Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The irresistable pull of irrational behavior

Commander Jacob Van Zanten, Head of Safety, KLM Airlines, one of their most experienced pilots, revered by his peers in the industry, could do no wrong. But, he did.

Having got diverted to Island of Tenerife because of a situation of La Palmes Airport, Canary Islands, Commander Zanten of KLM 4805 obsessed with several concerns. His mandated rest period kicked in 6 hours. There was no way a replacement crew could be flown into La Palmes to pick up the passengers for the return trip. A stay over would mean accomodating the passengers in a hotel overnight and huge loss to the airline. Besides, his cherished always on-time record was at risk. There was fog that was fast descending on the airport. Zanten threw all caution to the wind (most surprising for the Safety Head of an airline) and took off in thick fog without clearance for take-off from Air Traffic Control. To his horrow, 500 metres into his run, visibility being near zero, he spied a little too late a 747 parked on the runway (obviously lost in the fog). Too late to stop and too early to take-off, he attempted a take-off all the same and did not quite make it over the parked 747. Over 300 died in the flaming inferno that ensued.

I know of many instances in my life when I have been the victim of the irresistable pull of irrational behaviour.

To be cont'd.

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