Air safety

After 9/11 reports circulated of flying schools in the United States accepting trainees wanting to learn to fly but not to take off or land, so we expected the utmost rigour by airlines and regulators in responding to its horrors.

But the past 15 months have shown that passenger planes could fly over war-zones despite military planes being shot down; their location-monitoring systems could be switched off by pilots; black-box batteries last about 30 days, turn-around times are such that pilots may have no time for natural breaks before take-off, and that (in Europe) a single pilot could be left in the cockpit behind a door locked from the inside.

Was no thought whatsoever given by trade organisations or governments that pilots might have a sudden heart attack or stroke, particularly since the obligation to have a third person in the cockpit, the flight engineer, was abolished?

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They cannot merely blame the “beancounters”; passengers want competent regulation and cheaper fares.

Also, are the flight paths so full that so many planes must go over the Alps (superficially, the Rhone valley seems more logical for Barcelona-Dusseldorf)?

Psychological tests and airport security have their place, but common-sense worst-case scenario thinking is crucial.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews