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Up in the air

Up in the air
Highlights

Even one air disaster is too many, but eight major ones taking place in the last one year set a grim record of sorts. Aviation accidents took 265 lives in 2013, the previous year. Since then, an estimated 1,000 lives are lost. And we are into the first quarter of this year, yet, with foul weather conditions heightening the risks that bedevil aviation.

Flying has truly become a hazardous task. The lesson from the latest disaster is clear: the air safety is of paramount concern. And it is never enough

Even one air disaster is too many, but eight major ones taking place in the last one year set a grim record of sorts. Aviation accidents took 265 lives in 2013, the previous year. Since then, an estimated 1,000 lives are lost. And we are into the first quarter of this year, yet, with foul weather conditions heightening the risks that bedevil aviation.

A German flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed in the French Alps in Southern France on Tuesday, forcing French President Francois Hollande to an- nounce that there may be no survivors from among 150 passengers, including young students. While Alps have been the snowbound burial ground for many, including ace In- dian scientist Homi Bhabha, the Asian re- gion, and in particular, Malaysia have been the worst-hit.

Just a year ago, Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight with 239 passengers disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. How and why it changed course and disappeared several hundred kilometers away remains a mys- tery. The search has hit a dead-end and now it is “return to the drawing board,” meaning start the probe afresh. Even as Malaysians faced flak from China, since most passengers were flying back home, its second aircraft with 298 passengers crashed over Ukraine, causing widespread outcry amidst allegations that it had been shot down, possibly by Russian rebels fighting the Ukrainian authorities.

Why an unarmed Malaysian passenger aircraft remains another unsolved mystery. Malaysia’s ethnic Indian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes’ Indonesian subsidiary, AirAsia Indonesia, crashed last December, ending Fernandes’ accident-free record. There were no survivors from among 155 passengers and seven crew members. Then, 162 Lebanese passengers perished when Algeria’s Air Algerie flight AH5017 crashed during an official ceremony at the Beirut International Airport on December 21 last year.

India has had more than its share of air disasters, both civil and military. An Indian Navy Dornier crashed into sea off Goa this week and a little earlier, the Indian Air Force lost a Jaguar. Besides expensive aircraft, lost are young pilots, their promising lives cut short.India has lost many people to air disasters in the past, including Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi and industrialist Aditya Vikram Birla.

Each disaster comes as a rude reminder to Kumaramangalams, an illustrious Tamil Nadu family. Of them, Mohan Kumaramangalam, a minister in the India Gandhi Government, died when an Indian Airlines plane crashed in 1973. In the MH370 disaster, his daughter Uma Mukherjee mourned the passing away of her son Muktesh Mukher- jee and his Chinese wife Xiaomao Bai.

Flying has truly become a hazardous task. The lesson from the latest disaster is clear: the air safety is of paramount concern. And it is never enough. While en- suring safety each and every time – this is easier said than done thanks to the ex- plosive growth in aviation worldwide – one must accept the risks involved in flying and hope for the best.

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