…to an even greater degree than the sea…

The Costa Concordia shipwreck is a highly visible reminder that the latest technology does not guarantee passengers their safety.


The sight of the toppled wreck, its pristine superstructure shining in the winter sun, its funnel almost paralleling the sea, taunts its owners. The word’s media swarm like seagulls over a beached whale, and the wreck fills the world’s television screens for hours every day, making Costa Concordia’s gigantic, helpless hull a semi-permanent monument to whatever mistakes caused this ultimate humiliation in familiar waters and perfect weather.

Until aviation became the global trading system it now is, the maritime world was the main source of many of the world’s great dreams of adventure. The fact that the trumpeted claim of the Titanic’s owners was that she was unsinkable shows how much risk, at that time, had always been associated with going to sea.

But then aviators took over the swashbuckling role from the mariners. Risk is always a part of romance, and early aviation offered plenty of danger.

Just after the First World War, a young aviator who had joined the insurance industry summed up the risks to those who fly. Capt A.G. Lamplugh used a comparison with the marine world: “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous, but to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”

The marine world is being reminded that there is no room for carelessness, incapacity or neglect despite all the defences provided by modern design and technology.

And in this week’s issue of Flight International we have our annual reminder of that truth: our review and analysis of global airline accidents in 2011

3 Responses to …to an even greater degree than the sea…

  1. Capt Paul Cullen 16 January, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    Amazing! An accident happened 3 days ago, and already the cause has been determined, and the culprit has been found GUILTY!

    Those Italian Investigators must be the best in the world to come to such speedy conclusions…

    Don’t worry; If it had been an Aircraft Accident, the culprits would have been found guilty just as quickly.

  2. David Learmount 16 January, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Wrong Capt Cullen. Guilty is your word, not mine.

    The ship hit rocks in perfect weather and visibility. That is a mistake. Who made the mistake is not known yet. It could have been a designer or an engineer. Or a mariner. We will know whom in due course.

  3. Capt Paul Cullen 16 January, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Hi David,
    “Guilty” is not my word either. It is the word being used by the Italian Authorities and the ship’s owners.

    Does anybody really believe that by focussing on what happened will solve anything? The Napoleonic judicial system will only establish WHAT happened, and WHO did it. Case solved…
    The only thing that will be guaranteed is that the Captain of the ship will never make the same mistake again. But will he cooperate honestly with the investigators? Will any lessons really be learned? And if so by whom?

    For all the good it will do, the crew may as well be burned at a stake. The message will be clear. Don’t make a mistake! And if you do, say nothing, otherwise it can and will be used as evidence against you.

    Alternatively, the investigation could focus on WHY it happened, and how can it be avoided in the future. Real lessons could be learned, but this can only happen within a Just Culture.

    Just like Napoleon himself, the time has come to banish the Napoleonic Justice System into exile. Ironically he was exiled not too far from where the ship came into trouble…