26 Juni 2013

Flying With Care In The Air



Going to the airport has often sent shivers up most people's spine. Along with the excitement of sitting in a window seat, people have mental flashes of what will happen if their airplane is going to crash. Let me provide you with some statistics given by renowned authorities such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Although a staggering 40 percent of people are anxious about air travel, the chances of a plane being involved in a crash is only one in 1.2 million. The odds of dying in a plane crash are a meager one in 11 million while those of dying in a car accident are 1 in 5,000. Another mind-blowing statistic is that 95.7 percent of all people involved in a crash survive, while 76 percent of people survive even in the worst air accidents.

It may soothe you to hear such news. But the dangers created by the negligence of passengers and crew sometimes does put everyone in danger. About 43 percent of commercial aircraft disasters are caused by pilot error. In the year 2005, a Helios aircraft crashed in a mountain in Greece. The cause was a drop in cabin pressure due to pilot error and ignorance of a problem with the door.

The worst aviation disaster, which killed a total of 583 people, also occurred due to pilot error in 1977 in Tenerife. Two 747's belonging to Pan Am and KLM collided head-on on the runway itself when the pilot of the KLM plane decided to take off without permission from air traffic control (ATC). Pilot error was also responsible for the death of the Polish president in 2010 and the Russian hockey team in 2011.

"It is high time now to introduce some reform in the aviation sector and the way pilot testing is handled." This is an old-fashioned way of addressing the problem which seems to haunt all aviation passengers. Instead of making these baseless promises, governments and bodies such as the NTSB must get down to taking stern steps.

Many accidents that have involved pilots in the past have shown alcohol levels in their bodies in postmortems. After laboriously looking through files, investigators have also found out that many pilots were improperly trained and not ready to fly when the accident took place. Recreating the scene after a crash has taken place, after the milk has been spilt as it were, playing the blame game can often be no more than a waste of time.

With the introduction of low-budget flying, the world has access to flying to destinations cheaper. Although the poor are now able to access a luxury formerly achieved only by the super rich, they have not quite learned etiquette and regulations regarding what to do and what not to do. They keep their mobile phones on during the flight, which interferes with the plane's navigational systems.

A recent case in Indonesia saw a Sriwijaya Air flight attendant (Nur Febriani) being slapped by Bangka Belitung Regional Investment Coordinating Board head Zakaria Umur just because he was asked to switch off his mobile phone after boarding.

It is important for all passengers to understand that by being deaf to warnings given by experts from all over the world, they are colluding in their own demise. We must strive to improve flight safety and do whatever we can from our end. It is only then that safer skies can be achieved.

SAHIL NANDAL
PURWAKARTA, WEST JAVA

Surat pembaca diambil dari Jakarta Post tanggal 26 Juni 2013.