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United Airlines Flight 173 Accident Essay (Article)

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Updated: May 14th, 2019

On December 28, 1978, United Airlines flight 173 crashed in Portland, Oregon, while being operated from Denver, Colorado, to the Portland International Airport. The aircraft crashed in the suburban Portland neighborhood. The area was wooded and populated, and the aircraft destroyed one unoccupied house.

As a result, two members of the crew (the flight engineer and the senior flight attendant) and eight passengers were killed, 21 passengers and 2 crewmembers “were injured seriously” (Investigation: United Airlines Flight 173, 2012). It is reported that the accident was the result of the fuel exhaustion. The causes of the United Airlines flight 173 accident are the pilots’ error affected by the unawareness of the critical situation.

It is important to note that the accident was the result of the professional pilot’s failure. The captain of the DC-8 was Malburn McBroom, “a highly experienced pilot with nearly 28,000 hours, some 5500 of them captaining the DC-8” (Civil aviation disasters: United 173, n.d.).

According to the reports, approaching the Portland International Airport, the pilots began to prepare to landing. However, the landing gear malfunction was observed. It took time to investigate the problem, and the captain called the Portland Approach to report the situation.

The problem was in the fact that while the pilots were concentrating on overcoming the landing gear malfunction, the fuel state was improperly controlled. Thus, when the problem was investigated and the passengers were prepared for a possible emergency landing, the aircraft fuel state became critical (Investigation: United Airlines Flight 173, 2012). As a result, fuel exhaustion of all engines prevented the aircraft from landing successfully.

It is stated that it was not only the failure of the captain to control the fuel state but also the error of the whole crew because pilots did not tell the captain about the problems observed. From this point, the main causes of the accident were the preoccupation with the landing problems and landing emergency and the inattention to the fuel state which resulted in the fuel exhaustion and the aircraft’s crash.

The criticality of the situation was not aware by the members of the crew, and the pilots did not speak clearly about their concerns with the captain to prevent the problems with the fuel state. It is possible to focus on the problems in the communication between the crew members and the lack of the effective crew management to regulate the problematic situations.

The impact of the United Airlines flight 173 accident on the air transportation system of the USA was significant. Although the problem with landing gears was determined and overcome successfully, the crewmembers were inattentive to the fuel state, and the error resulted in the accident.

That is why, the committees interested in examining the causes of the accident paid attention to the necessity to focus on the improvement of the crew management to avoid the similar situations in the future. Thus, in 1980, the United Airlines implemented the first “Crew Resource Management/Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) program for pilots” to develop the concept of cockpit resource management as the way to improve the performance and communication of pilots (Investigation: United Airlines Flight 173, 2012).

The program aims to encourage the pilots’ teamwork, to improve the communication and ways of sharing duties and important information between crewmembers. The similar programs are used in many countries today.

References

Civil aviation disasters: United 173. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Investigation: United Airlines Flight 173. (2012). Web.

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