When Should You Not Trust Experts?

Passenger on British Midland Flight 92 reflecting on hearing the pilot announce he was shutting down the right engine: “We were thinking: ‘Why is he doing that?’ because we saw flame coming out of the left engine. But I was only a bread man. What did I know?”

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We put our trust in experts every day. We trust the car we drive will work. The crew of the space shuttle put its trust in the engineers who designed it. A soldier trusts his weapon will fire. Often we put our trust and our lives directly into the hands of experts, such as when we board an airplane. We trust that the people who designed and built the plane knew what they were doing and did it right. We trust that the mechanics who worked on the plane, did so correctly. And we particularly trust that the pilot is a professional.

We believe that the pilots know what they are doing and are well trained. That they will react properly in emergencies. That we shouldn’t interfere with their judgment. After all, what do we know about flying a plane?

Every one of us has been in a situation where we over-rode our common sense in deference to an expert. It can be as simple as a repairman telling us something needs to be fixed, when we really believe they aren’t going to fix the right thing. Or that the chef undercooked our meal. But how often do we speak up?

When we put our lives in the hands of experts, and common sense says they are making the wrong decision, it’s time to speak up. Even if, as is likely, we’re wrong. Because once in a while, they’re wrong.

The Facts

On 8 January 1989, a Boeing 737–400 crashed just short of the runway near Kegworth in the UK. 47 people were killed and 74 received serious injuries out of a complement of 126 on board.

Shortly after taking off and passing through 28,300 feet en route to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, a blade detached from the turboprop in the left engine. It resulted in a jolt and a bang. This was followed by a pounding noise, vibration, and smoke coming into the cabin. Several passengers near the rear of the plane noted smoke and sparks coming out of the left engine.

For reasons discussed below, the pilot shut down the plane’s right engine; the wrong engine. The vibration and smoke decreased and they descended to make an emergency landing at East Midland Airport.

Just short of the runway, the vibration and smoke returned as power was increased to the left engine for landing and that engine ceased operating. The crew attempted to restart the right engine using airflow, but because they were getting ready to land, the plane was flying too slow and too low for this to work.

The plane crashed a quarter mile from the edge of the runway.

The seven cascade events that led up to this crash are in Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure. It’s FREE today, 8 January, and always in Kindle Unlimited. Also sign up for my newsletter to be informed of good deals, as I rotate over 70 titles through free and discount.

Originally published at https://bobmayer.com.

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to www.bobmayer.com

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