Tragedies In The Air

What's The Deal?

July 05, 2009|By MICHELLE DEAL-ZIMMERMAN

Planes are falling from the sky.

I feel like Chicken Little even writing that sentence, but several tragic events over the past six months, including two in June, have given me pause. As an air traveler, I've known all along that neither planes nor pilots are invincible - Capt. Scully not withstanding. But recent events have made this crystal clear.

In February, a Continental commuter jet crashed into a Buffalo neighborhood, killing everyone on board and one man on the ground. That same month, a Turkish Airlines plane crashed short of a runway in Amsterdam, breaking into three pieces and killing nine of the 135 people on board, including the pilots.

Three months later, an Air France jet plunged into the Atlantic. It wasn't taking off, but already several minutes into the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris and, presumably, moving along at cruising altitude. But then some catastrophic failure caused it to drop from the sky. Of the 228 passengers and crew on board, only about 50 bodies have been recovered. The search for more has been called off, however the hunt for the black boxes continues even though signals from their beacons are fading along with our chance to figure out what went wrong.

Then, last week, another flight with a French connection plunged into the sea. The flight, operated by Yemen's national carrier, Yemenia, originated in Paris and was on approach to the island of Comoros when it crashed into the Indian Ocean. But the plane that took off from France was not the one that hit the water. Rather, the crew of 11 and some 142 passengers had changed planes in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. The jet they boarded was 19 years old and had been barred from France because of safety issues. Yet aviation officials say bad weather during the landing could have played as much a role as aging equipment.

There was some good news from this latest crash: A 14-year-old girl survived.

Still, more than 350 air travelers have been swallowed up by the sea since June 1 - and more than 400 fatalities have been logged in major plane crashes this year.

The US Airways "miracle landing" on the Hudson River in January seems a very long time ago.

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