The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Flight 1549 Follow Up

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 24, 2009

A few days ago I wrote a post about conspiracy theories related to last week’s story about U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crash-landing into the Hudson River (see “Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo).

In that post I argued that it was entirely possible that bird-strikes could have brought down the plane, and this hypothesis was consistent with reports from the pilot about hitting a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. Well, it seems there is yet more evidence supporting the bird-strike hypothesis. Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story about new evidence uncovered by the NTSB, and here are some key excerpts:

The National Safety Transportation Safety Board yesterday said an external examination of the plane’s right engine revealed evidence of “soft body impact” damage on fan blades. The agency said its review showed that internal engine parts were either significantly damaged or missing.

John Cox, a former US Airways pilot and former safety investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association, said results of the engine probe so far were consistent with a bird striking the engine fan, damaging metal pieces that then broke loose. The pieces were pulled deeper inside the engine, causing further damage, he said.

The NTSB said the organic material was found inside the engine, on the plane’s wings and on other parts of the plane. Additionally, investigators found a single feather attached to a part known as a flap track of one of the plane’s wings.

So the bird-strike hypothesis seems more and more likely to be the explanation for the engine failure which led to Flight 1549’s desperation landing in the Hudson River. Now, allow me to take a moment to compare and contrast the methodologies employed by those who actually use critical thinking and those who are spinning conspiracy theories.

Those who are rigorously investigating this disaster are very frugal in their approach, making sure to look for evidence in a very deliberate & systematic manner. All hypotheses are considered, but once they are found to be in contradiction to the facts available, they are discarded or revised – this is common in the scientific method of investigation.

For example, I was supporting the bird-strike hypothesis in my earlier post. To test this hypothesis for validity, we would expect – upon further analysis of the engines – to see physical evidence that is consistent with bird-strikes on airplanes. And, according to recent news reports, this is indeed what we see (including feathers in the engine!). This gives us greater confidence that bird-strikes had something to do with the downing of Flight 1549.

Now, let’s look at the “reasoning” of conspiracy theorists – like those at the David Icke Forum. Much of their argumentation rests upon being suspicious of “coincidences”, making arguments from ignorance (“The NWO could be responsible for this, we just don’t know”), selective thinking, confirmation bias, and basically outright ignoring or dismissing any evidence contrary to their claims. In short, the CTists use anything to justify their worldview that…

conspiracy

As such, CT-thinking is non-falsifiable. And ideas which are not falsifiable are clearly unscientific; yet, ironically, many CTists claim to be employing science in making their arguments. This is a classic mark of what skeptics call pseudoscience.

In closing I’ll refer you to a great blog entry and discussion on this topic over at the SkepticBlog.org – the entry is titled “The US Airways Hudson River Conspiracy” and Brian Dunning deals with other aspects of the CTist claims that I have not yet addressed. Check it out.

5 Responses to “Flight 1549 Follow Up”

  1. jtormey3 said

    O’Reilly’s and Geraldo’s reporting last night made it clear that the cause was defective engines as opposed to goose-strike. There were FOUR Airworthiness Directives issued on that engine, and the same plane’s engines exploded on the same exact air-route 2 days prior to the Hudson River landing. It wasn’t a conspiracy of terrorists. Rather, it was aeromercantalist greed keeping a plane a

  2. jtormey3 said

    … a plane and its engines in service while the airline full well knew it was dangerous.

    You believe geese brought that plane down? Really? Was that before or after a band of ducks got together at a 12-seat table in Switzerland and decided Obama should be President? Seriously.

    • mattusmaximus said

      jtormey3 said:

      O’Reilly’s and Geraldo’s reporting last night made it clear that the cause was defective engines as opposed to goose-strike. There were FOUR Airworthiness Directives issued on that engine, and the same plane’s engines exploded on the same exact air-route 2 days prior to the Hudson River landing.

      Well, I was able to find this story from CNN about the previous incident with that plane. It seems that the right engine of that flight suffered from compressor stall, a not uncommon problem with in-flight jet engines. For you to describe this incident as the engines having “exploded” is a gross over-exaggeration, at best. Here’s what the article said…

      Pilots and aviation officials said that a compressor stall results from insufficient air getting into the engine and that multiple stalls could result in engine damage. However, the officials said, a momentary compressor stall may be less serious and could be corrected in flight by simply restarting the engine.

      So, long story short, the engine stalled in mid-flight and it was restarted – problem solved. Then, after landing, the required maintenance was performed on the engine, as has been noted.

      jtormey3 said:

      It wasn’t a conspiracy of terrorists. Rather, it was aeromercantalist greed keeping a plane and its engines in service while the airline full well knew it was dangerous.

      Really? And you have evidence for this claim, or are you doing what most CTists do and just make things up that fit your worldview?

      jtormey3 said:

      You believe geese brought that plane down? Really? Was that before or after a band of ducks got together at a 12-seat table in Switzerland and decided Obama should be President? Seriously.

      You should see my earlier post, “Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo, which very clearly outlines that bird-strikes can, and do, bring down commercial jetliners all the time. This is a very well-documented fact, and for you to dismiss it – especially in light of the new evidence I mentioned in my post above – out of hand is a good illustration of the cherry-picking done all the time by conspiracy kooks. Thanks for the lesson.

  3. jojo said

    There’s a video of a passenger saying he heard an “explosion” here’s another good site with freaky 1549 video http://www.youtube.com/mojavemusic

  4. Preexroli said

    Maaaan, you know there is such thing in the web like search engine, http://google.com if you don’t, go there to understand why this post is bullshit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: