We all probably know what has happened so far…
It was in the early hours of 28th December 2014 that the Singapore-bound AirAsia flight QZ 8501 with 162 on board, including seven crew members, was reported missing. A request was put through to the air traffic controller to climb to a higher altitude and the flight went off the radar barely a few minutes after this exchange. It was officially declared to be missing by 7.55 PM.
The mystery shrouding the disappearance and the crash, the third accident of its kind so far, in this year alone, has not been uncovered… yet. However, the debris and over 40 bodies were recovered from the Java sea. With this aviation disaster being confirmed, the death toll resulting from aviation disasters alone will soar about 1000 in 2014. This has definitely been an unfortunate year for the aviation industry.
Meanwhile earlier today, another AirAsia flight overshot the runway, while trying to land in the Philippines. That was when it struck me… There has been a surge in mishaps associated with this particular sector. These can be invariably attributed to various reasons – equipment failure, bird strikes, collision, overshooting runways, etc to name a few. But there are some accidents that remain shrouded in mystery, with seemingly no apparent reason for the crash as in the case of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 and the Malaysian Airlines flight 320. There have also been incidents where flights have been hijacked or even shot down as in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. All these incidents eventually make us question the safety of air travel.
Air travel is one of the most expensive and luxurious means of travel. But it all comes down to the fact that the lives of the passengers are in the hands of the pilots, the crew on board and lady luck. We have heard of the Bermuda triangle where quite a few aircraft have gone off the radar and disappeared mysteriously. Documented evidence has revealed inaccuracies of the incidents, but nevertheless, no accurate explanation could be provided regarding the missing aircraft. There are some incidents caused due to human error – either by the pilot or the airport support staff. Inexperienced pilots, pilots who have not acquired sufficient flying hours, flaws on behalf of air traffic controllers have spelled disasters in the past. In India, so many discrepancies have recently come to light – for instance, the incident of the recent crackdown on pilots, after some were found to be drunk, beyond the legal limit. There are no routine checkups to ensure the safety of the passengers. It is truly unfair that despite the upward surge in domestic airline fares in India, very few effective measures are in place to rule out any human error that could potentially bring about an accident. Personally, I am dreading the next time my dear ones or I have to fly because one can never be sure that they will reach their destination safely, during the course of their journey. Even with the cutting edge technology, black boxes and various safety gears in place, there are so many unknown risks to air travel.
Each day, I find myself wishing for better means to ensure that yet another flight failure does not claim several precious lives. An aircraft’s Black Box(Flight Recorder), if recovered, can tell us what went wrong, and how an accident came about. But we are in dire need of quite another safety net that could help prevent air crashes!!!
As an engineering undergrad student, this continues to be something that I’m obsessed with, and hopefully one day, I might be able to come up potentially life-saving ideas.
© 2014 Shweta Suresh. All rights reserved.
Image courtesy: Pixabay, and