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twittering disaster
December 30, 2008 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Mike Wilson, on a continental 737 flight, twittered his plane crash almost as it happened. See his feed starting here.
posted by sdn (61 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
It is not known what the cause of the accident was.

Probably some douchebag who ignored the order to "Please turn off and stow all electronic devices."
posted by dersins at 10:37 AM on December 30, 2008 [49 favorites]


It wasn't quite "almost as it happened." He says so himself:

Just to clarify, I was NOT tweeting from inside a burning plane. My first tweet wasn't sent until I was safely away from the plane
posted by brain_drain at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2008


I thought about this earlier today, if I was in a plane going down, assuming I was conscious and my cellphone worked, twitter would be the quickest way to say goodbye to family and friends.
posted by SirOmega at 10:46 AM on December 30, 2008


Booo! Where are his priorities, anyhow???
posted by LordSludge at 10:47 AM on December 30, 2008


Probably some douchebag who ignored the order to "Please turn off and stow all electronic devices."

Mythbusters says differently...and he still waited until he got off the plane.
posted by Alison at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Damn, I was really hoping he was the pilot.
posted by bondcliff at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2008


I'm tweeting myself reading this post. Now I'm tweeting myself tweeting. Now I'm...
posted by blue_beetle at 10:57 AM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


The NYT blog The Lede has a little more information about this including the fact that his first update was once he was out of the plane. It wasn't a crash (as in falling out of sky stuff) so much as a dramatic skidding off runway and fire which made people have to evacuate in a damned fast hurry. Reading back the tweets is pretty interesting stuff, especially since 1) no one died so this isn't a "tragedy" per se, just a very very scary event 2) most people aren't in any frame of mind to communicate via "normal" channels when something like this happens. Who knew they kept you captive in the fancy lounge?
posted by jessamyn at 10:59 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who wishes that a slightly less hideously irritating neoligism had been coined to describe the activities connoted by "twittering" and "tweeting?"
posted by killdevil at 11:00 AM on December 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


I just rewatched that episode last week and that myth wasn't exactly busted. Even the link says "Their busting showed that interference was possible, but only if the wiring wasn't properly shielded." That sounds plausible to me. I mean, if nothing is wrong with the plane it wouldn't crash at all, right? Improper shielding is something that can go wrong with a plane.

That's especially true since "The 800XP is a plush 8-person corporate jet filled with top-of-the-line LCD electronics." How many of the planes in public service have recent, "top-of-the-line" electronics?

A true busting of a myth, would be something like "eating yogurt on the ground can cause plane crashes". There's no plausible mechanism, plus it happens all the time and the plane is fine.
posted by DU at 11:00 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you can't fly without the use of a Boeing 737 you shouldn't be twittering.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:02 AM on December 30, 2008 [8 favorites]


Neologism... stupid iPhone keyboard.
posted by killdevil at 11:02 AM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I fly a lot on older Twin Otter twinprops (which presumably are not top-of-the-line) and pilots have told me that cellphones do not interfere with the plane's electronics systems. Cellphones need to be turned off to comply with transport regulations, and that's it.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on December 30, 2008


That's especially true since "The 800XP is a plush 8-person corporate jet filled with top-of-the-line LCD electronics." How many of the planes in public service have recent, "top-of-the-line" electronics?

What's the difference between "top of the line" electronics and old junk from the mid-90s? as far as response to interference? Lots of planes have LCD panels, they used to put phones in the back seats, etc.
posted by delmoi at 11:08 AM on December 30, 2008


pilots have told me...

...a myth that needs busting.

I'm not saying it's false. I'm not saying it's true. I'm saying that episode was not definitive and no amount of FOAF hearsay changes that.
posted by DU at 11:11 AM on December 30, 2008


Am I the only one who wishes that a slightly less hideously irritating neoligism had been coined to describe the activities connoted by "twittering" and "tweeting?"

They're obnoxious words for something that's obnoxious. Sounds right to me.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:12 AM on December 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Whoever was on the left side exit row, God bless him, was Johnny on the spot and instantly had the door open"

Yeah, that'd be because 'Johnny on the spot' wasn't concerned with updating his fuckin twitter account and had both hands free to actually do something.
posted by fatbaq at 11:13 AM on December 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


What's the difference between "top of the line" electronics and old junk from the mid-90s? as far as response to interference?

I know nothing, but wouldn't they now know about all the different frequencies etc used by wireless networking devices such as iPhones? I'd imagine this is why they just have a blanket policy of no wireless electronics on planes - the hassle of back-compatibility would be hideous. They probably also do things like code the transmission of all electronic signals to prevent casual interference.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:16 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm with you on that, fatbag. If my plane crashes my first priority is gonna be to GTFO.

Next he'll be twittering a play-by-play while he's banging his wife...
posted by jtoth at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2008


"Yeah, that'd be because 'Johnny on the spot' wasn't concerned with updating his fuckin twitter account and had both hands free to actually do something."

Yeah, that'd be because 'fatbaq' was so concerned making a fuckin comment that he or she opted not to read the thread first.
posted by bz at 11:22 AM on December 30, 2008 [8 favorites]


There is great beauty in internet commenters putting down internet commenters for commenting on the internet by commenting on the internet.
posted by srboisvert at 11:34 AM on December 30, 2008 [25 favorites]


What a twit!
posted by cmoj at 11:34 AM on December 30, 2008


God bless him, was Johnny on the spot and instantly had the door open

Luckily there was a conveniently placed porta-potty in the exit row so no one had to shit their pants.
posted by yeti at 11:55 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


so tired today i need another coffee 8:34am Sept 11th from web

boss just gave me more project - ugh!!1 8:40am Sept 11th from web

somthg just esploded upstairs - evryone is running around 8:46am Sept 11th from web

boss says to leave office- sweet!!! 8:51am Sept 11th from web

waiting 4 elevator now 8:55am Sept 11th from twitterific

stupid jen told me not to take elevator shes such a bitch 8:56am Sept 11th from twitterific

people knocking me down on stairs why so rush 8:59am Sept 11th from twitterific

too many stairs im beat tired 9:03am Sept 11th from twitterific

keep getting runinto during tweet - so annoying 9:05am Sept 11th from twitterific

finally outside going to get coffee 9:15am Sept 11th from twitterific

met cute fireman but he yelled at me to move-- jerk 9:39am Sept 11th from twitterific

annoying dust now - got my f**cking jacket dirty 10:06am Sept 11th from twitterific

cant update b/c run from bldgs, getting stepped on 10:08am Sept 11th from twitterific

saw jen again - she rolled eyes at me i hate her 10:53am Sept 11th from twitterific

back online lost signal- used time to update music ratings on phone 4:33pm Sept 11th from twitterific

heard somthing wierd happend at office like fire or somthing 4:55pm Sept 11th from twitterific

omg it was terrorirsts what a**holes 5:29pm Sept 11th from twitterific

seeing justin tonight but hes crabby lol 6:15pm Sept 11th from twitterific
posted by brain_drain at 11:59 AM on December 30, 2008 [20 favorites]


I don't know if it's just me or not, but I still am not ready for 9/11 humor.
posted by ericb at 12:01 PM on December 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


At the risk of repeating something that surely gets said a lot: instead of insisting that 300 people follow instructions, shouldn't they just make planes that don't fall out of the sky when someone accidentally leaves their cell phone on?
posted by danny the boy at 12:03 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I still am not ready for 9/11 humor.

Humor, I'd be ready for...
posted by dersins at 12:06 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


shouldn't they just make planes that don't fall out of the sky when someone accidentally leaves their cell phone on?

And how about that food, amirite?

Um... planes don't fall out of the sky when someone leaves a phone on. But they do have a lot of electronics in them, some of which are critical for flying, navigating, and communicating. And given that some electronics can occasionally interfere with some other electronics, and given that the results of some sort of interference during a flight can be so damn disastrous, and given that the majority of cell phone users, even though they might not be willing to admit it, can certainly go without the damn things for a couple of hours, and even though Mefi's own asavage or your friend's cousin's co-worker who knows a guy who flies Cessnas might say there isn't a problem, it's much easier for the FAA or The Man or whomever is in charge of such things to say "you know what, it's not worth the risk. Keep your damn phones off."

I just bought myself one of those mini R/C helicopters from ThinkGeek. But the damn thing sets off the fire alarm in my house every time I use it, even though as far as I know my fire alarms don't use any sort of radio anything. But it happens. It's the strangest thing. I really should be able to fly my stinkin' mini R/C helicopter in my house. Some sort of random interference. It's a good thing my house isn't flying 500mph at 30,000 feet.
posted by bondcliff at 12:12 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


pilots have told me that cellphones do not interfere with the plane's electronics systems.

Neither do laptops or ipods or blackberries (or sliding down the aisle balanced on a plastic tray during takeoff.) God I miss flying charters.
It drives me nuts when I get told to turn things off.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:13 PM on December 30, 2008


I have no evidence to back this up, but I have assumed for a while that the real reason for turning off devices during takeoff and landing is that those are the most dangerous moments in any flight, and in an emergency it would be good to have the people under your charge as free from distraction as is reasonably possible.
posted by crickets at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just rewatched that episode last week and that myth wasn't exactly busted.

The episode I saw said it depends how the plane takes off. If it starts on a treadmill, then it's going super fast when it finally takes off and can stay up. If not, you're screwed.
posted by inigo2 at 12:25 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


shouldn't they just make planes that don't fall out of the sky when someone accidentally leaves their cell phone on?

And why don't they just make the whole plane out of the stuff they make the black box with, RIGHT????
posted by inigo2 at 12:26 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Um... planes don't fall out of the sky when someone leaves a phone on. But they do have a lot of electronics in them, some of which are critical for flying, navigating, and communicating. And given that some electronics can occasionally interfere with some other electronics, and given that the results of some sort of interference during a flight can be so damn disastrous...

Well, firstly, this is unproven. Secondly, assuming it were true, again, why DON'T we shield those critical electronics from interference? Why are we leaving it up to the individual self control of the passenger? Or in actuality, relying on them not forgetting about the phone that they have stowed in the overhead bin?

If we thought it was not worth the risk, what that would actually mean (if we were reasonable people) is treating cellphones the way we currently treat moisture.

And if we were really being serious about this, all you'd have to do to take a plane down is load up a piece of checked luggage with a few hundred cell phones and call them all at takeoff.
posted by danny the boy at 12:26 PM on December 30, 2008




it would be good to have the people under your charge as free from distraction as is reasonably possible

I think that's correct. Same reason as why they want the shades up and turn off the (alleged) entertainment.

(Watching "Kitt Kittredge -- An American Girl" with the sound off is only slightly more entertaining than watching with the sound on. Thank you, United Red-Eye from Maui!)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2008


What wasn't said, and what I've gotten very curious about, how long before the airline brings you your abandoned carry-on? What you take on a plane is, after all, the stuff you wouldn't risk loosing in baggage. The instructions do say not to take your stuff on emergency exit.
posted by Goofyy at 12:37 PM on December 30, 2008


"I'm tweeting myself reading this post. Now I'm tweeting myself tweeting. Now I'm..."

LOLz! I hate twitter. But at least it's been shown to be useful in one instance.
posted by noriyori at 12:42 PM on December 30, 2008


There is another reason that mobile phones should be turned off in flight; I've been told that having them try to roam from one cell to another repeatedly at high speed when taking off or landing causes merry havoc with the phone system.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:44 PM on December 30, 2008


Even if you could use your phone legally on the plane, it's probably only going to get a usable signal up to about 5k or 10k feet, so we're talking about 5 minutes of extra call time before you'd shut it off to conserve battery power anyway. Personally, I like the relative peace of no communication during air travel. It's pretty much the only place left.
posted by eperker at 12:48 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Isn't this, like, ancient history? Given the immediacy of Twitter, why is it posted here 10 days after the event? I read about Mike Wilson the day after the crash, it was reported all over the place.

Besides that, even Mike wasn't all that immediate with his Tweets. If you look at the time stamps on the entire Twitter stream, it's hardly live reporting "almost as it happens." The crash was 5:18 (6:18 local; Mike's Twitter stream time seems to be PST); the "holy fucking shit" Tweet was at 5:25 PM, the next at 5:57 ("my glasses fell off") and 5:58 ("this was crash #2 for me, maybe I should start taking the bus"), then one at 6:35 (shares a TwitPic), one at 8:22 ("Continental...won't even serve us drinks") and finally a bunch with more actual crash details starting at 11:22, which is when he finally got home. By that time, 6 hours after the event, at least a dozen news stories on the "crash" had hit the internets.

The whole stream starts here (at the moment--link will change over time).
posted by beagle at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2008


I rather enjoy Twitter for my own reasons, and personally can't see how it would annoy anyone who doesn't use Twitter themselves. Even in those instances, you don't have to recieve mobile/e-mail updates, or follow anyone you don't want to. What bothers people so?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:04 PM on December 30, 2008


Isn't this, like, ancient history?

Twit while it happens, and everybody dies of a fire while you get 'round to opening the goddamned door. Twit seven minutes later, and you're "ancient history". Dude can't win, can he?
posted by yath at 1:08 PM on December 30, 2008


So do we all know how to turn off the wifi on our laptops? Will the plane crash just from the amount of traffic before I can turn Airport (sic) off?
posted by Wood at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2008


I rather enjoy Twitter for my own reasons, and personally can't see how it would annoy anyone who doesn't use Twitter themselves.

Yeah, I've never understood the Twitter hate* either. Personally, it's the only social networking-type site I enjoy.

*Twate?

Sorry.
posted by brundlefly at 1:43 PM on December 30, 2008






And the folo:
"We R pro nego. crntly tlks r held w the PA + tlks on the 2 state soln. we talk only w/ ppl who accept R rt 2 live?""
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:39 PM on December 30, 2008


Imbecile.
posted by Zambrano at 3:33 PM on December 30, 2008


The fact that this happened a few weeks ago, and was widely reported on television news makes this a rather stale newsfiltery post.
posted by mattoxic at 4:13 PM on December 30, 2008


I rather enjoy Twitter for my own reasons, and personally can't see how it would annoy anyone who doesn't use Twitter themselves. Even in those instances, you don't have to recieve mobile/e-mail updates, or follow anyone you don't want to. What bothers people so?

I don't have much of an opinion on Twitter, personally, but all of the anti-Twitter comments I've seen seem to indicate a disdain for the implied self-importance of people for whom merely blogging the high points of their tedious lives isn't enough. Every stray thought is now deemed important enough to warrant a broadcast. Now I assume that's probably not a fair representation (I wouldn't know, I don't follow anyone's Twitterpations), but that seems to be the complaint.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:19 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every stray thought is now deemed important enough to warrant a broadcast.

I had the same reaction when everyone on my plane heard this while "de-planing":
"Hey ... hi ... we just landed. I'm getting my bag outta the overhead. We're starting to move. I'll call you back to let you know that I got to the front of the plane."
posted by ericb at 4:31 PM on December 30, 2008


why DON'T we shield those critical electronics from interference?
Because shielding them from interference could also shield them from the signals they're supposed to receive, which turns that box of critical electronics into ballast.
posted by joaquim at 4:34 PM on December 30, 2008


I don't have much of an opinion on Twitter, personally, but all of the anti-Twitter comments I've seen seem to indicate a disdain for the implied self-importance of people for whom merely blogging the high points of their tedious lives isn't enough. Every stray thought is now deemed important enough to warrant a broadcast.

But if you need to sign up for the service to even see any of the posts, and even then have plenty of filtering options, then I don't understand what the complaint is. That someone, somewhere, is making a post about having found the roll of duct tape they were looking for?

I can understand the cell phone thing that ericb mentions. People have to hear those conversations within earshot. Twitter is invisible to those who haven't signed up for it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:04 PM on December 30, 2008


I think Twitter is a fairly compelling new sub-mode of communication, and stories like this indicate the possibilities (along with its use in reporting the attacks in Mumbai). I've only started using it recently, but I don't really use it like it's advertised...I'm not really interested in broadcasting the minutiae of my day, but do like to share thoughts, links, etc., with friends, and this is an easy, non-platform specific way to do that. My few friends who use it so far also use it in creative and interesting ways. I'm very interested to see what it'll grow into.

(Also, I think services like Twitter will eventually become much more heavily used than site-specific social networking portals like Facebook.)
posted by LooseFilter at 6:41 PM on December 30, 2008


Twitter is invisible to those who haven't signed up for it.

No it's not. It is integrated with several other social sites. It's sitting in my LJ, begging me to defriend people. It's stuck on the bottom of some of the webcomics I read. It's in the sidebar of some otherwise good blogs.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:24 PM on December 30, 2008


Hi, 2drinksbehind.

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You may follow TheGrimReaper666 as well by clicking on the "follow" button.

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Twitter
posted by middleclasstool at 7:25 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


But if you need to sign up for the service to even see any of the posts, and even then have plenty of filtering options, then I don't understand what the complaint is. That someone, somewhere, is making a post about having found the roll of duct tape they were looking for

I suspect at least some of the antipathy comes from twitter<>other thing gateways. I know people who filled their blogs up eith every single tweet. It got pretty fucking tedious.
posted by rodgerd at 7:25 PM on December 30, 2008


I'm bitter about Twitter because a blog I used to like a lot, Smallist, is defunct and replaced by nothing but a vapid Twitter stream.

Used to be a wonderful blog, now the guy just shits meaningless tweets out his ass. I doubt this is the only formerly-useful-and-entertaining site where this has happened, either.

Maybe it's a Why Won't Those Kids Get Off My Lawn thing in some respects. I mean, blog posts about inane drivel at least usually involve more writing, so that occasionally a coherent thought has a chance to emerge in the process of writing things out. With Twitter it's all "omg I am taking such a huge dump right now" and the like. There's nobody in the world I could possibly be that interested in knowing every thought of.

Filtering is a good thing, people.
posted by marble at 9:39 PM on December 30, 2008


Scary!
posted by maltorrance at 7:30 AM on December 31, 2008


I suspect at least some of the antipathy comes from twitter<>other thing gateways. I know people who filled their blogs up eith every single tweet. It got pretty fucking tedious.

Ah. Yeah, that would make sense.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:18 AM on December 31, 2008


Well, firstly, this is unproven.
Personal electronics can absolutely interfere with some avionics on some aircraft.

Secondly, assuming it were true, again, why DON'T we shield those critical electronics from interference?
We do. Although weight can be a factor in not shielding everything. Shielding is heavy. The problem is something like a VOR receiver is, by design, a very sensitive receiver. You can shield the wires, but you can't stop the receiver from receiving or it can't do it's job. In a modern aircraft you shield the passenger cabin instead. In smaller aircraft you're relying on separation between the transmit frequency of your phone and the receive band of all the various receivers you have on board. In the mythbusters thing they specifically said they got the VOR to deflect in their rig, which in effect was an unshielded cabin. They then went to a modern jet with a shielded cabin.

In practise you are probably fine in a modern, large jet, and the regulations may change given time, but when the safety of hundreds of people is at stake you'll forgive me if I don't mind them taking their time.

For what it's worth there was a small aircraft crash in New Zealand a while back where the pilot landed a few miles short of the strip in a storm. His phone records show that his phone was active at the time and it is thought that it interfered with the Glideslope.
posted by markr at 5:07 PM on December 31, 2008


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