Learning from Engineering Disasters: The Sinking of USS Thresher

Training overview
Professional Course
Self-paced Online
4 hours
From 119.80 USD
Start dates
119.80 USD
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Course description

In Learning from Engineering Disasters: The Sinking of USS Thresher, you'll learn ...

  • The particulars of the sinking of USS Thresher
  • How to practice a rigorous method for disaster analysis
  • Vulnerabilities in developing an evolutionary design
  • The value of multiple plausible theories in accident investigation
  • Major cross-functional lessons learned from the USS Thresher disaster


Credit: 4 PDH

Length: 36 pages

On the morning of 10 April 1963, a support ship monitored a garbled communication from USS Thresher, the US Navy’s newest nuclear submarine, shortly before detecting the sounds of a submarine imploding under intense pressure. Over the next few days, it became apparent the submarine had sunk with all hands and crushed under the immense pressure applied as it passed below its design depth.

In its final communications, Thresher indicated that it was proceeding to test depth—the rated diving limit for the submarine. It then began to experience “minor problems” and attempted to surface. Two theories suggest that the “minor problem” might have been either a fitting failure, allowing the ship to fill with excess water and sink, or an electrical failure that shut down the propulsion systems, preventing the submarine from maintaining its depth. Both theories assert that this was exacerbated by a failure of an emergency surfacing system that was not upgraded when the new submarine design was developed.

The USS Thresher course refers to terms introduced in the “Learning from Engineering Disasters” course. Though not required, it is recommended that the learner consider completing the “Learning from Engineering Disasters” course prior to taking this course.

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Certificate of Completion

You will be able to immediately print a certificate of completion after passing a multiple-choice quiz consisting of 20 questions. PDH credits are not awarded until the course is completed and quiz is passed.

Training content

This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • The basics of submarine design and operations
  • Summary of the Thresher accident
  • The “official” theory of why the submarine sank, along with a plausible alternate theory
  • Major critical flaws and process flaws associated with the design and construction of the USS Thresher
  • How to go about investigating an engineering disaster when multiple failure theories develop
  • The use of alternate sources to determine the root cause when the accident site is inaccessible or the engineered system is completely destroyed
  • Four common reasons why foresight does not stop preventable disasters from occurring
  • Why bias in the investigation is the greatest enemy to exploring multiple theories of an accident similar to the Thresher
  • How lessons learned from the accident were applied to USS Flasher while it was still in the shipyard under construction
  • What is the primary learning point of engineering disaster case studies such as the sinking of the USS Thresher


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7915 FM 1960 West, Suite 130
77070 Houston Texas

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