By Muyiwa Adetiba
One, two, three crashes in a week! It seems the aviation industry has never had it so bad in recent times. It didn’t help that I was thousands of miles away from home that week. It didn’t help that I had four flights to connect from two airlines a few days later.
It certainly didn’t help that I was on one of the two airlines—British Airways—on a long haul across the Atlantic Ocean when I stumbled across an article from the ‘Mail of London’ screaming ‘what if Hamas was to shoot down a British Airway plane?’ I didn’t read the article.
Two of the crashes happened within 24 hours of each other while the third was just two days before. Two involved Asian Airlines. In fact, the air crashes of February 16, March 8 and June 24, all involved Asian airlines. This is unfortunate because Asian Airlines are usually among the best in the world. They are known for efficiency, courtesy and quality service. They are also known to spoil their customers silly especially if you are in the First class or Business Class cabins.
I can however understand the fears, though unrealistic, of many travellers who decide not to patronise Asian Airlines any longer. I can also understand if the number of people with the fear of flying has doubled in recent weeks.
Four high profile crashes within a month can send the chill down any spine. In the midst of all these, the US government issued a statement that terrorists were targeting US bound planes. The intelligence report had it that mobile phones which everyone carries, and computers could be used as the next weapon of mass destruction. These are indeed stormy times for air travellers and the aviation industry as a whole.
But I refuse to press the panic button; partly because of an article I read some 35 years ago in the Punch which influenced my thoughts and my subsequent observations which reinforced the views of the article. Titled ‘Unsafe at any height”, the writer, I think it was Prof Akin Oyebode but it was so long ago— went through a brief history of the aviation industry and concluded that every crash made the industry safer. Facts, and observations through the years have proved him right.
Every crash, irrespective of where it happens, is investigated until remote and immediate causes are unearthed. Reports are written and recommendations made which are implemented by all stakeholders. The result is that air travel is still the safest and fastest means of mass transportation known to man.
The world became a global village because of air travels which shrank space and made commuting to hitherto unknown destinations possible. Today, there are many airports in the world where planes take off and land every 30 seconds to and from far flung places.
So, in spite of all the hue and cry, the aviation industry, which is getting bigger by the day, is still relatively safe and the industry intends to keep it that way. Last year had the safest record in aviation history and this year could still be better if crashes can be capped this mid-year.
It must bother us though, that some of the crashes took sinister turns this year. On March 8, a Malaysian Airline plane simply dropped from the open sky and disappeared—an improbable occurrence in this day of satellite and high- tech surveillance.
Those who believe the Super Powers are up to their dirty games and are not telling us all they know may not be day dreaming given the capabilities of these powers to spot even a shining penny from the skies. Another Malaysian plane was brought down on July 17 in Ukraine. This time, a Super Power has been fingered in a disgraceful show of blame trading. Less than a month before this, on June 24, a Pakistani plane was shot down.
All of this might point in one direction. The skies are becoming stormy as terrorists are taking their chilling and murderous activities to the skies. The capability to shoot down planes over 20 thousand feet high has obviously increased. These soulless people would think nothing of shooting down a plane just to score a murderous point even if their parents were in it.
And the fact that they do not care who they hit makes air travel potentially hazardous. But I am consoled by one fact; which is that aviation industry seems to be at least one step ahead of these people who live to kill. We had plane hijacks and bombings in the 80s. These have been brought to the barest minimum today. Then we had 9/11 which for me, was the most heinous crime against humanity. We have not had a repeat of it and it is not for want of trying on the part of the terrorists.
I believe terrorists everywhere thrive in chaos and when there is none, they try to create one because this is their oxygen. Their raison d’etre is to create fear and insecurity and thereby destroy the world order. Religion is just a ruse to recruit susceptible individuals who can then be indoctrinated. The greatest evil today are perpetrated by these people who claim to do ‘Allah’s will’. They rape, they maim, they kill. And their sponsors who must rot in hell, watch.
I salute the men and women who work hard to ensure that terrorists do not control the skies and that evil will not triumph over good. They have succeeded in making air travel safer for all of us. Can a group of people stand up and be counted in Nigeria in its commitment and determination to ensure that terrorists do not take over our land? We, the people, are waiting.