The Politics of Aircraft Investigation and Innovation

Lattari, Daniel, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Dong, Haibo, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, University of Virginia
Quinlan, Jesse, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

Since its inception in 1914, the commercial aviation industry has revolutionized the way in which society functions today. In the United States alone, nearly 1.7 million passengers entrust their lives to the engineering feats of aviation every day. According to the Department of Transportation, air travel is the safest mode of transportation. However, this is in large part due to the mistakes which have been made over the past century and the ways in which they’ve been resolved. Whenever a tragedy involving aircraft occurs, two things are sure to follow: an investigation and innovation. Yet, with these there are intrinsic politics not too dissimilar from that which may be experienced in the House of Representatives or the Senate. When a billion dollar industry is met with a death toll: lobbyists, corruption, and red herring will, and have, undertaken the justice system. Despite this, aircraft have been shaped by these disasters, making the skies safer for all who fly today. So what are these politics? And how have they led to the safest transportation network enjoyed by modern society? These questions are crucial to understanding the diffusion of not just aircraft into society, but any technology that holds human life in its hands. This thesis will explore these questions and discuss how the tragedies that have occurred in the commercial aviation field have led to the innovations which make flying reliable today. Through three decisive incidents, the Boeing 737 Max incidents, Zagreb mid-air collision, and Alaska Airlines Flight 261, the political nature of aircraft investigations, and the improvements made to commercial aircraft through them will be apparent.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Aircraft, Innovation, Investigation, Politics, AIAA Technical Challenge, Boeing 737 Max Crashes, Zagreb Mid-Air Collision, Alaska Airlines Flight 261
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