Saturday, March 8, 2014

Malaysia's 777 gone missing

Aviation safety is not a usual topic on my blog but the news of Malaysia's 777 disappearing on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing is beyond belief and deeply unsettling. 

Being a nervous flyer myself, I am constantly following statistics about safety records of different airliners. The 777 was on the verge of replacing the increasingly outdated 747 Jumbo jet as the "queen of the skies". Since it first came out in 1995, the 777 enjoyed 19 years without serious accident. The spotless record ended with an Asiana Airlines flight crashing at San Francisco airport, causing the tragic death of 3 passengers.

The disappearance of flight MH370, operated by Malaysia Airlines puts things in a whole new perspective. My prayers are with everyone on board, however there have been 10 hours since traffic control lost contact with the crew and the chances of everyone landing safely get slimmer with each passing moment. 

The loss of the 777 is deeply unsettling because years of clean record served to convince travelers that perhaps we can have infallible aircraft. Each time I board a plane, I am terrified but a tiny voice in my head tells me that with national carriers operating state-of-the-art planes, it is safer to fly than to walk down the street, literally. With the loss of flight MH370 this voice will sound a lot less believable. I am a reasonable person, I can grasp the concept that a single accident doesn't really alter the fact that air travel is the safest type of transportation.

I think that perhaps people's natural fear of flying is rooted in evolution. We have been around for thousands of years yet it wasn't until 1903 when the Wright Brothers took off and then 5 more decades until the boom of general aviation. Self-preservation is the ultimate concern of our brain, which hasn't had enough time to adjust to the new developments in technology. Hence - we are naturally terrified each time we loose ground under our feet. 

However, total loss of aircraft has been an increasingly rare occurrence. We quickly got used to the comfortable safety record. This explains all the buzz around the crash of Air France Flight 447 over the Atlantic and now this. Because these are a testament that even national carriers operating the safest planes on earth are not fool proof. And we don't like that. 

We don't like it, because each of us has to endure several flights per year and once you get on board, anything can happen. Even if it happens once in a million. 


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