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Air travel is remarkably safe. What is sensational about Stephen Barley's conclusions is the repetitive and unnecessary nature of tragedies - why haven't we learned from previous experience?

This thoroughly researched and completely international book examines every aspect of air safety today: from geriatric aircraft to pilot error, from sabotage to the weather, from over-crowded skies to tiny slips in maintenance, from skimping on costs to muddled communications.

Aircrash investigation is an artful combination of airmanship, science, technology, psychology, medicine and other skills with the logic and determination of intuitive detective work. It can produce near-miraculous solutions to apparently total mysteries. But what good does it do if the lessons learnt are repeatedly forgotten, if vital conclusions are allowed to melt or to burn away, if the greatest technological advances come in the field of tombstone engineering? The investigators' findings and recommendations often sound like the final call to prevent yet another accident - yet this final call needs repeating ... often for years.

Tragic events are true accidents if they are not only unforeseen but also unforeseeable. The merely unforeseen could be murder by ignorance, forgetfulness or negligence. There are no new types of aircrashes -only people with short memories. Each disaster has its own sometimes insignificant forerunners, and each one happens either because someone did not know where to draw the vital dividing line between the unforeseen and the unforeseeable or because well-meaning people deemed the risk acceptable.

If politics is the art of the possible, and flying is the art of the seemingly impossible, then air safety must be the art of the economically viable. At a time of crowded skies and sharpening competition, it is a daunting task not to let the art of the acceptable deteriorate into the dodger's art of what you can get away with.

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  • Seller location: Waitakere City, Auckland, NZ

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