some evidence or reach a conclusion they also dramatise it by the actor underlining a word, drawing a circle around it, and tapping it with their pen.

Even so, its a great program, but I challenge you to watch it now without noticing the word circling.

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