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What The Air Gurus Say

A set of quotes, many of them age-old, serve as psychological guidelines for pilots. Read on to find what the air gurus say...

india Updated: May 21, 2003 16:32 IST

"[Airplanes are] near perfect, all they lack is the ability to forgive"

Richard Collins

"The R-101 is as safe as a house, except for the millionth chance"

Lord Thomson, Secretary of State for Air, shortly before boarding the doomed airship headed to India on its first real proving flight on October 4, 1930. The day before he had made his will.

"Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect"

Captain AG Lamplugh, British Aviation Insurance, London.Early 1930's.

"In flying I have learned that carelessness and overconfidence are usually far more dangerous than deliberately accepted risks"

Wilbur Wright in a letter to his father, September 1900

"If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial"

Wilbur Wright to Western Society of Engineers in Chicago, Sep 18, 1901

"There are two critical points in every aerial flight -- its beginning and its end"

Alexander Graham Bell, 1906

"The fundamental problem is government people -- pointy-headed bureaucrats -- telling people what to do. There is an environment in this city of people unwilling to admit their mistakes and move ahead. The attitude toward rule-making has been so curtailed that common sense recommendations now take years and years"

James Hall, NTSB, 1996

"There are no new types of aircrashes -- only people with short memories. Every accident has its own forerunners, and every one happens either because somebody 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 dodgers' art of what you can get away with"

Stephen Barlay writes in'The Final Call: Why Airline Disasters Continue to Happen' March 1990

"What is the cause of most aviation accidents: Usually it is because someone does too much too soon, followed very quickly by too little too late"

Steve Wilson, NTSB investigator, Oshkosh, WI , August, 1996

"Trouble in the air is very rare. It is hitting the ground that causes it"

Amelia Earhart, '20 Hrs 40 Mins,' 1928

"There is no problem so complex that it cannot simply be blamed on the pilot"

Dr Earl Weiner

"Insisting on perfect safety is for people who don't have the balls to live in the real world"

Mary Shafer, NASA Ames Dryden

"If the pilot survives the accident, you'll never find out what really happened"

Doug Jeanes

"Flying is inherently dangerous. We like to gloss that over with clever rhetoric and comforting statistics, but these facts remain: gravity is constant and powerful, and speed kills. In combination, they are particularly destructive"

Dan Manningham, 'Business and Commercial Aviation' magazine

"Mix ignorance with arrogance at low altitude and the results are almost guaranteed to be spectacular"

Bruce Landsberg, Executive Director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation

"Learning should be fun. If you don't have fun in aviation then you don't learn, and when learning stops, you die"

Pete Campbell, FAA

"Flying is so many parts skill, so many parts planning, so many parts maintenance, and so many parts luck. The trick is to reduce the luck by increasing the others"

David L Baker

"It's better to miss the lead story at 6 . . . than to become the lead story at 11"

Bruce Erion, President of the National Broadcast Pilots Assn, 1999

"No matter how interested individual employees might be, or what assistance a manufacturer offers, or how insistent a certificating authority might be -- none of these factors will have a significant effect on safety without support from top management"

John O'Brian, ALPA's Engineering and Air Safety Department

"I'd hate to see an epitaph on a fighter pilot's tombstone that says, "I told you I needed training." . . . How do you train for the most dangerous game in the world by being as safe as possible? When you don't let a guy train because it's dangerous, you're saying, "Go fight those lions with your bare hands in that arena, because we can't teach you to learn how to use a spear."

Colonel 'Boots' Boothby, USAF

"When you have two engines, you have two engines that can fall to bits. When you have four, you have four that can fall to bits. The less engines you have, the safer you are"

Frank Fickeisen, chief engineer for Boeing, replying to a complaint made by American Airlines Allied Pilots' Association about dangers of flying two-engine airplanes across the Pacific

"The alleviation of human error, whether design or intrinsically human, continues to be the most important problem facing aerospace safety"

Jerome Lederer

"Of the major incentives to improve safety, by far the most compelling is that of economics. The moral incentive, which is most evident following an accident, is more intense but is relatively short lived"

Jerome Lederer

"The high level of safety achieved in scheduled airline operations lately should not obscure the fact that most of the accidents that occurred could have been prevented. This suggest that in many instances, the safety measures already in place may have been inadequate, circumvented or ignored"

International Civil Aviation Organization, 'Accident Prevention Manual, 1984

"Complacency or a false sense of security should not be allowed to develop as a result of long periods without an accident or serious incident. An organisation with a good safety record is not necessarily a safe organisation"

International Civil Aviation Organisation, 'Accident Prevention Manual, 1984

"The hard, inescapable reality is that anyone who flies may die in an airplane"

Stephen Coonts

"ATTENTION! Aircraft Designers, Operators, Airmen, Managers. Anxiety never disappears in a human being in an airplane -- it merely remains dormant when there is no cause to arouse it. Our challenge is to keep it forever dormant"

— Harold Harris, Vice President, Pan American World Airways, circa 1950

"For they had learned that true safety was to be found in long previous training, and not in eloquent exhortations uttered when they were going into action"

Thucydides, 'The History of the Peloponnesian War,' circa 404 BC

First Published: May 21, 2003 16:22 IST