Another tragedy in the skies

Two full days after an AirAsia aircraft on a flight from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore went missing, rescue teams have >found pieces of debris and the bodies of at least 40 of the 162 passengers and crew who were on board. This brings to a fairly quick end the suspense and speculation over the fate of the aircraft after it suddenly went off the radar. Reports point to similarities with an Air Algérie flight that disintegrated on impact after facing turbulent weather in the skies over Mali, while on its way from Burkina Faso to Algiers in July this year, leaving all 116 passengers and crew dead. Here, rescue missions from the neighbouring countries were immediately pressed into service — by air and by sea — from Sunday morning. Unlike the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 that vanished mysteriously during its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March, the AirAsia flight did contact radio control in Indonesia seeking permission to climb to 38,000 feet from the 32,000 level it was flying, to avoid thick clouds. But that permission was not granted because of traffic in the skies. Nothing more was heard after that, which is why the control managers in Indonesia and aviation experts feel the aircraft was caught in a storm and perhaps plunged into the sea. When debris was sited by aircraft naval ships rushed to the scene, to find the bodies too.

Also read: >Key developments in disappearance of AirAsia jet

Read: >Differences between MH370 and AirAsia incidents

AirAsia has had a fairly good safety record since its founding over a decade ago. Similarly, the Airbus A320 is known to be a sturdy aircraft, with a load of safety features. So it could not have wilted so easily. The fact that there was no distress call, and only a request for a deviation, remains the bottom line of this suspected tragedy. Again, unlike the Malaysian aircraft that had deliberately taken a significant detour and could have plunged into the deep southern Indian Ocean, the AirAsia aircraft could have been lost only in the Java sea, since its flight path was across the sea from one island to another. That limited the area of search, which has now proved successful. The families of the victims — a majority of whom were Indonesians — waited in suspense till the debris was located. Then came news of bodies being found, shattering what little hopes they had. What remains to be done is to get to the cause of the tragedy. This can be done only if the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder are recovered in time. Aviation safety experts say 2014 was a relatively safe year in the skies, with about eight major disasters involving nearly 900 lives. Cold statistics are no comfort for the families of the passengers of the AirAsia flight, and it is imperative that what happened, and why it happened, be unravelled fully.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 8:28:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-on-airasia-flight-tragedy-and-aviation-safety/article6739285.ece

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