Spanair Crash Does Not Mean the MD-80 is Unsafe

There’s not much that makes me feel as sick to my stomach as I do when I see an airplane crash. I suppose it’s a good thing that it happens rarely enough that it is a headline-worthy event, but seeing the pain and suffering of all the families, survivors, and the employees just hits me in the gut. Of course, that’s the feeling I had this week when the Spanair MD-80 from Madrid to Las Palmas crashed on takeoff killing north of 150 people.

It’s far too early to know what happened here, and as in most accidents, there will inevitably be several smaller things that led up to the accident, but that hasn’t prevented speculation from all corners of the globe.

Some people are focusing on a faulty valve which was addressed before departure. (I suppose we’re supposed to forget that this was a faulty gauge that isn’t considered necessary and was simply turned off.) Then there’s this irresponsible piece entitled “Engine blamed for Spanish plane crash.” Oh yeah, this one is just priceless:

Kieran Daly, editor of Flight International, said it was premature to speculate on the accident’s cause but in the absence of dangerous weather conditions there had likely been an engine problem and the aircraft did not have enough power to pull away.

Oh yeah, clearly too premature to speculate. Right.

But nobody can top Joe Sharkey for having some of the worst coverage out there on this accident. His most recent blog post states that “Lame coverage of the MD80 crash in Madrid continues in the media.” Oh sweet irony considering he has some of the lamest.

His first post on the subject said “The plane was an MD-80, a model of aging aircraft that has had well-documented safety problems in the last year.” Oh boy, here we go with the “aging aircraft” bull again. And the well-documented safety problems (I assume he’s talking about American’s MD-80 grounding) were not a safety-of-flight issue. In that first post of his I mentioned above, he yells at Spanair authorities for not looking something up. Maybe he should take his own advice.

A quick check found that this aircraft was EC-HFP. And a visit to shows us that this plane was first delivered to Korean Air in late 1993. So, an airplane that’s not even 15 years old is aging? I think not. That’s a relatively new aircraft.

Joe also goes on to cite all the previous MD-80 crashes and asks us to “note the more recent incidents and similarities to what apparently occurred on an MD80 that went off the runway and broke up today in Madrid.”

Again, we don’t know what happened in Madrid, but I don’t see anything on the five most recent accidents that look similar to me. One had a fire in the cabin that was apparently started by someone on board. One had problems with both engines at cruise, which sounds like fuel contamination. Two skidded off the runway in bad weather. And one disappeared from radar and crashed shortly after.

This is all just scare tactics, and it has no actual value. Is there a reason for someone stepping on an American Airlines MD-80 today to be more concerned than they were last week? No way. Please try to ignore this sort of irresponsible journalism and wait until we know all the details.

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