The scene of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash, March 10, 2019

NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES CRASH

The tragic air accident involving Ethiopian passenger jet ET302, a Boeing 737 is pathetic. None of the passengers or crew members was spared. 157 on board the plane perished. A total of 35 nationals were on the ill-fated flight that took a plunge just six minutes after take-off from the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The plane was heading for Nairobi, Kenya. Given the nature of both cities, it is clear most of the passengers were high-level personalities. This is a tragedy of monumental proportions, as persons who boarded the plane to their doom would have rescinded their decisions, if they had known what lay ahead of the flight.

It is not the first time a plane had crashed and left horrible tales like the very latest. However, anytime it occurs, it left many of those peripatetic people in fear as they imagine the procedure of death. Plunging from a plane’s altitude leads to a heavy landfall. The fuselage sinks with its contents if it falls in water. Upon impact on land, it could trigger fire. Chances of survival in both scenarios are almost non-existent. The previous crash related to Ethiopian Airline was in 2010. The flight went into the sea soon after takeoff from Beirut, Lebanon. Cases like these, especially the particular carrier in the spotlight now, unsettles many. It is the commonest flight from Africa to destinations within and outside the continent.

Expectations are that, investigations into the crash would result in permanent solution to the causes. An inventory of air accidents reveals one thing. Most air crashes occur within first 30 minutes into the flight. You can talk of the Malaysian airliner that vanished and still cannot be traced on its flight path between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur. It is same when you recall Indonesian examples. A Russian flight from Moscow to Syria that crashed and perished a military music band, a Saint Petersburg-bound flight from Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt that was allegedly sabotaged and a plane from Burkina Faso heading for Algeria that came down in Mali.

Other air crashes had happened at the tail ends of the journey as a result of crash landings. To mention a few of these, we may want to recall with heavy hearts a Seattle airport accident, after a long flight from South Korea and the Egypt Air that crashed on the Mediterranean whilst approaching Egypt’s Alexandria from France.  The planes that crash just after take-off appear to suffer technical failure and to some extent pilot error or bad weather. A good pilot will stay clear of conflict zones, and avoid the incident that happened to another Malaysian airliner which took the knock from a rocket in Ukrainian airspace. What happened to an aircraft belonging to German wings that was flying between Barcelona and Dusseldorf was a pure case of pilot sabotage. A junior pilot on suicide mission, decided to plunge into the alps taking many along the sordid experience. Post mortem analysis showed a pilot that was unworthy of the cockpit. He had shut the door on the flight captain who was returning to the steering after visiting the washroom, and then carried out the nefarious act.

Technological advancements have meant that these days a flight may be placed on auto-piloting in which systems are programmed for the flight to move as though it is unmanned. The pilot’s only job is to monitor that process, guide it in the event of an emergency and ensure a smooth take-off and landing. As a result of the delicate nature of flying, systems have been put in place that are bent on sufficient checks before and during flights.

Certain items are banned on flights, scan machines enforce this measure, whereas flight maintenance culture is stringent. Communication on a flight, especially by crew members to Airports, run throughout journeys. When this communication snaps, initial suspicion is accident. More often than not, this had been the case.

In emergencies, a pilot cannot land anywhere, except on an airport tarmac. On rare occasions some had taken to motorable roads. The period between the nearest airport and the distressed flight, determines what happens next. Aeroplanes are wonders of man’s creation through scientific breakthroughs. The wide dispersal of nations across the face of earth would have regimented the ends of the world, but for air travel. Therefore, it is the main facilitator of the process towards global village. Journeys which could take more than a year to make are compressed into hours, courtesy flights. However, when disaster strikes, survivals are out of the question and that renders the other side of this technology, fit for description as necessary evil. The trends of the crashes question the observation that air transport is the safest. Certainly, it calls on science to find a way out of this tangle. Some people refer to it as flying coffin.

Our condolences to the government and people of Ethiopia, families of the crash victims and Ethiopian airlines.

Hopefully we can say never again.

BY NAPOLEON ATO KITTOE, A JOURNALIST

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