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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightAnxieties in the sky

Anxieties in the sky


The anxiety and crisis created in civil aviation industry by the 10 March aircrash of Ethiopian Airlines plane, killing all 157 on board including passengers and crew  is no small.  The ill-fated aircraft was a 737 Max from leading American aircraft manufacturer Boeing.  The plane that took off from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa at 8.38 am,  turned into a fireball at 8.44 and crashed to the land.   The plane had cleared all technical inspections before take off.    

The element of shock and surprise over an aircraft crashing even after such a comprehensive inspection,  and without any attributable reason within minutes,  cannot be ignored.  What is more concerning than the  crash itself is the fact that nobody is able to arrive at the possible cause of the failure.  It was on 28 October 2018 that an aircraft of  Indonesia's Lion Air fell into the sea and all 189 passengers on board died. That again was a Boeing 737 Max aircraft.   Two accidents of the same type of aircraft within a short span of time will naturally send jitters among the users of the aircraft model.

Following the Ethiopian Airline tragedy,  all airlines across the globe using Boeing 737 MAX planes have grounded their fleet of the model. Boeing,  founded in Seattle in  USA in 1916,  is a leading player in the world's aircraft manufacturing industry.  Their 737 Max is a superior and widely used type in their range too,   high fuel efficiency being its core attraction.  For the same reason, world's leading operators have bought them in large numbers and further orders are awaiting delivery.  However,  with the Addis Ababa tragedy,  Boeing's reputation has taken a beating.  Most countries,  except America,   were quick to ground their aircraft of the type.  Though the US had not taken a similar decision till Wednesday,  President Trump declared the decision to ground their Boeing 737's on Wednesday evening - under popular pressure.  The event hit Boeing's shares also in the stock market.

More than the fact of two mishaps with a gap of a few months,  it is of great concern that both accidents had several similarities.   Both crashes took place within minutes from take-off.  Neither of them was due to any external factors.  In both cases all people on board died.  The pilots of both flights had sent messages of alarm on losing control of the aircraft,  and both planes fell before anything could be done to rpevent disaster.   Above all,  neither the carriers nor safety experts are able to tell with any technical backup what caused the crash.   It is quite natural for the millions of air passengers to get into panic.   That was the reason why immediately after the Ethiopian Airline disaster,  online ticketing platforms excluded flights with Boeing 737 Max from their list of flights.  

The impact of any setback in the field of civil aviation will not remain limited to flying passengers.   International trade and exchange domains will also feel its pinch,  with unpredictable ramifications in business too.  Even as it is,   many operators who grounded their Max aircraft have by now demanded compensation from Boeing,  a matter that may lead to all sorts of legal battles.  Even in India,  leading private operator SpiceJet has grounded 12 aircraft,  leaving the question how the schedules run by those aircraft can be operated.   Many carriers are thinking of leasing alternate planes.  And that may trigger a spurt in costs and consequently fares.  In short,  civil aviation sector is in for weeks of turbulence and uncertainty.   Above all,  the concern about that vital element in aviation, i.e. safety,  will continue  as a baffling issue.

There is an event of history that the world still remembers with horror:  the sinking of the ship Titanic which had set sail with boasts of the highest level of technical perfection.   Titanic later became the name of a tragedy that influences human imagination of a wide variety.  And now here,  it is a company that had attained star status by manufacturing top notch planes that few others could reach for,  that stands in the dock over two of its aircraft crashing within a span of four months leading to the loss of 346 lives between them.  All we can say for now is that we should swap the pride of technical perfection for the humility of precision and care. 

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