Six fatal crashes linked to small talk between pilots

Government records reveal that conversations between pilots may have played a crucial role in over half of serious plane accidents in the past decade. This includes casual talk between pilots just minutes before the Continental crash near Buffalo, NY when 50 people were killed last February.

On October 1, USA Today reported that the National Transportation Safety Board has cited transgressions of the "sterile cockpit rule" in six crashes since 2004. The regulation, put in place by the Federal Aviations Administration, requires that pilots do not engage in non-essential chitchat during critical parts of flights. Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt is quoted in the article as saying that "too many of these slips" are happening.

In one offense referenced in the article, pilots joked of telling passengers to "shut the (expletive) up" before descending too low and striking the ground, killing 11 of 13 passengers on a commuter plane in October 2004.

Similarly, in September 2008, a plane struck a building shortly after Great Lakes Airlines pilots were overheard "making chicken noises and talking in character as they taxied," according to USA Today. Although the plane suffered significant damage, no passengers were injured.

In an August 2006 crash that killed 49 people in Lexington, Kentucky, pilots were also recorded chitchatting while taxiing. As the pilots discussed job applicants for 30 seconds, the Comair jet attempted to take off on the wrong runway. Only one passenger onboard survived.

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