Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Planes Crash: An insider’s take on the aviation industry

David Soucie, former FAA investigator and author of the bestselling memoir, ‘Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator Fights for Safe Skies,’ is currently at work on his next book. 
Summit Daily/Erica Marciniec

Friday, August 31, 2012

By Karina Wetherbee
Summit Daily

Anyone who has ever been in an airplane, high over farmland tapestries or turbulent ashen gray waters, knows that unique feeling of surrender, when one gives over one’s fate to another, trusting in the skills of a well-trained pilot and the safety of a masterfully-built aircraft. At the same time, given this same scenario, a frequent flier knows the occasional feeling of doubt about whether or not all the pertinent mechanical systems have been checked and all airline employees well rested.

Some say that ignorance is bliss, that too much information can lead to increased anxiety, but others are firm believers that information and transparency are what keep systems running smoothly.

They’re goals that David Soucie, former aviation industry executive and author of “Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator Fights for Safe Skies,” spent a career fighting for, in an effort to ensure aviation safety.

A Colorado native and current resident of Summit County, David Soucie knows a bit about things that fly and even more about things that should fly, but fail to. In his memoir, the author documents his own trajectory from cocky and youthful airplane and helicopter mechanic to an airline safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration, an organization that, according to Soucie, has often been its own worst enemy when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness.

“Airplane safety — what people don’t know could kill them,” Soucie determined after 30 years in the industry, an opinion supported in his book by numerous stories of outdated decisions, cut corners and overlooked errors that led to dramatic accidents with tragic outcomes.

After watching several colleagues perish due to preventable hazards, Soucie made the conscious decision that what the aviation industry needed was more inter-agency collaboration. In “Why Planes Crash,” he claims that the Federal Aviation Administration suffers from the age-old problem that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, and often doesn’t care.

Soucie documents the steps he took to increase safety, which too often is pushed aside for profit. While struggling to maintain a normal family life with a new wife and a young child, Soucie’s career took him far afield from Colorado to Oklahoma, Washington D.C. and Hawaii. Through a series of tragedies and his efforts to determine their root causes, he ultimately came to develop a technology-based information-sharing network to help airlines, mechanics and regulating bodies utilize data for informed decision-making.

Despite the heavy use of mind-numbing acronyms so rampant in government agencies, the book makes for a good layperson’s read, with important messages hung on Soucie’s captivating life stories.

In a world where air travel is cheaper and more commonplace than ever before, Soucie’s “Why Planes Crash” reminds us that our watchdog agencies often walk a fine line between operational tools benefiting society’s needs and bloated departments bent on justifying their own existences.

As Soucie states, “I came to believe that the willingness of airlines and manufacturers to sacrifice safety for profit was the root cause of accidents. There was a nonprofit version of this insight as well, as practiced by the FAA. The FAA routinely sacrificed aviation safety in favor of promoting aviation.” Think on that the next time you head to airport — or not. After all, ignorance is bliss.

A Denver Post bestseller, “Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator Fights for Safe Skies” was authored by Soucie with Ozzie Cheek and released in October, 2011. Soucie lectures on the topic of choice in corporate and organizational decision-making. He is currently at work on a new book. For more info, visit

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