Missing Flight shows Human Vulnerability

Oh No! Not again!

Millions of people around the world must have exclaimed like me, when they heard the news of another plane missing.

As I write this on Sunday evening, Air Asia flight QZ8501 is still missing. And search and rescue missions are abandoned till this morning due to increased darkness and rough weather.

The scheduled flight path from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore was only of a three-hour duration. But as this paper goes to print, it is over 24 hours since the plane has gone missing.

Mystery now shrouds the fate of the 162 passengers onboard. And with each passing hour, the chance of their survival seems to getting more and more remote.

Air Asia’s Chief Executive Tony Fernandes had tweeted: “Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. We must stay strong.”

Having talked to Tony Fernandes when he visited Bahrain a few years ago, I can confidently say he is a very strong man.

But asking for mental strength now, from the families of the passengers, can only be easier said than done.

Even though Air Asia under its flamboyant Chief Executive has been striving to keep safety its top priority, we know now that some things are beyond human control.

As the year 2014 draws to a close, I somehow cannot help thinking – like most of you – that the flight disasters were just too many to digest this year.

Out of 21 incidents this year, so far, that some aviation experts compiled, here’s a quick look at the important ones.

In February, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702 was hijacked by an unarmed co-pilot, when it was flying from Addis Ababa to Milan. All 202 passengers of Boeing 767-300ER were luckily unharmed, when it finally landed at Geneva. But it landed with just 10 minutes of fuel and with a flameout of one engine. And the pilot was promptly arrested.

In February, Algerian Air Force aircraft crashed into a mountain in Algeria, in a domestic flight carrying soldiers. Of the 78 people onboard the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, 77 died and there was one survivor.

In March, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 went missing on the way from Kuala Lampur to Beijing. All 239 people onboard the Boeing 777-200 ER are now feared dead.

In July, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 was shot down over Ukraine on the way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lampur. All 298 people on this Boeing 777—200 ER are confirmed dead.

In July, Air Algérie Flight 5017 crashed in Mali, near Gossi, on the way from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to Algiers, Algeria. All 116 people onboard the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 are confirmed dead.

In December now, Air Asia’s missing flight is giving us the latest scare.

In this day and age, when air travel is increasing at staggering pace, passenger safety cannot be over emphasized.

With meteorological information, should the airlines not have restrictions on flights during unsafe weather conditions?

With satellite technology’s Global Position Systems (GPS) in place, should we still hear of this tragic news that planes cannot be tracked at all?

With huge vessels with sophisticated marine navigation equipment, should we still say it is not possible to find the location in sea where a plane could have crashed?

Well, whatever the experts can do must be done by them. But what we can do at least is to pray for the passengers and the families.

These incidents only show us again that, being human, we cannot know everything and we cannot secure ourselves from everything.