The past two weeks have been very bad for air travel, beginning with the shooting down by Russia-armed ethnic Russian rebels in Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17 that claimed 298 lives, and the crash of TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 from bad weather that resulted in 48 deaths, and an Air Algerie aircraft crash, also perhaps from bad weather according to initial reports, that killed 116.
Earlier, on March 8, MAS Flight MH370 was said to have plunged into the Indian Ocean with 227 passengers and 12 crewmen.
Although the reasons for the recent three aircraft crashes are somehow obvious, the tragedies could have been avoided.
In the case of MH17, the mere fact that there was strife in the eastern part of Ukraine should have alerted MAS to take an alternate route for the sake of passenger safety. In the first place, six Ukrainian military aircraft had been shot down by the pro-Russian rebels in the restive region.
We are not putting the blame solely on MAS for the shooting down of MH17, because the blood-thirsty Russian rebels should have formulated standard operating procedures before firing a missile, especially if an aircraft resembles a civilian passenger aircraft and flies at subsonic speeds.
Being “trigger happy” in a war that results in more loss of civilian lives is one sure way of losing the sympathy of the world for the ethnic Russian-rebels cause. We hope the pro-Russian rebels have learned their lessons, or better yet would miraculously decide to abandon their cause.
As for the TransAsia Airways jet, the crash could have been avoided if the authorities and the airline management had exercised better judgment and prudence. In the Philippines where typhoons are a common occurrence, airlines and the authorities automatically suspend domestic flights when strong winds, not even storms, threaten the archipelago.
While the cause of the Air Algerie crash has yet to be determined, initial reports that bad weather caused the crash raises concerns on how airlines should give more weight to weather disturbances in their safety procedures.
On Friday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it will “leave nothing unturned” to boost global aviation safety in the aftermath of the three separate crashes.
“With three tragedies in such quick succession, many people will, understandably, be asking questions about aviation safety,” Tony Tyler, the head of the global airline federation, said in a statement.
“The greatest respect that we can pay to the memory of those involved is to leave nothing unturned in our quest to understand the cause and to take steps to ensure that it is not repeated,” he said.
Despite the three successive aircraft accidents, however, Tyler believes air travel is still safe.
“Our number one priority is safety. And despite the events of the past seven days, flying is safe,” Tyler added.
IATA represents 240 airlines around the world that account for 84 percent of total air traffic.
Tyler’s words are very assuring for those who travel by air, and any steps on the part of IATA to make aircraft travel safer will surely be welcomed.