Why Speculating on Crashes Is a Good Thing
In case you haven't noticed, the way you receive and process information has undergone a fundamental revolution during the past decade. You now have stuff coming at you a mile a minute from dozens of sources—Web sites, e-mail, print, cellphone and texting, radio, cable. What you may not have noticed is that this has radically changed the way we hear about and think about aircraft accidents.
The salient recent example is Air France 447, in which bits and pieces of information continue to trickle out slow-leak fashion, like a box of jigsaw puzzle pieces with a hole in one corner. Another example is the Colgan crash in Buffalo, where the NTSB was unusually forthcoming with detailed information as the crash investigation got underway.
What this does, of course, is to fuel rampant speculation about causes. In days of yore, we used to consider ourselves smug professionals in showing the discipline and sophistication to avoid speculating until the accident investigators had done their job. Now, it's more or less a free for all in every aviation forum across cyberspace, not to mention the talking heads on cable TV.
Is this is a bad thing? In my view, it's a good thing. For one, it permits the individual reader to place his or her own opinions and beliefs against a broader perspective. Nothing clarifies the thinking like having it exposed to even semi-rigorous review. Second, long threads discussing these sorts of things inevitably draw in participants who have not just informed opinions, but direct, hands on expertise with the airplane's being discussed. I've learned more about the Airbus series of airplanes by blogging about the type than I ever would have otherwise.
The potential downside of this—and it's not much of one for the sophisticated reader—is the closed-loop feedback syndrome. At one point a couple of weeks ago, CNN was quoting the scattershot opinions and views expressed on PPrune as actual news. That's just dumb journalism, in my view, but the savvy viewer should be able to recognize it for what it is. And generally, the participants in AVweb's forums are quite savvy.
So, if you have an opinion, a question or information to add about an aviation accident, by all means feel free to express it. I certainly do. If the idea has high dingbat value, don't worry, someone will let you know. Besides, the world needs dingbats, too.