March 14, 2007

Airplane lands safely, nobody hurt

An All Nippon Airways twin-turboprop DHC-8Q400 Bombardier commuter plane made a nose-down landing at Kochi airport on Shikoku Island after its forward landing gear failed to deploy. Nobody was injured and the plane itself was barely damaged.

The common "if it bleeds, it leads" complaint about television news coverage focuses public attention on failure, magnifying perceived risks enormously in proportion to actual risks, which is why otherwise sane people fear flying and not driving.

This story kind of straddles the rule, the exception that proves the rule as much as it disproves it. NHK is still covering the heck out of this non-story, including 3D digital animations of the failed linkage (traced to a missing bolt). And for a simple reason: the video is so good.

The video caught the touch-and-go, trying to shake the landing gear loose, and then a perfect belly landing, sparks and everything. I hope they give the pilot a medal or something, because it was so graceful you could almost believe planes are supposed to land like that. Fine china doesn't get better care.

Unfortunately, with all the airplay, the long-term, take-away message will be that every commercial aircraft nose gear assembly is a whisper's breath away from failing.

I don't know if this story was covered by the U.S. networks, but I did catch footage of a small, single-engine plane making a "safe" belly landing somewhere back east on the local nightly news--again, relevant to nothing except they had this cool video--so probably.

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