Quite how narrowly the Lufthansa Cargo Boeing MD-11F crew in Riyadh sidestepped Fate and, in so doing, escaped the wing-spar fracture that turned an identical aircraft on its back in Tokyo a year before, is a question unanswered by the Saudi inquiry report.
But try inserting anything thicker than a cigarette paper between the two accidents and it becomes clear that crash survival can depend on a distressingly slender margin. When handled correctly, the MD-11, like all aircraft, is perfectly safe. But its acknowledged susceptibility to hard landings - and, more worryingly, its vulnerability to rolling over if the impact stresses the wing spar beyond design limits - has already prompted a bulletin from the US National Transportation Safety Board urging better training for pilots on the type.
The MD-11 fleet is too small and too old to justify any major design change, yet the conversion of MD-11s into freighters - which arguably results in a greater likelihood of higher landing weights - demands increased vigilance and that crews be fully aware of the need for finesse during flare and touchdown. It also requires that airlines instil in their pilots the knowledge and ability to recognise and rescue or abort a poor touchdown before it becomes a bad one.
Any landing from which you walk away is a good one, goes an old flyers' adage. Better to have that outcome decided by the crew, not by chance.
(This article first appeared as our smaller leading article in the 6 March issue of Flight International)