PLANE CRASH

The Foren­sics of Avi­a­tion Dis­as­ters

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Ge­orge Bi­bel, Robert Hedges, Johns Hop­kins (JAN­UARY) Hard­cover $29.95 (328pp), 978-1-4214-2448-4

Cer­tain few un­for­tu­nate souls—you know who you are—aren’t com­forted at all to hear that com­mer­cial avi­a­tion is far and away the safest form of trans­porta­tion. If it’s so safe, they ask, why am I so ter­ri­fied to step on a plane? In their minds, flight safety sta­tis­tics are worth­less.

The av­er­age trav­eler doesn’t ob­sess about what could go wrong in the sky but cer­tainly ex­pe­ri­ences an “enough al­ready, TMI” at­ti­tude when faced with the gritty de­tails of crashes. Un­der­stand­able, but those de­tails are cru­cial to in­ves­ti­ga­tors seek­ing to un­der­stand what went wrong and, con­se­quently, what can be done to pre­vent the next in­ci­dent. Plane Crash: The Foren­sics of Avi­a­tion Dis­as­ters is a re­mark­able, just-the-facts-ma’am dis­cus­sion of air­plane ac­ci­dents along­side anal­y­ses of what went wrong and what the in­dus­try did in re­sponse.

Writ­ten as a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween a me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor and an air­line cap­tain—with chap­ters on taking off, ap­proaches, land­ing, tur­bu­lence, con­trol­ling the plane, and other as­pects of fly­ing mod­ern jet­lin­ers—the book is re­as­sur­ing in the old-fash­ioned way: the more you know about the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of planes and the ex­per­tise of those who build and fly them, the bet­ter you’ll feel about board­ing your next flight.

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