Sunday, July 20, 2008

Unhappy Landings

Having grown up near an aviation hub in Southern California, the difference between L-1011 engineering and DC-10 engineering was a common topic of conversation around the dinner table and a subject that could make any hapless passenger who sat near my engineer father on a plane squim while he talked about aviation mishaps. (I have linked to the Wikipedia articles for those for whom this dichotomy is meaningless.)

The rhetoric around aircraft design still apparently flourishes on YouTube, where the keywords "plane crash" and "helicopter crash" provide a number of results with very large numbers of views. This week the clip above was even cited as evidence on a twenty-four-hour news channel on nuclear power, as a demonstration of the structural integrity of power plant concrete, in which the speaker gave broadcast viewers the search terms to plug in.

Some like Helicopter Crash #6 show America's Funniest Home Videos-style footage of a new owner who didn't wait for his first lesson to take his bird into the air. Unlike the vernacular camera work of these eyewitness films, some feature extended clips of computer animation of doomed flights that were obviously produced for television audiences, investigators, or for juries.

However, these professionally produced computer-generated examples of footage may be later set to music, such as is the case with Turkish Airlines flight 981 Dc 10 Last Landing Orly. It's interesting to note that another DC-10 near disaster was averted because the pilot had benefited from experience with the then new technology of simulator training, which was just coming into vogue in the 1970s. Now that the three-engine DC-10 has now been retired, Microsoft flight simulator enthusiasts can take wing in the controversial plane, and many websites and online videos look at the DC-10 with nostalgia.

Although other YouTube videos often have minimal description of the posted films, aircraft crash videos often have extensive commentary and historical background to accompany the visuals. In the spirit of database aesthetics, there are compilations of clips of "top-ten" style crosswind attempted landings, plane and helicopter crashes, and plane crashes set to music. Most blogged about is the infamous Hamburg crosswind attempted landing, which -- as Der Spiegel explains -- brought an enormous amount of traffic to in the absence of news coverage over the weekend.

Thanks to Richard Rosomoff, who apparently put together his own playlist for colleagues.

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