I recently saw a comment on social media where somebody asked who in their right mind would watch the TV show 'Air Crash Investigation.' For those who don't know about the TV show, also called 'Mayday', it shows in vivid CGI detail reconstructions of plane crashes from around the world and then how they solved the mystery of what happened.
In answer to the comment posted on social media, I am one such person who not only watches 'Air Crash Investigation' but is hooked on it, I can watch episodes back to back. What may surprise you even more than my choice of TV viewing is that I fly far more than the average person, I've also been in not one, or even two, but three emergency landings. So perhaps there is something wrong with me for wanting to watch the show.
If you watch enough of the shows then something becomes very clear, rarely do planes fall out of the sky because wings fall off or some other random technical failure, in most cases they crash because of human error.
I think it is incumbent on me to say to those reading and about to board a flight that the chance of you getting killed in a plane crash is less likely than dying in a car crash on the way to the airport or winning the lottery. According to The Economist "Chance of crashing? One in 5.4 million". That means that you could apparently expect to fly on one route from Heathrow to JFK for 14,716 years before plummeting into the Atlantic.
What the show also demonstrates is how many times disasters leading to loss of life have been averted because of the crew on flights. They spend years training 'if the worst should happen.' and when it does, they use that training, skill, and experience to try and make sure things come right.
Of the three emergencies I have been involved, the most serious was when the landing gear had an issue on a flight back from Germany to London. The first we knew was when the captain told us this was the case and that we were being diverted to Stansted as the runway was long enough for an emergency landing. We flew around for what seemed like an eternity as they did various things to try and sort out the landing gear and also prepare for the landing. The girl next to me was crying, and although most of us were not crying, inside we were wondering how bad this could be. It's sobering when you find yourself in a plane which may not land.
Whatever the crew did, we made a bumpy landing as we were followed down the runway by emergency vehicles but we were safe. It was the stuff of movies, but not one that anybody wanted to star in!
I think part of the reason I watch 'Air Crash Investigation' is that I'm interested to see why planes crash, I'm less interested in the crash part and more the investigation. As I've already stated the most likely cause of a plane crash is pilot error, some studies put this at over 50%! What I do want to underline though is that many accidents are averted by the skill and experience of the pilot and crew. Plane crashes make great news headlines, those emergencies that were prevented not so.
Dan recently wrote an article on Pro Tools bugs, which got me thinking what if pilots dealt with in-air issues in the same way that most people deal with DAW issues?
Blame The Plane
Would you want to be in a plane emergency and know that the pilot was spending their time blaming Boeing or Airbus? It might be the case that the cause is technical, but for them to start playing the blame game is not going to help, certainly not when lives are at stake. Pilots need to focus, try and track down the issue using their instruments, provided manual and training and hopefully get the plane flying safely enough to land.
That's rarely how many of us respond to a DAW issue, in fact in many cases the opposite occurs.
Remember that the statistics show that over 50% of crashes are caused by pilot error, and these are highly trained, experienced people - heaven forbid what the stats would be for those using DAWs, I guess that the percentage could be in the high eighties.
Do DAWs Crash?
Do DAWs crash? Yes, I've lost count of the number of times it has happened to me over the years. Some were technical errors, and down to poor code, some were down to bad plug-ins or incompatible software, but you can bet that many crashes were down to pilot error.
Yes, there are technical issues with many of the things we fly in a modern studio, but perhaps if we took a more professional approach to dealing with them, then we could help those who make the software fix it for the next time.
The reason air crashes are investigated is to make sure they don't happen again. Sometimes those investigations lead to design and manufacturing changes or improvements in services. There are many occasions where pilot training has to be improved, the pilot error cause may be high, but that is often because of the extreme circumstances the decisions had to be made - training is developed to account for that.
After watching hours of the show 'Air Crash Investigation' my admiration and respect of those who crew planes is higher than ever, I certainly couldn't do their job.
The question that's been running through my head would be this; if we were the subject of a DAW crash investigation how would we come out?