"the best post on the subject [of the Stockwell shooting] so far and I agree. A must read." - Tim Worstall, August 21, 2005

"Chris at Optimus In Omnis wrote a thoughtful post in July...his more recent post describes the edginess many Londoners feel" - BBC News Online, August 22, 2005

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Second air accident in three days leaves questions

For the third time in two weeks a passenger plane was left in flames, and for the second time all on board that plane were killed, denting the image of airflight as the safest form of transport in the world. Today, in West Venezuela, in the Sierra de Perija mountain range, the McDonnell Douglas 82 plane, operated by West Carribean Airways crashlanded just minutes after sending an SOS message to air traffic control, in which he requested an emergency landing at an airport inside the Venezuela/Columbia border. The flight was planned to land in Martinique, taking off from Panama.

All 160 people on board, including 8 crew members, are believed to have not survived the crash, deep in the jungle of Venezuela. Most of the passengers were believed to be from Martinique, according to French civil aviation spokespersons. The passengers on the flight had chartered the aircraft for a week-long holiday in Panama. When the emergency request to land was first received, the pilot relayed to air traffic controllers that one of the engines on the twin-engined aircraft had stopped - while an aircraft such as the MD82 can survive capably on one engine, if, as seems to have happened here, the second engine gave way, the plane quickly loses altitude and, above a heavy mountainous area, would be in peril.

This comes as a blow to Boeing who now have to face the blame for two malfunctioning aircraft crashing in just three days. Boeing, who bought the McDonnell Douglas line of aircraft in 1997, were also the makers of the Boeing 737 involved in the crash over Greek airspace on Sunday. These two crashes come just days after the miraculous escape of over 200 passengers on board an Air France Airbus plane which spontaneously burst into flames after overshooting the runway and falling into a chasm at Toronto's Pearson Airport. Luckily on that day, all passengers and crew were able to escape the plane without harm.

Disgustingly, it emerged yesterday that the person who claimed he was sent a text message from one of the passengers on the grounded Greek flight saying "farewell cousin" was in fact a hoaxer. Greek authorities arrested him last night, at the same time as they raided the offices of Helios Airlines as a result of claims that this was not the first time that a Helios plane had experienced problems regarding its air conditioning units.

Whether this recent outburst of plane-related accidents, coupled with the troublesome times at Heathrow regarding industrial action by Gate Gourmet, the company providing British Airways with in-flight food, will discourage the general public is unknown. It should be noted, however, that air travel is still the safest form of transport.

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