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Technical

A thoughtful analysis of the NTSB report of the SpaceShipTwo accident

This article in Flying magazine gives what I think is a very good analysis of the NTSB report of the unfortunate SpaceShipTwo accident.

I agree with the author when he states

The NTSB chose to find that the cause of the SpaceShipTwo crash was not the inexplicable action of the copilot, but rather the failure of engineers … to anticipate and forestall it.

It is not possible for engineers to anticipate every possible mistake that a pilot can make, and it is unreasonable of the NTSB to have expected this. As the article notes

there were countless other actions that could have been fatal if performed incorrectly or omitted

The article further notes

Scaled could have built a safety lock into the feather-locking handle to prevent operating it while the spacecraft was in the transonic speed range. … But Scaled’s engineers would have considered that precaution no more necessary than a lock to prevent lowering the landing gear during the boost phase … {emphasis mine}

We need to trust in the skill of the pilots to do the “sensible” thing. According to the article, all at Scaled Composites were well aware of the dangers of early unlocking.

Nobody will ever know what triggered the co-pilot to premature unlock the feather system, but I do not believe that it is reasonable to have expected engineers to anticipate this event.

 

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