Storm In The Sky For Airlines
Two disasters of Malaysian airlines in March and second in July were in quick succession. Now the third one in Asia is adding a new dimension to discussion if there is some cultural factor like metric system and imperial system being followed in different parts of the world
A jet plane of AirAsia flying from Indonesia to Singapore disappeared from the radar midway. Any one can be touched by Angela, daughter of Captain Irianto (pilot of the missing plane) message on Twitter: “Papa come back. I still need you”. But the plane could not be tracked for days. In the times when Man has accessed the path to Mars and may soon land there, it is shocking that in aviation we still do not know how to track it fast. The Airbus A320 plane was carrying 162 people including crew members and was likely to reach Singapore on 8.20 AM while it vanished at 7.24 AM over the Java sea. The airline had a clean accident-free record and so far was operating in different countries without any mishap. The pilot was experienced one and the plane was serviced in this November. Sudden weather change and a thick cumulonimbus cloud with turbulence was encountered on the way. Pilot asked for change in altitude to avoid the fierce storm as he was flying at 32,000 ft and wanted to go to 38,000 ft. But it was denied by the Indonesian control perhaps due to the reason that similar condition prevailed on the higher level as some reports suggested that the trouble was upto 40,000ft. There was no distress signal or emergency call from the aircraft. After this last contact, the plane perhaps plunged into the sea as reported by some sources. AirAsia is operating 169 Airbuses and the plane has safety record of 0.4 accidents. The airline is considered world’s best low cost airline.
This is third time in the current year that three accidents have taken place. First was Malaysian airline plane MH370 which was flying from Malaysia to China but disappeared on the way. Worldwide search has been carried out by all countries in the region but no traces of this plane has been found yet. It remains the biggest mystery of aviation that a large Boeing 777 carrying 227 people is still untraced. The twinjet plane uses fly-by-wire technology and is computer controlled. It is 242 ft in length and still found to be nowhere. Second air disaster pertains to MH17 that was carrying 298 passengers and was shot down above Ukraine. Third one is concerning AirAsia which also has its head quarters in Malaysia.
Two disasters of Malaysian airlines in March and second in July were in quick succession. Now the third one in Asia is adding a new dimension to discussion if there is some cultural factor like metric system and imperial system being followed in different parts of the world. This was the cause of Korean airline accidents earlier but in the two above cases the same cannot be definitely stated. As far as Ukraine incident is concerned, it was nothing to do with airlines as it was due to the war zone activity and the plane should have been warned not to overfly the area.
The air traffic is still not more dangerous than road or sea, yet it is most unpardonable as no error can go unpunished. Today aviation is safe but such incidents do shake the confidence of passengers. Yet these are rare occurrences and in this case Asian region has faced this situation in one year in quick succession, it is worth pondering to create more tracking system and Pilot-Tower communication.
I too faced two air accidents during my tenure in aviation but in boththe cases, it was luck that favoured us and there was no loss of human life. An Air France plane overshot the runway and crashed. Although the plane was written-off yet passengers were safe. Another plane coming from Chandigarh landed on belly as the under carriage was not opened and this could have resulted in fire but our fire fighting system worked on time and passengers were saved. One of the passengers happened to be my friend Bishen Singh Bedi, ace bowler who thanked all of us but above all Wahe Guru. I too thanked God and when many people saw me on TV channels attributing good escape to Bhagwan they asked me how I have developed faith in God as they always thought I am an atheist. I told them that there are things which are beyond man and one remembers Him when such miracles take place.
By N K singh
(The writer is former Chairman, International Airports Authority of India)