Bibel once again in the media glare


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Engineering & Mines


University of North Dakota Mechanical Engineering Professor George Bibel is once again under the international media spotlight, providing professional analyses on and perspective to yet another transportation disaster, this time, the recent Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.

Investigators of that crash have determined that an Amtrak train was traveling at 106 miles per hour — more than twice the speed limit — when it derailed in Philadelphia last week. The mishap killed eight people and injured dozens more. The train’s engineer was one of those injured.

Bibel, an expert in train and plane crashes, has been an oft sought after source by national and international media outlets seeking technical expertise on the Philadelphia train crash. A list of media who have featured Bibel in the past few days include The New York Times, Washington Post, The Independent of the UK, the Philly Voice, Fox Business, CNN and MSNBC.

Bibel told The New York Times that speeding on a curve is a main cause of train derailments. He also discussed with The Times a newer capability that many trains have to prevent speeding. The protective measure is called “positive train control” in which a computer takes control to slow a train if it senses dangerous speeds or a potential collision.

“Driving too fast on a curve is supposed to be addressed by this new protocol, but everyone is at a different stage in implementing it,” Bibel told The Times.

This is certainly not the first time that Bibel’s knowledge of transportation disasters has been sought by the global media. Earlier this year, shortly after authorities first acknowledged that Air Asia Flight 8501, an Airbus A320 airliner with 162 people aboard, was lost at sea, Bibel got an email from Fox News in New York City. Bibel wasn’t surprised by the e-mail and he wasn’t surprised by the many subsequent media calls he got related to that tragedy.

“I’m in the media rolodex,” says Bibel, whose book, Beyond the Black Box: the Forensics of Airplane Crashes, got noticed in aviation and media circles shortly after its publication in 2009.

Another of Bibel’s books, Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters, also got noticed and has put him in the center of media attention following the 2013 oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the commuter train crash in New York City later that same year, and now the Philadelphia Amtrak crash. Both his books on train and plane disasters were favorably reviewed by the Physics Teacher and the National Science Teachers Association.

Bibel developed his keen interest in such disasters because he wanted to enhance the content of his engineering classes.

“Students are most interested in real-world examples, and in reading through aviation crash investigative reports I discovered a lot of material that pertained directly to my classes,” Bibel has said. “This kind of material definitely made my engineering lectures more interesting for students.”

Apart from work with the media, Bibel’s expertise also has been recognized by the American Institutes of Aeronautics, which nominated him to be part of its “Distinguished Lecture Series.” In that capacity, Bibel has been invited to talk about airplane crashes at most major aerospace companies, several NASA sites and the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Bibel also has written two separate pieces for the Huffington Post : Train Wreck and Why Can't Modern Technology Prevent Train Wrecks .