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In a comment on my answer to a recent question, mins wrote

Why providing the names of the crew members? I doesn't add to the value of the answer, but it may hurt their families who are not responsible.

I had originally referred to several crew members potentially liable for accidents by name, as well as quoted passages in reports that used their names and ranks.

Should names be withheld in cases like these, if the names don't directly relate to the topic? I can understand that, especially in cases such as the ones I discussed where culpability was not completely established, families of the person(s) identified could be hurt. At the same time, though, the names could easily be found in the articles and reports I linked. It would only take a few clicks for the relevant information to be found.

Should names not be mentioned in cases like this, or is it fine to use them? I suppose it comes down to etiquette, but it could be important etiquette.

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    $\begingroup$ "It would only take a few clicks for the relevant information to be found". I don't see any reason to facilitate this search. $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 26 '15 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ @mins I understand; I agree with the rationale. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mar 26 '15 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ I share DeltaLima's view, I prefer your answer after revision. You were right in opening a discussion in Meta, this is an opportunity to discover other opinions, and maybe for me to refine mine. $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 27 '15 at 0:01
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I agree with mins' comments there. The names don't add any value from an aviation perspective. I very much like the way you have edited your answer now. The fact that the information can be found somewhere else does not mean it has to be re-published here.

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    $\begingroup$ I would say that it does not add anything to the answer and thus needs not be in the answer and personally I find the answer easier to read without the names. At the same time I do not think it would be wrong to include the names if they would have improved the answer. $\endgroup$ – David Mulder Mar 27 '15 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE I would leave out the names in text you have written yourself, in citation and quotes that you use, I would not alter them to remove the name however, as this is how proper citation works. But speaking about accidents or incidents, it should be sufficient enough to refer to crew members by title (Captain) or function (Pilot Flying / Pilot Monitoring) and not by names. I agree with DeltaLima here... $\endgroup$ – SentryRaven Mar 27 '15 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ I don't necessarily disagree, but this is a straw man. Nobody is suggesting we are obligated to re-publish information that can be found elsewhere. Instead, the argument is that the names are easily discovered either way, so removing them serves no purpose. $\endgroup$ – Marcks Thomas Mar 27 '15 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @MarcksThomas and adding them does not add useful information to the question answer. If you want to discover them, you're free to look for them, but if they're not adding useful information (and I fail to see how they could) they're better left out. $\endgroup$ – Federico Mar 27 '15 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico Just hypothetically it could make sense when you are comparing the actions of two different individuals in a crisis situation to refer to them by their names. Though even in that case I would only use their first name and leave out their last names, so all in all I agree. $\endgroup$ – David Mulder Mar 27 '15 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @SentryRaven One issue with using only positions instead of names is when you're dealing with long-haul flights that have multiple crew for each position. For example, in AF447, both of the pilots in the flight deck at the time things started going bad were First Officers. While that situation isn't allowed on some airlines (such as U.S.-flagged ones,) the situation of 2 Captains is always possible in the event of a flight long enough to have a relief crew. Additionally, PF/PNF could still be somewhat confusing in regards to AF447 because both FOs were manipulating the controls simultaneously. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 27 '15 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @SentryRaven So, in that case, at least, using names is really the only completely unambiguous way to refer to the crew, making it a counterexample to names not adding value from an aviation perspective. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 27 '15 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab I agree. Where no additional benefit is achieved, the title should suffice. With multi-crew the names are actually helpful. $\endgroup$ – SentryRaven Mar 28 '15 at 5:49
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Great question, and not an easy one to answer. The identity of the people involved in accidents is usually completely irrelevant to the aviation interest. I say "usually" because it seems like there are some incidents that are investigated more thoroughly than others. If Harrison Ford had died in his recent crash, would we have removed his name from the question and answers, even - or perhaps especially - if he had been shown to commit suicide? And why is the pilot's name important here?

Of course, you can say that celebrities or some high-profile accidents are special cases, but then you introduce an inconsistency that's hard to resolve: "I usually wouldn't mention who it was, but in this case..." My suggestion is to leave it up to the people who post questions and answers: if they post the names that's their decision, but I don't think there should be a systematic policy to remove them. Otherwise, it will always end up in an argument about who is (in)famous enough to mention and who isn't.

And finally, there's also an argument that there will always be accidents where people search by pilot's name, flight number, aircraft model, or other 'irrelevant' criteria. In those cases, we might as well help them to find a good answer, rather than the speculation that exists on many other sites but that SE is explicitly designed to avoid.

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  • $\begingroup$ Mostly agreeing, let each one follow their own values. About celebrity... this is just mentioning the name ever and ever until nobody can forget it. So... $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 27 '15 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Celebrities are a separate case. The only reason we're talking about Harrison Ford's crash is that it happened to Harrison Ford. If it had been unknown member of the public, nobody outside Santa Monica would have heard about it. Even if the pilot had died, probably nobody outside the LA area would have heard about it. But I agree that high-profile accidents that suddenly thrust an otherwise unknown person into the limelight are a difficult case to deal with. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 27 '15 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby Yes, and I completely agree with you. My point was simply that if you allow special cases then someone has to decide who or what is "special". Sometimes that's pretty obvious (e.g. Harrison Ford), sometimes less so (e.g. Zaharie Ahmad Shah). $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 27 '15 at 16:22
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The names appear in the wiki page of the accident, wiki pages you linked. It's not going to take much effort to find the names otherwise.

Besides that most of the accidents you mentioned happened +10 years ago. Those families will have gone through the hate-mail phase already and know how to deal with it. They would already have expected some lash back from people that remembered these accidents.

In my opinion we will not be able to significantly impact the level of harassment that they get.

My verdict: let the names stand, if the families want it taken down there is a procedure for it. But if they didn't have it taken from wikipedia then I doubt they would bother with our little site.

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    $\begingroup$ That's names of ill people, because that's exactly the target of the question (psychologically unstable crew member). The names were thrown to the public, okay, that's the press. But there is no need to create more pain. Illness is a particular case where confidentiality makes sense. That's only my opinion, and ethics, I'm not asking others to follow me. $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 26 '15 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ "we will not be able to significantly impact the level of harassment that they get". How can you know what is significant for them? Adding harassment, even non significantly, is acceptable? What is the limit please? $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 26 '15 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ @mins those who would harass would still need to find contact information, that is a pretty big step. Compared to that clicking through to the wiki page and reading it is not that big. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Mar 27 '15 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ You misinterpret my initial comment: I'm not talking about people being contacted by malicious ones, I'm talking about the pain that people may feel because they are reminded uselessly of something they would like to forget. If you remind people of things, how could they forget? $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 27 '15 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ @mins they would be having their mail screened at least, I am very sure there is a steady trickle of hate mail to several of these families. They would either have changed their nae and moved away or have someone dealing with that. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Mar 27 '15 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ Think about these families reading the question and the answer. Would they feel some pain while reading their name? I think the lack of name soften their pain, that's the reason I would not mention them. Sometime it is that easy to help and respect someone who is not responsible of the event they are unfortunately associated with. That remind me of the Überlingen collision and the fate of the ATC, where the press played a significant role. Well they were only informing. $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 27 '15 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ @mins they should expect it going to an aviation site and reading a Q&A about suicidal crashes that the crash in question and name is possibly going to pop up. If they come here themselves they are kinda asking for it. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Mar 27 '15 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ You assume families and friends of former pilots are not interested in aviation and will never browse this site. There is a lot of assumptions in this thread, assumptions tending to minimize the possible negative impact of throwing names. $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 27 '15 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ @mins I am saying that they should be expecting the name of their suicidal relative to pop up once in a while $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Mar 27 '15 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ It may not cause that much harm, but I'm having trouble seeing how it causes any good. $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 27 '15 at 16:17
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I would note that official accident reports don't name the crew, even when their actions were deemed to be the cause of the accident (see, for example, the NTSB report on Asiana Flight 214). This is presumably because the purpose of these reports is to establish what happened and to make recommendations about how it can be prevented from happening again. Accident reports are explicitly not about assigning legal liability and, in the examples I know about (the US NTSB and the UK AAIB), their reports are, by law, inadmissible as evidence in court cases.

Whatever our goals are here, we're also not about establishing personal liability. As such, I don't think it's necessary to name names, in most cases. That, however, doesn't address the question of whether we should. My feeling there is that we probably shouldn't, unless the person's identity is in some way directly relevant.

I'm unsure what the legal situation is. Perhaps the mods should ask the Stack Exchange staff if there's anything we should be looking out for, there.

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