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Old 06-17-2016, 12:25 PM   #101
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Fwiw, IMHO the NTSB report will likely center around hull age, maintenance and improper oversight (inspection) from class societies. But who am I? Nobody.
Plus what the boiler crew was doing, what caused the loss of propulsion, where the initial breach occurred and why, TOTE having no weather tracking system and whether that made any difference, responsibility between TOTE can Captain and communications, weather information available to Captain, response and availability of TOTE's emergency line, history of company maintenance and issues and how that did or didn't figure in, whether a ship on it's way for a known needed major refit should operate under different rules, laws protecting and working against those who lost lives including some antiquated ones, whether El Faro had the best information and, if not, and what tracking did they have access to, what others had who chose not to go that direction, training and credentials of crew, what life saving equipment they had and what was deployed or attempted to be deployed and whether something else might have made a difference, what might have been done differently to maintain communication, signal and to make finding the ship easier. I'm sure there are many more things I haven't even thought of.

The NTSB will have the benefit of hundreds of interviews with current employees, past employees and others. They will have examined all records. They may or may not have information from the recorders (Note the one from the Egyptian plane was just recovered).

As humans, we lack patience often. However, all we can do right now is wait. Perhaps nothing of benefit results but we won't know until the time comes. In the past, NTSB reports have generally had benefit and have often led to change in multiple transportation segments. Are they worth it financially? That's not really the issue of this thread as it's already been determined they are going to be done. Collectively they are even if individually not always. We can't know whether anything useful will be learned though until we do the investigation.

Eliminate the NTSB and the CG assistance and you would have far more incidents and loss of life. Now, I can't put a value on lives, but that's what it is about, saving future lives. I also can't look at one case individually when talking funding, I would have to look at the collective NTSB budget and collective USCG budget. For instance, I know the USCG regularly saves lives. I have to evaluate their total costs over all they do. I can't segregate the cost of the rescue of the sailor off Hatteras and I'm not about to start trying to decide which rescues financially justify themselves and which don't or which NTSB investigations do and which don't. I just know personally I would hate to think of our transportation industry without the NTSB. Well, I can probably describe it. Much like many other areas of the world where the loss of lives in transportation is commonplace and accepted, where ferries topple, merchant vessels are lost at sea, buses overturn, trains run off the track, lives are lost, but there is no NTSB type investigation. This isn't about El Faro only, but about the review, regulation and safety of an industry.
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Old 06-17-2016, 01:30 PM   #102
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One more time, nobody is suggesting that an investigation not be pursued. The point under discussion is very specific. Exactly what benefit could come from the tapes, and is it worth the expense of a major recovery effort. Knowing what they had in hand, the NTSB initially decided that it wouldn't be worth the effort/cost. Something made them change their mind....that would be pressure from somewhere...likely liability lawyers, politicians and the media. So far no one here has explained how anything they could personally dream up about possible information on either the voice or data tape could impact the future safety of the shipping industry. Lot's of "mights" and we don't knows, and maybes, but not one plausible example.

The condition of the ship and the issues with the propulsion system prior to the voyage are documented. What happened aboard that one of a kind ship once things went to hell in a handbasket is of no relevance to the industry at large. One theory mentioned on the 60 Minute piece last weekend was that the prop might have come out of the water and oversped the turbine. So if that's the case I'd assume folks here would demand that the NTSB recommend a rule that says ships must not enter sea conditions where the prop can come out of the water....then presumably test every ship to establish the relevant sea state for that design. Or maybe legislate against turbine engines. The whole data gathering thing is bizarre on its face. It's wondering why a single engine airplane crashes after flying into a thunderstorm filled with hail.


One more time this IS NOT about the cost of a life saving mission....it's about the cost of an iffy data collection mission when the extenuating circumstances are well known and understood. Big, big difference.


By the way, the Coast Guard's search and recue budget has been systematically whacked over the last few decades thereby massively reducing the scope of what they will even respond to in the lifesaving arena. Twenty-thirty years ago if you were experiencing a technical difficulty they would come out and lend a hand. Today they grill the person in distress for details and then tell them to call boat tow or throw out the anchor when getting close to shore. Safety costs, and like it or not it's parceled out and budgeted by the agencies. Better to spend the money from this boondoggle on safety initiatives that benefit a larger segment of the population...recreational boating safety comes to mind.


In any case the (wrong) decision has been made. I've just sent letters to my Congressman, Senator, the GAO, and Sixty Minutes asking them to take a close look behind the scenes at what's driving the relaunch of this effort. What made the NTSB change their mind.
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Old 06-17-2016, 02:11 PM   #103
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Oh boo hoo, I sent letters to everyone.

A lot can be figured out from the VDR. The speed and direction the vessel was going, the talking back and fourth to the ER in regards to when the plant was lost and why it was lost and what caused the hatch to fail. Finding out what caused the plant to fail and why they couldn't get it back could be key. It could point to ABS and the inspection they had just completed or to TOTE shore side who may have known about an issue. If people from TOTE shore side end up in the big house, what kind of message would this send to other companies? DON'T TAKE STUPID CHANCES!

I know exactly how the 2nd Mate felt. I was on a ship that was less than 300 ft long and we asked if we could delay sailing by 12 hours so we could fall in behind the storm. We were told to sail or they would fly in a crew that would. We plotted the best course we could, we estimated we would be 150 miles from the storm at our closest point and that we would be ok. Guess what, just like the El Faro, we left with a plan, then that plan changed. The storm picked up speed and made the turn early and slammed into us. We ended up about 15 miles from the eye of the storm in 40-60ft seas (look at my profile picture). The only difference between us and them, we didn't lose the plant. If we had... I wouldn't be here. As we pounded through the seas, our gen would bog down and we could watch lights dim. If the gen went then the main went. If the main went, we would broach pretty quickly. We had no lifeboats, just a couple of life rafts. Our captain was flat out told, sail or pack your bags. Don't even pretend, for ONE SECOND you know a damn thing about what we do!

You don't thing this captain was told the same things? "If you don't sail, pack your bags and kiss that new ship that's being delivered in 3 weeks good bye!" He was pressured and I'm willing to bet he had a passage planned that would have taken him around the edge of the storm. Things change, sadly it was the plant that failed. When they left port, it wasn't a big storm and the track was widely unknown. Had the plant not failed, which I would bet 99 out of 100 times it would not have, this thread would never have started because they would have arrived safely in PR. We sail through weather all the time. Cat 1 seas and wind is nothing for a vessel that size, so skirting that storm was no big deal. The plant failed at the worse time and the storm took the worst track and the rest is history.

The case was reopened because, believe it or not, people want to know what happened. The Chef Engineer was an alum of my school (which had a ship with a steam plant so he knew what he was doing) and lived in my area. You had another mate that was green, these were people. Fathers, sons, husbands, daughters.... people even outside the marine industry want to know what something like this could happen in 2015.

By the way, 20 years ago the USCG would tell you to call boat US if you were having a technical issue and nobody was in danger. I know, I was 500 yards off a Coast Guard station at 11 pm in about 15* weather with my dad and sister when our engine failed. My dad called the CG and asked for a tow (about 6 miles) and they said no. So there goes that theory.
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Old 06-17-2016, 04:20 PM   #104
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SD,

The Captain is in charge. The fraternity will never, ever support changing that basic law of the sea...nor should they. You are strongly inferring that this Captain was a company patsy. I believe that is way out of line.
Your virulent anti-management bias and obvious quest to find someone in the company to blame is clouding your thought process. Just because people want to know doesn't mean there is a need for them to know. I want to know a lot of things, but that doesn't give me the right to squander taxpayer funds to satisfy my personal interest.
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Old 06-17-2016, 05:19 PM   #105
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SD,

The Captain is in charge. The fraternity will never, ever support changing that basic law of the sea...nor should they. You are strongly inferring that this Captain was a company patsy. I believe that is way out of line.
Your virulent anti-management bias and obvious quest to find someone in the company to blame is clouding your thought process. Just because people want to know doesn't mean there is a need for them to know. I want to know a lot of things, but that doesn't give me the right to squander taxpayer funds to satisfy my personal interest.
Ever know a captain and a cruise director of a cruise ship?

See who thinks they are in charge.......
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Old 06-17-2016, 08:51 PM   #106
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Typical clueless armchair QB. You've never been there, you only see the Jack Sparrow stories and think that's how the world turns.
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Old 06-18-2016, 06:50 AM   #107
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The Captain is in charge. The fraternity will never, ever support changing that basic law of the sea...nor should they. You are strongly inferring that this Captain was a company patsy. I believe that is way out of line.
You should read the quote from TOTE a few days after the incident:
"Tote executives said the captain, Michael Davidson, planned a heading that would have enabled El Faro to bypass Joaquin if the ship hadn't lost power. The loss of power left it vulnerable to the storm's 140-mph winds and battering waves more than 50 feet high.
They said Davidson was in regular communication before the storm with the company, which can override a captain's decisions."


Really. So much for your assumption about that change! I think the office is confused about 'ultimate overriding authority' and what it means aboard. Then again, many office desk Captains feel they are superior to the mariners anyway.



I wish the 'fraternity' is not the only one involved. The fraternity does not have the import that it once had. Corporate is WAY too involved, with a fair amount of Masters being gullible to pressure. Yes... It happens.
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Your virulent anti-management bias and obvious quest to find someone in the company to blame is clouding your thought process.
As is your assertion that pressure is not brought, and that corners are/were not cut in the ordinary operation of business. BTW, which law firm do you represent???

Here is a picture of the DR line they were following from Jax to San Juan. The round red circle is the location. DR line Grey. Purple is approximately Joaquin path. Yellow was NOAA prediction. Red line Previous course used by other Captain in August on the approach of a TD. Blue last ditch escape course for El Faro. Red circle El Faro Location on bottom. Black circle where competitor tug lost its container barge for 2 days when they actually took the 'safer' alternative course. (didn't hear about that one did you!?)

Exactly how far off the rhumb line did the vessel veer to avoid a hurricane? I'll give you a hint: Just as far as she could go before she grounded on the Bahama Banks. So the question remains. Why did the master choose to go on a windward shore, barely skirting a hurricane when there were other options? In a 40 year old rustbucket, with a riding crew aboard, and one of the boilers down for repairs? If job security wasn't the over riding decision maker I can't fathom what was more important. (maybe the crews lives?)

What would a prudent mariner have done?

On a different note: That's a good observation about cruise ship Captains and Staff Captains. There is only ONE Master aboard. The devil is when a second is there and mucks up the chain of command.
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Old 06-18-2016, 11:26 AM   #108
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The company's press office was indeed mixed up about who is in charge. That little phrase is the sort of red herring that you conspiracy types like to glom onto. You know it (said so yourself), I know it, the people running the company know it, the Captain knew it, and the NTSB knows it. Doesn't prove the company was exercising undue influence on its Captains. Huge red herring.

The predicted path of the storm tells the story and explains why the Captain elected to take the windward side. Taken in retrospect...a string of bad decisions, no question. He will be taken to task in a big way. So will many others. That does not mean the Captain was pressured by the company in any way. Pure conjecture on your part.

Thinking back to the 60 Minute segment last weekend, I can understand why the father of the powerplant engineer said he'd leave it that the storm killed his son. People like you will take every little action by every member of the crew to second guess and twist things to meet your agenda. That father knows there's a feeding frenzy waiting to tear into his son's legacy.
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Old 06-18-2016, 11:37 AM   #109
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Sooo, have they retrieved the VDR?? Still working on getting it?
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Old 06-18-2016, 11:49 AM   #110
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Sooo, have they retrieved the VDR?? Still working on getting it?
"Investigators from the NTSB and the U.S. Coast Guard, and engineers from the U.S. Navy and Phoenix International, the operator of CURV-21, will be aboard USNS Apache when it departs in early July for the accident site near the Bahamas."

Thanks for trying to get this back on track.

As for the last 40 posts over 2 days...
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Old 06-18-2016, 12:37 PM   #111
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The company's press office was indeed mixed up about who is in charge. That little phrase is the sort of red herring that you conspiracy types like to glom onto.

The predicted path of the storm tells the story and explains why the Captain elected to take the windward side. Taken in retrospect...a string of bad decisions, no question. He will be taken to task in a big way. So will many others. That does not mean the Captain was pressured by the company in any way. Pure conjecture on your part.

People like you will take every little action by every member of the crew to second guess and twist things to meet your agenda. That father knows there's a feeding frenzy waiting to tear into his son's legacy.
Not conjecture. I know that the competitor went via Old Bahama Channel. Several of my companies 3 and 4 year old units went weatherbound in Miami and Canaveral.

Often the office is 'arm chair quarterbacking' from their desk. It happens. If you either don't believe it, or (more likely) are trying to change public opinion via blog posts then your credibility is suspect.

In a two generation past container company that did this run (until put out of business by Crowley Trailer Train) NavierasDePuertorico was employing two friends of mine. I heard how cut throat the competition is/was. The decision to GO GO GO is tantamount to keeping market share. Think this is the first time this has happened??

Crowley barge runs aground off Virginia after tow lines part - Professional Mariner - October/November 2009

Now for the truth. The Captain of the Tug asked (begged) to be allowed to go into Chesapeake bay for shelter from the storm. Crowley denied him this option. He was 'told' by those people who you hold in high esteem to stay at sea, heave to if necessary, but try to make Delaware Bay. This back and forth went on for two days, asking (pleading) for permission to enter Chesapeake Bay for a lee. Yeah. You're right. This sort of arm chair quarterbacking never happens...... ha ha ha ha.

I know what I would do if I was in that situation. I would have headed into Chesapeake Bay , then I would have looked for a better job.

What law firm do you work for by the way?
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Old 06-18-2016, 12:43 PM   #112
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One more time, nobody is suggesting that an investigation not be pursued. The point under discussion is very specific. Exactly what benefit could come from the tapes, and is it worth the expense of a major recovery effort. Knowing what they had in hand, the NTSB initially decided that it wouldn't be worth the effort/cost. Something made them change their mind....that would be pressure from somewhere...likely liability lawyers, politicians and the media. So far no one here has explained how anything they could personally dream up about possible information on either the voice or data tape could impact the future safety of the shipping industry. Lot's of "mights" and we don't knows, and maybes, but not one plausible example.
That is just one possible reason for why they decided to try to do the recovery. Not naturally being a cynic, or someone that gravitates towards conspiracy theories, the first thing that comes to my mind is that they likely found they hit a wall in their investigation. In other words, they decided they weren't able to come to solid, fact based conclusions without the added information. Since the NTSB as an organization hates any type of ambiguity, they are trying to get that additional information. I could easily be wrong however.

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In any case the (wrong) decision has been made. I've just sent letters to my Congressman, Senator, the GAO, and Sixty Minutes asking them to take a close look behind the scenes at what's driving the relaunch of this effort. What made the NTSB change their mind.
I think it is great that you are actively pursuing this with your elected officials. I also happen to think that you are jumping to conclusions based on assumptions that are colored by your own political views and biases. I also am making assumptions based on my own biases, but I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the professionals at the NTSB who actually have the information that we don't.
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Old 06-18-2016, 02:04 PM   #113
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Semi-planing has his blinders on. Even if a smoking gun came to light, and regulations changed to make things better for the mariners, he still wouldn't agree with us.

There is no.speculation, the office in so many words said sail or pack your bags. You don't have to believe it, but I live it. Your examples of trucking vs being a PROFESSIONAL mariner are laughable, and you're opinion about it being a waist of time and money doesn't line up with the majority of people.
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Old 06-18-2016, 03:36 PM   #114
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There is no.speculation, the office in so many words said sail or pack your bags. You don't have to believe it, but I live it.
You also have your blinders on. While I agree with your interpretation of the industry, neither you nor I know what was done in this situation. We can't prove that TOTE did the same as the office you live with. Now, I do believe they will ultimately be held culpable for their actions or their inaction, but I'm going to wait for the NTSB to investigate before declaring my beliefs as facts. However, I'm one who believes in corporate responsibility for the actions of all their employees and for the safety of all.

I will state as fact what you're saying and that is that many employers apply considerable pressure. I'll equally state that regardless of your employer's pressure, you're still as a captain responsible for your own actions.

I'll take it far out of this industry to Arthur Andersen and Enron. There were accountants within Arthur Andersen who felt extreme pressure to look the other way and did so. I'm glad the company was held accountable, but I also hold the accountants responsible for their actions as well.

Now, that investigation changed the accounting industry greatly. Rest assured the other members of what once was the Big Eight and is now the Big Four (or Final Four as I like to call them), reformed in many ways and many accountants learned lessons the hard way.

We can only hope people learn from a tragedy like El Faro. Sometimes though the only way they learn is to be forced to do so as a result of investigations.

Ultimately safety in the industry is only possible when both the company and the captain have the full right to say "no" without repercussions and supported by the other. Boat captains need to feel as empowered to say no as airline pilots do.

But these are industry issues and even if they're fully in play, we don't yet know the facts regarding El Faro.
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Old 06-18-2016, 03:58 PM   #115
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Whooaaaahhh....


to be fair....


Semi-planning wasn't a truck driver...that was nodestination.....

Semi-planning I don't think is critical of everything in the investigation....just the data recorder recovery.


While I don't agree that the recorder recovery is that big a deal or his view of how and why the USCG gets budgeted....I can see his point.
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Old 06-18-2016, 04:01 PM   #116
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I have been debating whether to join in this jousting between the professionals vs the 'I know how things really are' posters. Really, you really really have no idea what life is like for a professional mariner today. Nor have you any idea when, why and how NTSB investigations must be carried out. My whole working life of 44 years to date has been devoted to being a professional mariner, a Salvage Master, a marine surveyor and a consultant to NTSB in special marine cases. I was asked to join the El Faro investigation but declined because I have been having heart issues and had a medical procedure scheduled.

I can give an anecdote that might shed light on the company involvement on shipboard management. If you think the captain is king, forget about it. His role has been relegated to that of an administrative manager.

I got called late one evening and asked to urgently attend as Salvage Master aboard a fully loaded inbound suezmax tanker that had grounded in the Mississippi River near Head of Passes. Because of the high winds, the vessel had been turned around until it was jammed broadside to the river creating somewhat of a natural dam. The anchor had been dropped in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the ship from grounding. As a result the chain passed under the hull and broaching of the hull was a distinct possibility.

The USCG had halted traffic in that section of the river and the economic pressure was building. The owner was a well respected large tanker operator out of Singapore and I had worked for them on a few earlier situations and held their confidence.

I arrived about 11pm and the weather was wild and windy with rain squalls. I rode around the ship and collected water depth data. The river was running about 5-6 knots. I climbed aboard and was escorted to the navigation bridge where I was introduced to the captain, a tall Indian fellow who barely shook my hand as he was distracted by a conversation with a cell phone in his ear. I heard him say into the phone that the salvage master had arrived. I introduced myself to the Chief Officer and get a very good briefing on the situation. I worked up a plan and gave it to the ranking USCG officer on board who called it in and got approval from the local command. This all took about three hours. During this time the Captain never spoke to me as he was carrying out a continual conversation on his phone. Six large harbor tugs showed up and I instructed the crew where to make them fast. I started to maneuver the ship using the ships main engine, rudder and tugs while transferring ballast and cargo internally within the ship. It was a delicate process. After about 20 minutes we started to slowly slide off the bank and I had all tugs on full power trying to swing the bow to stem the river while recovering the anchor.

At this point the captain walked up to me and handed me his phone. "what?" I barked at him. "The office would like to talk with you." Is all he said. I took the phone and just said my name. An oriental voice came on and said "Ahh Captain ..........., this is Captain Nam in Singapore and I am in the Situation Room in the Owners office. There are six of us here. We are watching your position on the AIS screen here and it looks to us like you are getting very close to the West Bank." I looked at the phone incredulously then looked at the ships Captain. I said into the phone "thanks" and snapped it closed and gave it back to the captain. He panicked and immediately started redialing the international call.

I went back to controlling the ship. We were nowhere close to the West Bank. 10 minutes later we were in the center of the channel heading upstream at 6 knots. I let go the tugs and passed the operational command to the pilot. During this whole process the Captain was not involved with the planning or carrying out of the evolution and he had been constantly in communications with the superintendents and managers in Singapore who also contributed nothing to the plan.

So, the owners control their captains very closely. I have seen this over and over. This tale was of a good owner with a good reputation. Their superintendents have seagoing experience. Many managers in other companies do not. But nothing happens without their knowledge and approval. And often they make decisions that the Captain has to carry out against his better judgement.

That's just the way it is now with the advent if rapid communication. The days of the captain in command of his own ship has gone the way of the steam turbine. Antiquated, rare and considered to be inefficient.


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Old 06-18-2016, 05:49 PM   #117
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Unique scenario. I don't see a situation like this as an example of undue company meddling.

Actually, I have over twenty years experience dealing with NTSB from field level (your example) to headquarters. The decision to relaunch the previously rejected VDR recovery effort would have been made at headquarters. Another world. Good money consulting for them I bet.
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Old 06-18-2016, 06:20 PM   #118
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What law firm do you work for by the way?
No law firm, no politically motivated blogging, no consultant slant. Just two decades of experience with civil accident investigations and working with NTSB from the executive level to the field investigation. My considerable experience says someone is quarterbacking and arm twisting our friends at the NTSB. My experience says this VDR recovery effort will yield nothing of consequence to the safety of the shipping industry. Plenty of lessons from other data. My experience says the details of the actual sinking are of no consequence and will cause a lot of pain for a lot of people for no safety gain whatever. Lots of money will change hands. My experience says there will be nothing on the voice recording (if it's recovered) that will show the company was doing or saying anything but trying to help the Captain out of the predicament.

The decision regarding routing was ultimately the Captain's responsibility. If he was influenced before departure, it won't be on the tapes.

A wasted effort. Of course the press will jump on the recovery effort while it's happening and rah, rah the valiant efforts of the salvage crew....who are happy to be on the job as it helps with their budget. NTSB and the press will focus on the breakup and sinking data, and the slobbering public who delight in gory details will lap it all up. Will it improve safety. Nope. It's quite a pathetic joke (per my very educated experience). The commercial safety industry (big business) revels in this stuff. They'll find a way to make hay, and you, the citizenry will pay for it all.

Don't say I didn't tell you ten years from now when this all shakes out and the next similar accident happens. Can't legislate against....well you know.
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Old 06-18-2016, 06:23 PM   #119
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Semi-planing....

I'll go with what is fair...but you are equally as guilty at guessing things as the other half.

You have no idea what decisions were made by whom on the El Faro or the NTSB investigation.

You tell us we don't know but you magically do? And I doubt your experience level is any greater than mine at the field and headquarters level....maybe but your posts don't really show it.
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Old 06-18-2016, 07:27 PM   #120
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Coast Guard aviation accidents are few and far between and don't get anywhere near the political arena. Different world.


My posts are simply my opinion based on a civilian (and military) experience base that I assure you is more wide ranging than you or anyone else understands. (Sounds arrogant, and I don't mean it that way). Anyway, I've never said my posts are anything other than opinion based on experience. I don't give two hoots if anyone agrees. But government waste is an area were I have a keen interest...along with the safety process. They're often intertwined. I know how these things unfold and am attempting to expand some folks rather narrow view of how the government in all it's wisdom functions. You think the VDR has significant data....I say it will have the stuff of nightmares, heartbreak, and lawsuits...and virtually nothing in terms of advancing the safety agenda. Raising it will not be worth the safety payoff.

Over and out.
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