Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lack of Closure

Last night Brett and I watched the last two episodes of the second season of Lost. As expected there were no answers that weren’t just more questions. Our interest in what happens next and why didn’t extend past the closing credits. I suspect that that is something that Lost will struggle with as time goes on; there is no closure, no real explanation. In a TV show, that makes for a dissatisfying experience and will ultimately put people off.

If you want answers, you may as well skip the next few series and just watch the final one – which begs the question, if no-one’s watches the next few series except the diehard fans, will they actually get to make a final series?? Since it’s all fictional, it doesn’t really matter what ‘the answers’ are anyway. As a TV show, it’s not especially profound and nor is it especially entertaining it’s just hour after hour of televised procrastination. Let’s just not bother!

On the subject of lack of closure; my eye was caught by a headline in one the free evening newspapers that are now being thrust at you on every street corner. The headline was to the effect of “Jumbo Jet dives towards central London!” and reported an incident with an El Al 747 in January this year. The article in the paper was actually pretty poorly written and could easily have been a cut-and-paste job from an AAIB press release. The essence of the incident was that the plane was approaching Heathrow over London and the autopilot appeared to receive bad information from the ground-based guidance system which caused it to descend far more steeply than it needed to. Left unchecked the autopilot would have flown the plane into the ground somewhere in central/south London but the crew realised the behaviour was abnormal and disengaged the autopilot, eventually performing a manual landing. No fault was found with the ground-based systems, nor with the systems on the plane, so no real conclusion could be drawn from the incident.

At a risk of pulling conspiracy theories out of thin air, I was reminded of a novel I once read about someone who manages to interfere with ground-based navigational systems used by commercial jetliners and then holds the airlines to ransom by threatening to crash planes. It’s hardly a big conceptual leap from that to just crashing the planes without bothering with the ransom; it certainly saves you the trouble of getting groups of suitably-equipped hijackers past current airport security if you can get the autopilot to do your dirty work instead.

It seems to be a one-off incident, but the fact that no fault was found with the ILS on the ground and nothing conclusive was found in the plane’s systems makes you wonder at what could have been the cause…

The AAIB report is available here if you’re interested in reading the full thing (only three pages.)

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