Some thoughts on causes

While I have a view that the search for causes is somewhat futile and the effort is misplaced, I am nevertheless interested in the reality of this.  What if a number of people were asked to independently look at the reports that are so readily available on the web about the Concorde disaster and see what they thought the cause(s) was(were)?  How similar might the responses be?  I had this opportunity with a group of students recently (group size 33), and the responses were as follows:

 

Assigned Cause

 Number

Maintenance at Continental Airlines

15

Fuel tank design

7

French CAA action/inaction/inadequate action

5

Airport foreign object damage control

4

Crew error

4

Fire

1

Fuel leak

1

Metal strip

1

Aircraft design (Concorde)

1

Overload

1

Other

6

TOTAL

52

The categorisation of these response is my own. I included the following in the Other category, although some of them could be added to crew error.

Flying too slowly

Safety not the first priority

Safety inspections not completed

Tailwind take-off

Running over a part at high speed

Lack of care.

Given the nature of the task, I don’t attach too much weight to these results.  It does make me start to think how a proper study could be conducted into this generally accepted truism, that we must look for causes, to provide some scientific justification or otherwise for the view.

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