Travel by air has been eternally rumoured as the safest way to travel since the Wright Bros’ innovative acts of aviation in the early 1900s. The world has recently been illuminated by exhibits contrasting such a perception wherein at least three multi-carrier commercial flights have either disappeared or rapidly sunk to calamity. Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 allegedly disappeared from radars mid-course over the Asia-Pacific and flights of Caribbean Airlines & JetBlue Airlines experienced an almost runway run in at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Lufthansa owned German Wings carrier flight 4U9525 departed Catalunya bound for Dusseldorf, Germany. Andreas Lubitz (28), co-pilot, is reported to have intentionally sunk the aircraft at 3000 ft per minute diverting it off course into the French Alps. It is quite unfortunate that while looking to a speedily growing and revolutionizing industry, namely solar powered aerial engineering and venturing; the aviation world and globe at large has been rocked by said man-made disasters. Despite having 630 Hours of flight experience, Andreas Lubitz was diasnosed to be of ‘no-fly’ conditions by his personal doctor. Severe depression was named as the main deterrent. Of this, Lubitz was not pleased. So much so, that he failed to educate his employers of his medical conditions. Unaware, Lufthansa subsidiary, German Wings’ superiors cleared him to fly with added supervision, as is custom. Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend flight attendant, Maria W, testimonied to possessing knowledge of his shortcomings. She added, he mentioned of having a desire to ‘change the system’ in a significant way and often complained of unsatisfactory working mandates.
Aviation policy reform has now occurred as a reaction as opposed to anticipation of the worst possible outcome each time an airplane flies. Maybe because of the high success rates experienced since moving from cruiseliners to airliners as the more popular mode of travel, these intricacies have been overlooked. Ignorantly, might I add, because due to a common understanding among passengers of the risky business of flight, whenever a pilot successfully taxies a plane, there is a deafening round of applause on board. This understandably happens because to my knowledge, in attempt to accurately navigate a runway, the approach must be optimally planned with the requisite velocity and must also be sanctioned by the air traffic control tower. On entering the airstrip, which is much more difficult to see at night, the pilot must apply the brake immediately as the plane touches tarmac so that the nose can imitate the rudder. If a runway is congested the incoming carrier should encircle the airspace in order to open enough of a window for a correct approach and landing. The previous statement refreshes my mind of the American Airlines flight 331 scheduled to arrive at the Norman Manley International Airport which over stepped its boundaries and crashlanded on the Palisadoes strip with the plane’s fuselage decorating the Port Royal shoreline and roadway en route to Port Royal. I know and have heard of several average and high-profile persons shying away from air travel. I always presumed them to be a bit edgy but recent events force me to lean towards their perceptions of the journeying method. Several private plane pilots, passengers and owners have lost their lives as well, especially in the last 18months. Helicopters have also been having head on collisions with buildings. Trains have derailed widely in the past and up to modern records, but what is to account for the sudden spike in aviatory mishaps?
According to the BBC World News, the Sri Lankan Government has launched a criminal investigation into the country’s national airline after several allegations of corruption. In an official release from the Office of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, it was said that an inquiry uncovered major security breaches at Sri Lanka Airlines. During the previous administration, a $2.3 BN purchase of 10 aircrafts was conducted despite the availability of more cost-effective alternatives. The airline is divulged between the state and its staff, both commanding 95 % and 5 % of stakes, respectively. Additionally, the airline was accused of trying to conceal two serious flight mishaps, details of which are not forthcoming. Nisantha Wickramasinghe, former chairman of the airline, is the brother-in-law of the preceding president Mahinda Rajapaksa, both of whom have been fingered as power hungry and abusive. In the case of the Missing plane, Malaysian flight MH370, all 227 passengers and crew did not turn up at the destination, Beijing Capital International Airport. Relatives and loved ones were simply told to go home without explanation. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the location of departure, reported no signs of turbulence before or after takeoff. The blackboxes which record flight data and analyze course outline s were never recovered. The indestructible blackboxes from German Wings flight 4U9525 were analyzed and revealed evidence of panic and tension on the plane among passengers and stewardesses. A memory card was salvaged from the wreckage which contained footage of the captain trying to pry open the cockpit door with an axe and passengers screaming on seeing their eventual fate. German Wings stewardess, Maria W, recalled Lubitz having horrible nightmares and quoted him as saying “One day I will do something to change the whole system and all will remember my name.” Investigators found evidence of Lubitz’s ailments from a doctor’s note that would have kept him off work the day he killed 150 people.
Lubitz did realise his callous dream, though not being alive to witness its fruition. New policy, internationally standardized, stipulates that two people must be present in the cockpit at all times. That would have been the case, had not the captain need to answer nature’s call, of which he complained shortly after departure. American Aviation Authorities had already put such measures in place after the gruesome unfoldings of September 11, 2001. The German Wings aircraft had only just reached a safe altitude for which the captain of flight 4U9525 could use to take a small bathroom break, unwittingly giving Lubitz a window of opportunity to enact his devious intentions. I strongly recommend that instead of mandating two persons at all times, three able-bodied pilots should be on board always. Maybe, a bench or folding bed of some sort for the third, of requisite flight experience; who is to be paid based on performance. Planes ought also to be strapped up with enough varying survival gear to be distributed evenly among passengers and crew members. A stewardess might be able to oversee cockpit conduct, but what of impending danger? Who will steer the plane and its passengers from peril?
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