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Old 05-02-2018, 09:55 PM   #1
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Recent Vanity Fair Article about the El Faro

Forgive me if this has already been posted, but this article was published in Vanity Fair about a month ago, and I just read it.

As a merchant mariner, this is the stuff of nightmares.

Please note, the investigation has been handled by professionals already. As the article states, it's easy for us to look back with all the information and say 'well that was stupid,' but at the end of the day, we weren't there, and no amount of arguing can change what happened. I don't want to start an angry debate by posting this, rather I want to remember those who were lost, and honor them by learning from the mistakes that were made.
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Old 05-03-2018, 12:46 AM   #2
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Dave, Speed reading it was bad enough. Chilling, even as it is written. Especially for someone like you in a similar role. I think you are right, learning from it seems the only positive; unfortunately that requires reading it.
I hope others respect and share your approach.
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Old 05-03-2018, 12:34 PM   #3
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Dave, Speed reading it was bad enough. Chilling, even as it is written. Especially for someone like you in a similar role. I think you are right, learning from it seems the only positive; unfortunately that requires reading it.
I hope others respect and share your approach.
Yeah, it's not an easy read. I read it in my office aboard ship as we steamed down Lake Michigan, and it really made my guts churn. Hearing people just like me in that situation is really awful.

It was a really well written article though. It really highlighted the personalities of some of the crew. It was a nice tribute in that regard, I think. I also like how the author didn't just lazily blame any one person or part of the organization. They recognized all of the small errors, failures, and misjudgments that make up the chain of events that led them there. The blame was borne by all who deserved it.

I guess I shared it here because I don't know where else to. I certainly can't post that to facebook for my family to read...
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Old 05-03-2018, 02:04 PM   #4
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I gave it a full read too. Thanks for posting. Well written indeed.

One thought came to mind during the read: Putting the ship into storm conditions puts cargo at risk. Shifting, water damage, even salt spray on vehicles. Any of that is going to irritate customers and possibly cost the shipping company. Seems like just for that reason alone the fuel cost and delay from taking the longer route would have been worthwhile even if storm stayed a cat 1.

Lesson: Keep away from storms if possible!!
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Old 05-03-2018, 05:54 PM   #5
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It was a really well written article though. It really highlighted the personalities of some of the crew. It was a nice tribute in that regard, I think. I also like how the author didn't just lazily blame any one person or part of the organization. They recognized all of the small errors, failures, and misjudgments that make up the chain of events that led them there. The blame was borne by all who deserved it.
I second the recommendation to read this; I did so back when it came out.

William Langewiesche is one of the few (only?) non-political/editorial writers whose by-line I always follow. He is a journalist of rare talent and experience. This story is sobering, educational, and dispassionate and honest as you described.

The reason I ran across it when it came out is that on the same day, I was linking his past article on the space shuttle Columbia disaster to a some class notes for an AP Engineering class I was covering (not the regular teacher, just covering an absence). That is also a fascinating read. It is here:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...flight/304204/

I started reading him when he worked at The Atlantic, back when it was worth subscribing too (sorry for the jibe). As a note, he was a professional pilot before a working journalist and what gives him a sensitivity to complex systems and causalities, and an aversion to writing sensationalistic “blame game” stories. And it’s in the blood. His dad Wolfgang Langeweische was a well-known test pilot, journalist for Flying, and the author of the legendary Stick and Rudder primer for pilots.

“I guess I shared it here because I don't know where else to. I certainly can't post that to facebook for my family to read...”

Actually, that is not a bad thought. Do it. I read about air and maritime disasters not in a morbid way, but to teach myself to think about systems, causalisty, and event-chains (“swiss cheese” theory) so I don’t end up in one. And this works in everyday life, too. Yesterday I was in an impromptu/unexpected meeting where I watched two admistrators totally talk past each other, wanting the same outcome but misunderstanding each other (one Hispanic, one English). As their mutual tension And misunderstanding grew, I stepped in and shifted the discussion to de-conflict. This was a totally non-life threatening issue. But being able to identify mis-communication and set ego aside is a valuable skill and it could help your friends and family in many ways.

Check out that Columbia article, too.
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Old 05-03-2018, 06:50 PM   #6
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If my training is correct....

the swiss chhese theoury of accidents was a major factor in showing that the chain theory is flawed often enough.

an acccident "chain" can be broken and an accident may still occur.

Naval Aviation got really hot on the human factors, swisss cheese model in the mid to late 90s.

Getting old time safety and command officers to embrace it and the new Risk Management directives were a bit of a struggle.
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Old 05-03-2018, 07:09 PM   #7
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I started reading him when he worked at The Atlantic, back when it was worth subscribing too (sorry for the jibe). As a note, he was a professional pilot before a working journalist and what gives him a sensitivity to complex systems and causalities, and an aversion to writing sensationalistic “blame game” stories. And it’s in the blood. His dad Wolfgang Langeweische was a well-known test pilot, journalist for Flying, and the author of the legendary Stick and Rudder primer for pilots.
That explains a lot, actually. His understanding of the subject matter led me to believe he'd had some sort of bridge/cockpit resource management experience.

I'll definitely be looking into more of his writing, starting with the article you posted. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's fascinated by investigations like this.
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Old 05-04-2018, 01:28 PM   #8
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If my training is correct....

the swiss chhese theoury of accidents was a major factor in showing that the chain theory is flawed often enough.
You are correct and I was imprecise in my statement above, I should have put an “and” or “or” in there. I implied equivalency when I didn’t mean to. To be 100% honest, we had some drinks w/dinner last night, which is not common, and I was not as careful with writing or proofreading as I should have been!

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who's fascinated by investigations like this.
Yes, it can seem morbid but it’s highly educational. I am really thankful for the dedicated engineers at places like the NTSB, Boeing, etc. who are passionate about safety and make this their life’s work. A forum I have read a long time is PPRUNE - where a lot of aviation professionals disect issues like this (as well as other things) in order to learn.
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Old 06-13-2018, 11:29 AM   #9
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Recommend “Into the Raging Sea” by Rachel Slade. Well written.
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Old 06-18-2018, 12:21 PM   #10
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Appreciate you posting that, Dave. The author (didn't appreciate that William was the progeny of the Stick and Rudder Langewiesche) does a great job of presenting how seemingly mundane issues and decisions can affect low probability but high consequence events.
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