Safety in jeopardy

July 27, 2014 - 2:54:48 am

World aviation bodies should have more powers and greater control over safety issues.

The United Nations’ aviation agency is meeting in Montreal on Tuesday to take stock of safety measures days after the downing of Malaysia Airline MH17 caused an international uproar. Air transport experts say air travel is the safest mode of transport going by the ratio of fatalities in accidents to the number of people being carried all over the world. However, the impact of an air crash, especially that involving an international airliner, is huge. Such a crash grabs international headlines and draws intense scrutiny because of the high profile nature of international air travel and the dimension of political relations among states.

It has been earlier suggested that the United Nations play a larger role in air transport safety, which involves a large number of lives and millions of dollar of property. The summoning of leading air transport organisations by the International Civil Aviation Organisation for a meeting is a welcome step in this regard. 

Officials from the International Air Transport Association, Airports Council International and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization will meet in the Canadian city to discuss issues related to air safety. 

The trio of crashes within a few days has shaken the confidence of air travellers. Most unlucky has been Malaysia Airlines, which already reeling under the loss of Flight MH370, got another blow when its Boeing 777 was shot down in Ukrainian air space killing all 298 on board.

Then it was the crash of an Air Algerie aircraft that claimed the lives of all 118 people on board. The plane was flying from Ougadogou in Burkina Faso to the Algerian capital, Algiers. 

Taiwan was mourning the death in an air crash of 48 people being flown to an outlying island in the Asian nation. Though it was a domestic flight, the shock generated by the two other crashes combined with the one in Taiwan reverberated across the globe. The combined death toll in the three crashes is 464, which is a significant number. 

Though airlines have been trying hard to improve safety records, many measures fall flat as an aircraft, when in flight, becomes vulnerable to the whims of the elements. This is what happened to the Taiwanese airliner, which was flying through an area being buffeted by stormy weather. The Algerian aircraft flying out of Burkina Faso had to undertake a change of course because of adverse weather. 

The reasons behind plane crashes are many and varied. Man doesn’t have much control over the weather, so it is hard to prevent accidents attributable to the elements. However, accidents like those of MH370 and MH17 can be prevented if aviation bodies come together and decide on concerted action. This calls for giving such organisations greater power and more freedom to operate in an international environment•