BCM210: “Kid in the cockpit” – Statistics and hard facts for the purpose of entertainment

Recently I have been getting into watching National Geographic’s Air Crash Investigations, and although the programme generally reports a simple story about the causes and occurrences of a crash, it is presented in a more engaging and surreal to an extent where you are presented with even the minute details which make the story more entertaining and interesting.

Many of the crashes documented on the series involve months or years of data collection and tests to come up with an answer, however one of the episodes that stood out to me is called “Kid in the Cockpit”. As the title suggests, an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Hong Kong went down in desolate Siberia after the captain of the flight allowed his two children into the cockpit and allowed them to ‘fly the plane’ (autopilot was on so there was seemingly no way to screw with the controls and stuff). However, after adjusting the plane’s forward heading to make them feel like they were turning the plane, the captain tended to his daughter while his son continued to fly the plane relatively unsupervised. Minutes later, he apparently accidentally disabled autopilot controls without realizing, and soon enough the aircraft was out of control from the pilots.

If you scan through the episode I’m sure you will see a kid flying the plane and maybe flames, shocked investigators and people being flown around in the plane cabin.

Although the series obviously isn’t documented first hand, it has summarized primary findings and data into a condensed secondary source of information about the crash. Particularly with an unusual crash investigated in “Kid in the Cockpit”, finding the causes of the crash were generally simple, due to data and cockpit voice recorders capturing virtually every step and error on the flight, which is expressed as secondary data in the programme that is “based of eyewitness accounts and finding of the investigators”.

No new evidence is revealed in “Kid in the Cockpit”. The purpose of Air crash investigation is more simply to reconstruct primary evidence into a condensed recount that answers the curiosity of those who are interested in shocking events like these, aided with dramatizations and re-enactments to not only give a ‘first-hand’ engagement with the audience, but to use data and results in the most appealing and entertaining way possible. After all, National Geographic audiences are watching this for entertainment purposes or fulfilling curiosity. It is not a press release of what happened, it just amplifies what happened, as we may not have heard about the plane crash if it were never brought up.


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