There are two USAF bases in Korea, Osan and Kunsan. Kunsan is located 200 miles south of Seoul. It is home to the 8th Fighter Wing (“The Wolfpack”) and several army units. The principal fighter aircraft operating from Kunsan is the F-16, and on July 29th, 2011, four of them were preparing for take off.
As the group taxied out, the pilot of the first aircraft came to a stop and ran through a standard procedure to verify the operation of his radar warning receiver (which, operating around North Korea, isn’t just busy work). The second and third aircraft came to a halt behind the first. However, the fourth didn’t, and impacted the third aircraft in line. Fortunately, no-one was injured and the damage was kept to the two aircraft.
Repair costs to the aircraft totaled $2.5M. I don’t know, but I expect, the pilot admitted he was distracted. It was a rear end shunt. No more and no less. A fender bender of the type that happens at traffic lights all over the US. It shouldn’t have happened, they shouldn’t happen at traffic lights either, but they do.
Even to the Air Force, $2.5M isn’t chump change, so they conducted an investigation. This is a good thing, $2.5M takes a lot of taxes to pay for.
Predictably, the investigation found “clear and convincing” evidence the cause of the mishap was the pilot’s failure to properly monitor his aircraft’s position relative to the aircraft in front of him. I think we can all agree with that, it’s a statement of the obvious, but it is “clear and convincing.”
Things got less clear after that. The pilot failure was apparently due to (take a deep breath here):
a breakdown in visual scan, task mis-prioritization, channelized attention, overconfidence and excessive motivation to succeed.
Er … um … right. Clear and convincing?
What drives people to want to categorize things like this? Do those categories prevent a reoccurrence of this type of accident? I doubt it.
I always suspect language like this. When you make the simple sound complex you’re trying to evade blame. I’m not saying the pilot did in this case. In fact, his life was probably a living hell from all the jokes in the bar. But officialdom wanted to create the impression that there were lots of highly technical reasons for the accident, and we can forgive him for those. The simple fact that he was distracted doesn’t seem to be an acceptable reason.
And in a world that’s already beyond the limits of human understanding, do we really need to be making things more complicated?
(Images courtesy of US Air Force Kunsan)