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From: shafer@ferhino.dfrc.nasa.gov (Mary Shafer)
Subject: Re: QUOTES- Aviation related
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 22:03:05 GMT

On Thu, 11 Jan 1996 15:53:28 -0800, Brian varine <varine@ece.orst.edu> said:

Brian> I remember ROTFL on a post a while back where Mary Shafer said
Brian> something like

Brian> "Absolute safety is for those people without the balls to
Brian> accept reality" or something to that effect.

Brian> How about correcting me on this one?

I wrote, "Insisting on absolute safety is for people who don't have
the balls to live in the real world."  

It appeared on sci.space or sci.space.shuttle in 1989 or 1990 during
one of the cyclical "why did NASA blow up the shuttle" threads or on
rec.military during a "how dare those pilots crash the taxpayers'
airplanes" thread, also a cyclical thread.  I had gotten to a point of
complete exasperation when I wrote this.

Here's the whole thing:

   But, no matter what you do, it will never be perfectly, 100% risk-free
   to fly.  Or to drive, or to walk, or to do anything.

   One of our pilots here died when he waited too long to eject from a
   spinning aircraft.  He was wrong; he should have jumped out earlier.
   He failed in his duty, IMO.

   One of our engineers was walking his dog when a car driven by a kid
   jumped the curb and hit him.  Only his leg was broken.  But he walks
   his dog again, now.  Who know better than him the danger?

   There's no way to make life perfectly safe; you can't get out of it alive.

   You can't even predict every danger.  How can you guard against a hazard
   you can't even conceive of?

   I agree that the days of "kick the tires and light the fires" are gone,
   but insisting on perfect safety is the single most reliable way of 
   killing an aerospace project.

   I've been on both sides of the FRR (Flight Readiness Review) process
   for a number of aeronautical projects.  Experienced engineers try to
   think of everything that can go wrong.  But airplanes can still
   surprise the best team.  

   I've had to sign a form, certifying that to the best of my knowledge
   everything that we're going to do on a flight is safe.  I've never
   seriously asked myself "What will I say to the AIB (Accident
   Investigation Board)" because once one starts on that, the form will
   never be signed, the flight will never be flown, and the research will
   never be done.  

   But I have asked myself "Have I told everybody exactly what we're
   going to do and what the _known_ risks are and are we agreed that
   these risks are acceptable" and when I can answer that "yes" I sign
   the form.  That also answers the question of what I'd say to the AIB.

   I'm not talking about abstract theories here, I'm talking about test
   pilots that I've known for decades.  Believe me, I _know_ exactly what
   the consequences of a mistake on my part could mean.  The reminders
   are all around me: Edwards AFB--killed in the XB-49, Lilly
   Ave--first NASA pilot killed at what's now Dryden, Love Rd--I _saw_
   Mike's burning F-4 auger into the lakebed, with him in it.  But once 
   I've done my best, like everybody else on the team, it's time to go
   fly the airplane.

   Insisting on perfect safety is for people who don't have the balls to
   live in the real world.

--
Mary Shafer               NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA
SR-71 Flying Qualities Lead Engineer     Of course I don't speak for NASA 
shafer@ferhino.dfrc.nasa.gov                               DoD #362 KotFR   
URL http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/People/Shafer/mary.html

 
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