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Air Safety: The Bad News and The Good News

2014 was the worst year for air accident fatalities in a decade.  In addition to being terrible tragedies, many of these accident had enough unusual twists, such as the disappearance of MH 370 and the destruction of MH 17 by a surface-to-air missile, that they became weeks-long media spectacles.  Did this have a negative impact on the global airline industry?  Apparently not.

According to the International Air Transport Association, 2014 was a record year for global air travel.  A record 3.3 billion passengers were carried over the course of the year with passenger demand growing by ten percent.  Every continent saw increases, with Asia and the Middle East seeing the most robust growth.  While African airlines did not have a stellar year, they at least saw some low growth at .9 percent.

There a clearly several reasons why the accidents of 2014 have not had an impact on the public’s willingness to fly.  First, the same unique circumstances surrounding MH 370 and MH 17 that made them such great media circuses also make them less worrisome to the average traveler.  People look at them as “one-off” events that are unlikely to happen again.  Second, since most of them have involved Asian airlines, travelers in the rest of the world are more likely to consider these accidents anomalies, unique to those airlines, that won’t affect them.  Third, although last year was not a very good year, many people still remember the “bad old days” of the mid 1960s to the late 1990s, when fatalities were often two to three times what they were in 2014.  Last year does not seem so bad by comparison.

Finally, and most importantly, if you look just at the number of accidents, 2014 was actually one of the safest years on record.  The number of commercial aviation accidents worldwide has been steadily declining since the mid-1990s, and last year fit squarely into this continuing downward trend.  The traveling public is aware of this overall trend, and for now, is apparently willing to take last year in stride.

While 2015 is not off to a great start, hopefully the rest of the year will be a safe one, and air commerce will be able to continue to drive growth in the global economy.

Air Safety: The Bad News and The Good News

Aviation Safety: “I Have Ebola, You’re All Screwed.”

By now everyone has seen the video of the “idiot,” suitably described by a level headed and thoroughly professional USAirways flight attendant, being removed from a flight by emergency responders in blue hazmat suits.  While he proclaimed that he was only joking, the full weight of the system should be brought down on anyone who thinks joking about ebola on an airplane is funny.

We haven’t heard whether the “idiot” is going to be prosecuted, but, considering the environment in which we currently live and the potential vulnerability of air transportation, he should be held fully accountable both civilly and criminally and see how funny his fellow inmates think shouting “I have ebola. You’re all screwed” is when he does it in the prison yard.

Whether he’s learned his lesson or not is secondary.  The message has to be clearly and forcefully delivered to other potential idiots that such joking isn’t funny and we’re not going to tolerate it.

So, you ask yourself at this point in our rant, what can be done?  Well, what he did is a violation of the Tokyo Convention of 1963.  Entitled The Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, (“Tokyo Convention”), this international agreement, to which the United States is a signatory, applies to the conduct of passengers who “jeopardize good order and discipline on board” an aircraft which is in flight.  If, telling your fellow passengers that you have ebola and they’re all screwed, doesn’t jeopardize good order and discipline, we don’t know what does.

Under the Tokyo Convention, the Captain has the authority to remove offenders for the aircraft and turn them over to the police where they can be extradited to, in the case of the recent incident, the United States.  Once the extradition is completed, he can be charged with, among other things, interference with a flight crew, an offense which can carry both monetary penalties and jail time.

The bottom line is that there’s simply no excuse for any passenger on any airplane to be joking about guns, bombs or ebola.  Anyone who does so ought not be permitted to get on another airplane.  Flying today, in a post 9-11 world, is, under the best of circumstances, tough.  Security measures, extra charges and delays have removed all of the romance the industry had in its early years.

Putting up with all the inconveniences associated with ensuring the extraordinary safety of our air transportation system is enough.  We don’t need idiots like the one escorted off the airplane the other day.  For our money, throw the book at him!!

Oh, yeah . . . .  a big thank you to the whole flight crew and USAirways!  That flight attendant is a winner!

Aviation Safety: “I Have Ebola, You’re All Screwed.”

Aviation Safety: Air Disasters…No News Is Not Good News

It wasn’t too many weeks ago that the lead story on every network was Malaysia Airlines, Air Algerie or Trans Asia.  In fact, aviation and air disasters were pretty much the only story.

These days, turn on CNN, Fox News or the network newscasts and there’s nary a mention of any of these tragedies.  Sure, we just heard about an accident in Iran which appears to have killed 39, leaving nine survivors.  It’s been reported that the aircraft involved in that accident was a Soviet design, built in Iran, so one could be cynical and say “what do you expect.”  Doing so however, doesn’t lessen the tragedy of any air disaster.

Returning to the two Malaysia Airlines disasters, Air Algerie and Trans Asia, we hear pretty much nothing about the investigation, the families, the search effort or, for that matter, anything else.  Well, that’s not exactly correct.  During the last few days, we have learned the Malaysian Government, already a majority owner of Malaysia Airlines, is going to buy the rest of the outstanding shares and re-brand the airline.  Not surprising and certainly not unprecedented.  Moreover, over time, it will probably be successful and future air travelers will likely not associate the name Malaysia Airlines with whatever name the re-branding results in.

The future aside, what about the past?  What’s going on regarding the search?  How about the families?  What about the investigation?  Lots of question remain, but no information, much less answers, are forthcoming.

The media has moved on.  The crisis in Gaza.  The crisis in Ukraine.  The Ebola crisis.  Individually and collectively, these ongoing events have knocked aviation off the front page and removed it from the category of “breaking news.”

The tragedy of these airline disasters continue unreported and pretty much unnoticed except, of course, by the families.  Hopefully some progress or activity is underway that will ultimately result in answers.

Maybe the reporting is better in other countries, because there’s certainly none in this country.

Aviation Safety: Air Disasters…No News Is Not Good News