Every year, I post 52 pieces of content on the blog. Most of them are written by me, although I enjoy having guest posts too, and every subject is chosen by me. The categories align closely to what I’m interested in at any given moment but I also spend a lot of time thinking about what people will enjoy most. I worry that too many personal essays will seem egotistical and that too many accident reports might get a bit heavy and that my explorations of aviation topics might be too basic. And really, I worry that I bounce around too much rather than picking a focus for this blog and sticking to it.

Every year, in January, I look at the top ten posts from the previous year. And every year, I’m surprised. You guys are as eccentric as I am when it comes to what you like!

Also, the blog readership is still growing, which is exciting. To the new readers, welcome! My stats package says you mainly came from searches. Apparently, most of you were hoping to find out more about flying fear, Salisbury Hall, Marrakech, and emus.

I don’t think I helped much on those subjects. Sorry about that.

Also, fifty of you arrived after searches on “fear of flying silvia”. I suppose it’s close enough.

I usually share the top ten posts but I miscounted–stop laughing–and ended up with an extra post in my list. So, here, for your perusal, are the top ELEVEN posts from 2012:

Number Eleven: The B25 Bomber and the Empire State Building

On the 28th of July in 1945 a B25 crashed into the Empire State Building. The photographs look like something out of an old King Kong movie, with flames licking up the building. But the fire was extinguished within 40 minutes, still the only fire at such a height that was ever successfully controlled.
And if that hasn’t already got you wanting more, the accident also resulted in 19-year-old Betty Lou Oliver taking the Guinness World record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded.
So what happened?

I do enjoy the historical posts so I’m really relieved that you do too.

Number Ten: Cirrus Parachute System in action

I thought that was kind of weird, but was mostly interested in organizing my granola bars and putting my travel sunscreen into MY backpack instead of his, and figured that if anything was really going on we would calmly make an unplanned landing on some dusty runway in the Bahamas, fix whatever was going on with the oil pressure, and be on our way. Then my dad’s voice became a little more pressured, and I noticed his hands were shaking.

Everybody loves a happy ending! This incident was particularly interesting because there was video footage and a full account by the pilot’s daughter.

Number Nine: JetBlue Captain Break Down

No, there is no evidence at this time that the Captain was on drugs, was known to have a brain tumour, was a terrorist himself or was an alien from Mars. Please disregard any and all headlines of this nature. No, it is not true that “a passenger had to land the plane” – an off-duty Captain was travelling on the flight and assisted the First Officer, who was the Pilot in Command throughout.
Here’s what we know so far, primarily based on the federal affidavit released on Wednesday.

I do get rather annoyed at the popular press sometimes and this was one of those occasions.

Number Eight: Sex and Skydiving and the FAA

All of the participants were consenting adults. The flight took place in the early morning and there were no witnesses, so there was no issue of public nudity. The frustrated police stated that there was no crime but notified the FAA who agreed to investigate the pilot. The video shows Torres and Howell having sex within inches of the pilot. There is no filmed interaction between the couple and the pilot.

Another one from the news. In this case, I admit I was simply intrigued and couldn’t resist finding out a little bit more, including what the FAA thought about it all.

Number Seven: Cockpit View of a Fatal Crash

The wreckage was discovered three years later, when backpackers hiking through the woods found the crash site, including a video tape hanging from tree branches. The video was released to the FAA who who were amazed to find that it had survived both the crash and three years of exposure with only minor damage.
Using the video as primary source data, the NTSB released an accident report.

The video, taken with a camera mounted on top of the instrument panel, is chilling to watch. It still upsets me.

Number Six: Why do aircraft still have ashtrays in the lavatory?

And yet, even the most modern aircraft have ashtrays built into the toilet door. These ashtrays are accompanied by big placards which announce that it is prohibited to smoke in the lavatories under any and all circumstances – so why have the ashtrays there in the first place?

I was honestly worried that this was obvious to everyone but me!

Number Five: The Wings Fell Off

The 2008 viral video of an unregistered plane supposedly losing a wing and the brave pilot landing it safely is making the rounds again, much to my disgust and the advertiser’s excitement. The video is completely faked but seems to have done the job of getting people’s attention. To compare, you can see this real video of a radio controlled aircraft landing with one wing – ignoring everthing else, the tilting plane on the runway is what’s clearly missing from the viral video. I find it a little bit bizarre that the advertising clip is continuing to fool so many people. And once they have found out the truth, do they really go and buy clothes?

I shared a few videos of actual wings falling off, which probably isn’t the wisest thing to post for people who are finding this website because they are afraid of flying. But I think the story of the SR-71 Blackbird disintegrating around a test pilot (who survived) makes up for it.

Number Four: Half-Asleep at the Controls

The Air India Express 812 accident in May 2010 was a shocking reminder of how important cockpit management resources: the flight crew interactions and the adherence to procedures. There was nothing wrong with the plane. There was nothing wrong with the airfield. The weather was good. Everything that went wrong, went wrong in the cockpit.

I’m really very pleased to see this one in the list because quite honestly, it took me weeks to read through all the reports and make sense of exactly what happened. The result was an extremely long post and I worried that no one would bother reading it. I was wrong.

Number Three: Lanzarote Overrun: I have nothing planned

The carefully set-up approach is in a mess. The Captain repeatedly requests a faster descent. The Flight Officer knows he’s not prepared for the runway change and clearly struggles to set up the Flight Management Computer fast enough. At 10,000 feet they are 21 nautical miles from the runway and going 315 knots. They are too high and too fast. The Captain requests “a bit of speedbrake” to alleviate the issue.

Another accident analysis, this one more recent and, thank goodness, not as complicated. Fatigue is again a factor.

Number Two: FAA Approved?

So, the story goes that the Alaskan pilot had 2 new tires, three cases of speed tape and several rolls of cellophane delivered to the site and promptly repaired his plane so that he could fly it home.

I posted this over three years ago and the following week saw the most traffic on the website ever. This post has been in the top ten every since.

Number One: “Where’s that Guy Going?” Runway Incursion at Dublin

EI-DPT, the Ryanair Boeing 737, stopped 360 metres from G-OZBS having travelled a total of 1,455 metres from the threshold of Runway 16.
When asked by the Investigation if she had carried out an actual rejected take-off before, the Captain of EI-DPT said no. She added, “all that simulator training works.”

I certainly wouldn’t have predicted this one. I thought the incident was amazing when I first read about it. As a post though, I thought it would probably not do very well, as there was no actual accident and it all happened on the ground.

Instead, it was the most popular post of the year.

In 2013, I’ll stop second-guessing what you’ll like and just get on with it, shall I?

Happy New Year!