The sudden crash of a Boeing 737 airliner at the Kazan airport in Tatarstan on November 17, 2013 has turned the focus back on air safety and the need to create awareness among the smaller, regional airlines about ensuring that international standards are followed in aircraft maintenance. That all 44 passengers and six members of the crew died in the crash makes it all the more tragic. The flight from Moscow reportedly made a second attempt to land at the capital of Tatarstan, after apparently trying to abort a landing, and the aircraft exploded as it hit the runway. Eyewitnesses have said that the plane “just fell” and vertically hit the runway, with the fuel tank exploding immediately. Initial reports pointed to bad weather conditions that prevailed at Kazan, but in this winter, the airline and its crew should have factored that in. This was a regional Tatarstan airline. Incidentally, Kazan will be one of the venues for the 2018 World Cup football tournament to be hosted by Russia. Such tragedies involving aircraft raise a number of questions — of airworthiness, the training and capacity of pilots, the conditions at the airport to make such a landing during bad weather, and also the facilities available at the airport to handle emergencies. Above all, the track record of the airline and the importance it attaches to aircraft maintenance make a huge difference. Similarly, the quality and training for pilots becomes critical.

Some of the basic questions that call for answers are whether the aircraft was airworthy; if there was a caution on the weather and if the pilots prepared for a rough landing; if the airport had the equipment to guide flights to a safe landing during inclement weather; if the pilots were trained or equipped to handle the flight during such weather conditions. Every country that owns or licenses airlines must compulsorily set up an independent regulator to monitor the functioning of airlines. At another level, the International Civil Aviation Organization should keep an eye on the smaller and regional airlines to ensure that they follow global norms in safety and security of both aircraft and passengers. The unplanned growth of the aviation industry over the past two decades has given rise to a range of safety concerns that need to be clearly addressed. Some airlines acquire their aircraft, while others lease them for immediate operations. It is up to the aircraft manufacturers to keep track of the maintenance and repair of all aircraft produced by them. They must realise that whenever one of their aircraft meets with a tragic accident, their reputation is also on the line.

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