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Outdated planes making travel increasingly unsafe ‘Midway landings scary’

In the backdrop of the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian airline, the Arab Times asked people in this week’s online poll what they thought about the safety of air travel. A majority, 46% of the voters felt that air travel is becoming increasingly unsafe due to the use of old planes that have passed their expiry dates. Respondents said that many airlines have not renewed their fleet for the last many decades, and these planes are really old. “These include some prestigious national air carriers too.” They rationalized that in the wake of the recent spates of economic crises, the aviation industries across the world took a big blow. “This must have upset their plans for renewal of fleets and forced airlines to make do with the existing old flights.

This could be one of the reasons for the sudden increase in air crashes in the recent times.” Other respondents shared their experience when the flights they were traveling in had to be landed midway owing to technical faults. “It is a scary feeling to be informed midair about engine and other faults. The other issues such as delays and upsetting of schedules come secondary.” The second greatest majority of voters, 17%, had a contradictory view.

They felt that despite all the news about flight accidents, it is still the safest means of transportation available. More lives are lost every year in accidents on other mass transport systems, they said. Respondents added that rail, sea and road accidents claim more lives each than air crashes every year. The Arab Times has not verified these statistics though. They attributed this to the stringent safety measures that are maintained in the aviation industry. “Errors are kept to the minimum possible.” One respondent said that following the 9/11 attacks, flights all around the world are now being outfitted with a system that will allow a flight to be controlled entirely from the ground to avoid situations where hijackers could turn planes into missiles to hit targets.

No other transportation system is so advanced in safety, they said. About 10% of the voters blamed the lapses in security for air accidents. There are still many loopholes in airport security which terrorists can take advantage of for their evil ends. A few respondents shared their experience of how some people, because of their personal relationships with authorities, bypass security procedures to save time. “If we consider how terrorists plan years in advance, including engineering social relationships with an eye on far away consequences, it’s chilling that people are allowed to exploit personal relationships for special treatment.” Another respondent spoke about a businessman, known to him, who regularly used to bribe his way through to carry luggage way beyond the weight limit. He stopped the practice when one day he heard the news of an air crash attributed to excess load in the cargo section. About 13% of the voters named ‘bad management’ as the cause for air accidents.

When asked, respondents said they meant poor maintenance of aircrafts, not making sure if the pilots have had enough rest, poor weather forecasts and so forth. A small minority of voters found other causes such as vulnerability of airplanes to hijackers, complicated technology that can go wrong, the improbability of correcting flaws after take-off, and global warming, which is causing weather disturbances that affect flights.

By: Valiya S. Sajjad Arab Times Staff

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