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AirAsia 8501 – Warsaw, Montreal and Indonesia

The most recent update regarding the investigation of the crash of Air Asia 8501 focuses on the reported recovery of the CVR and FDR.  Clearly a welcome development as the search continues for the remainder of the fuselage and the victims.

Meanwhile, the failure to locate the rest of the wreckage is not the only source of frustration.  It turns out that while Indonesia signed the Warsaw Convention of 1929, it did not sign the Montreal Convention of 1999.  Inasmuch as the flight was an international one from Indonesia to Singapore, the passengers/families rights to recovery are controlled by international agreement and, in this case, by the Warsaw Convention.  The problem is that the limit of recovery under the Warsaw Convention is approximately $8,300.00 USD.  This is the reason most nations engaged in international air transportation, including Malaysia, agreed to the Montreal Convention which makes the carrier strictly liable for approximately the first $170,000 USD in damages.  In addition, the airline is liable for all damages unless the airline proves it did nothing wrong or that the crash was solely the result of the conduct of some other person(s).

Now there have been reports that AirAsia may be paying as much as $100,000 USD to each family, plus an initial payment of $24,000 USD, to cover their immediate financial needs.   If so, that would be consistent with the family/victim centered approach we have seen Mr. Fernandes and AirAsia take to date.  Certainly not the types of settlements entered into in the United States, but far better than $8,300.00.

We note the Indonesian Government is apparently investigating why AirAsia (and, reportedly, five other airlines) were flying on days of the week for which they had no authorization.  In noting this however, unless someone wants to conclude that a cause of the accident is that, had they not been flying that day, the accident would not have happened, this whole controversy about “days of the week” has nothing to do with causation.

Instead of focusing on this issue, maybe someone ought to conduct an investigation of the Indonesian Government and why their aviation system is blacklisted in many parts of the world; why they haven’t asked the NTSB for assistance, and why they never signed the Montreal Convention.  Those are questions which need answers.

AirAsia 8501 – Warsaw, Montreal and Indonesia

AirAsia 8501: Good News and Bad News . . .

The good news, such as it is, is that debris and bodies, both identified as coming from AirAsia 8501,  have been found and it seems as if the search area for the rest of the aircraft and its occupants is narrowing down.  The bad news is that what isn’t narrowing down is the speculation.

Theories being advanced include the pilot flying into a “box canyon” of thunderstorms, the engines and/or windshields being damaged by hail, the pilots flying too slowly and stalling the aircraft, the pilots trying to climb over 50,000 foot plus thunderstorms and a host of other speculation and guesswork.

It’s disappointing, since one of the lessons which should have been learned from MH370, is that speculation is not only pointless, but destructive, taking its toll on the families, as well as the airline.

One thing that seems to have gone unnoticed in the rush of the media to speculate is the fact that the weather in that part of the world, at this time of the year, is what pilots and airlines operating there confront and deal with on a regular basis.  The fact that the weather is hampering the search efforts is itself indicative of the fact that the weather, which so many speculate was causative, is simply a fact of flying life for airlines in that part of the world.

Now, don’t get us wrong, maybe the CVR and the FDR will demonstrate that the flight crew made errors.  But, let’s all slow down at this point and give the pilots the benefit of the doubt.  These were two experienced airline pilots, operating in an environment which they had operated in for many years, working for a company with a great safety record.  There’s not a single fact, suggesting they made a mistake.

And, oh yeah, what about those six or eight other flight crews and airplanes operating in the same airspace at the same time?  Can’t the “talking heads” stop long enough for the investigation to locate the FDR and CVR, as well as learn what was experienced by these other flight crews?

While there are marked differences between MH370 and AirAsia 8501, notably that we still haven’t found any evidence of MH370 or its fate, the crescendo of speculation associated with AirAsia 8501 seems to be increasing as we get closer to answers, rather than decreasing.

The number of erroneous reports put out by the media after MH370, in a rush to be the first to report, is like the headline announcing an indictment or arrest, to be followed, three months later, by a small story buried in the back of the paper reporting the dismissal of the indictment or the decision not to prosecute. The damage has been done.

Let’s not indict the flight crew or the airline.  Let’s allow the investigation to unfold.  Let’s deal with facts and not speculation even if it means less coverage.  The damage which is done by taking any other path can never be fully undone.  Will any of us forget the images of the police seizing the computers from the home of the captain of MH370, accompanied by the speculation as to why he had a flight simulator, suggesting he may have had it so he could practice taking control of the airplane for some criminal reason?  Speculation and guesswork are never good, particularly when they’re so unnecessary and destructive.

AirAsia 8501: Good News and Bad News . . .

AirAsia 8501 Déjà Vu … All Over Again

All of us are stunned to hear the news about AirAsia 8501 and the fact that it has gone missing on a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore.  Having just experienced the on-going tragedies of MH17 and MH370, the fact of another aircraft catastrophe, particularly involving an aircraft gone missing, is itself a catastrophe.

Putting aside what has been learned from the unfolding events of MH370 and MH17, Plane-ly Spoken hopes the media has learned some lessons as well.

The media frenzy, driven by a 24 hour news cycle, following the loss of MH370 in particular, was, in a single word, disgraceful.  Judging from the last 24 hours, there appears to be a certain amount of self-restraint being shown, but at least one of the 24 hour news outlets is presenting “wall to wall” coverage, breaking only for commercials.  Whether the word “disgraceful” will carry over from the media response to MH370, to the loss of AirAsia 8501, remains to be seen.

What does seem to be different is the way the airline has responded, particularly as it relates to dealing with the families.  Malaysia Airlines was savaged in the days and weeks after MH370 for the way it dealt with the families.  In some respects, the airline was as much a victim as anyone else, caught in the middle between the Chinese, Malaysian and Australian Governments, as the response to the accident became as much a political issue, as a humanitarian and safety issue.

The big difference with AirAsia 8501 is that of the 162 persons on board, 155 were Indonesians, thereby minimizing the involvement of foreign governments and, as a result, the likelihood that AirAsia, unlike Malaysia Airlines, will become a ping pong ball in a game of government egos.

AirAsia and Mr. Fernandes are doing everything right and, more importantly, are being permitted to do so without interference by any government.  We are hopeful this will continue and that the investigation of this tragedy will be carried out in a less politically charged environment.

The Indonesian Government has extensive experience in aviation accident investigations, including those conducted pursuant to ICAO Annex 13.  We see no reason why that experience will not manifest itself in this investigation.  We can only hope the on-going efforts to locate, not only AirAsia 8501, but MH 370 as well, are ultimately successful.

In the meantime, we all wait.

AirAsia 8501 Déjà Vu … All Over Again