On an August day in the Alps last year, a teenage enthusiast on a pleasure flight aboard a single-engined Piper was offered the opportunity to take the controls, even though he had no experience and the pilot had no instructor qualification.
The heavily-laden aircraft laboured to climb in the warm air, negotiating a course through high terrain at low height and with no margin for recovery, when it suddenly banked sharply and dived into the ground.
Just one of the four occupants, a rear-seat passenger, survived the accident.
What might be seen as an understandable – if ultimately pernicious – lapse of judgement in the context of a relaxed and apparently harmless sightseeing trip takes a wholly more startling and indefensible aspect when translated to the cockpit of a commercial airliner.
Yet such was the case a few months later. That the pilot of the Aeromexico Connect Embraer 190 which crashed on take-off during a storm at Durango had, at least, considerable light-aircraft flight time in his logbook hardly begins to redeem the stupefying decision of the captain – not qualified as an instructor – to hand control of the jet to an individual with zero hours on type.
Nor does the fact that Mexican investigators primarily blamed windshear for the crash – nor that, by a truly extraordinary quirk of good fortune, everyone on board the wrecked regional jet emerged alive before it burned out.
Swiss investigators absolved the teenage aviation buff of responsibility for the fatal Piper crash, stating that he could not be held accountable for seizing a one-time chance to take the controls of the aircraft.
For the pilots in the cockpit at Durango, that excuse just isn't going to fly.
Source: Flight International