Air disasters: Is it still safe to fly?

“Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts for we are now taking off.” This is usually the message from the cabin crew as an aircraft takes off. Those in the know will tell you that the most dangerous moments on an airplane are the time it takes off and when it’s landing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts for we are now taking off.” This is usually the message from the cabin crew as an aircraft takes off. Those in the know will tell you that the most dangerous moments on an airplane are the time it takes off and when it’s landing.

This assertion is validated by the glaring statistics showing just how many planes crash son after take off or while landing. In the recent months a number of planes have crashed compelling some to think that it could really be the worst season for the aviation industry.

Depending on who you look at it, this could indeed be a bad time for the industry. Truth be told, since fuel prices started going up endlessly, the airline industry has been facing very difficult times.

The rising prices cut into the profit margins of most companies and since ticket prices could be raised at the same rate, several workers were laid off by the big airline companies like British Airways.

Just as the prices had started going down, the news of a collapsing global economy started knocking on the airlines’ doors. The global financial crisis that has seen stock markets crashing, banks making huge losses and several businesses closing, has left the airline industry severely bruised.

The recent spate of airline crashes seems to be really a case of adding salt to a fresh wound. Less than three weeks ago, a Tupolev Caspian Airlines plane flying from the Iranian capital Tehran capital to Armenia cashed killing all 168 passengers and crew. The plane is said to have simply dropped from the sky approximately 16 minutes after take off. Most of the people on board were Armenians.

According to BBC’s Jon Leyne, Iran has a notoriously bad air safety record and this is often blamed on the fact that sanctions imposed by the United States have forced the country to rely on an increasingly ageing fleet of aircraft, and has trouble buying spares. For example the plane that crashed recently was built in Russia in 1987.

In December 2005, a C-130 military transport plane crashed on the outskirts of Tehran killing 110 people, including some on the ground. In February 2003, another military plane carrying 276 people crashed and killed all on board. December 2002, an Antonov 140 commuter plane carrying aerospace experts crashed in central Iran, killing all 46 people on board. That is just in Iran.

Outside Iran, there have been seven major air disasters this year already. That is one more compared to 2008. In other words this is already a bad year for the industry. At the end of June, a Yemeni passenger plane, an Airbus 310, crashed into the Indian Ocean near the Comoros Islands. Only one young girl out of 153 passengers on board survived.

In similar style, the beginning of June had an Air France Airbus 330 flying from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean with 228 people on board. After weeks of searching, some 50 bodies were recovered from the ocean.

On 20th May, an Indonesian army C-130 Hercules transport plane crashed into a village and killed at least 97 people.

In the month of April, Indonesia had reported another air disaster when an army Fokker-27 crashed killing 24 people.

The month of February was also a deadly one with three major crashes. On 8th, a passenger plane crashed into a river in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, killing 24 people most of who were from the same family. Four days later, another passenger plane crashed into a house in Buffalo, New York killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. On the 25th of the same month a flight from Istanbul to

Amsterdam crashed killing one person on board and injuring at least 50 people.

Role of the media

Each time a plane is reported to have crashed; a good number of people will choose never to fly again. This number is often very negligible and therefore hardly affects the airline revenues in any significant way.

There are however quite a number of people who for crash related reasons simply stop using airplanes. Actress Whoopi Goldberg and former Dutch and Arsenal FC striker Dennis Bergkamp are some of the prominent non-flyers.

The major technological improvements in the media have led to a scenario where the gruesome pictures of plane crashes are brought to our screens in record time and sometimes they are aired live. The plane that crashed in Hudson River at the beginning of this year was filmed by and broadcast on the social network site Twitter.

The September 11 crashes were viewed by millions of people in the comfort of their living rooms. And just as I was typing this piece, breaking news came in about a crash landing at the Gatwick airport in West Sussex, UK. It is believed that the plane may have suffered a smoke problem.

Cell phones make roads more deadly

The graphic images of a plane are said to have a lasting impression on a person’s mind enough to convince them that flying is indeed a very risky mode of transport. However it is still a fact that travelling by road is much more risky than by air. In fact a report released recently in the US seems to cement this fact. 

The report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which looked at the link between mobile phones and road accidents seemed to imply that drivers who multitask on their phones while are more likely to cause an accident than those under the influence of alcohol.

The sad not is not just that more and more people own mobiles but that many are finding it a standard behaviour to use them while driving.

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