Tuesday, 8 April 2014


“I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.” - Chuck Yeager

The Malaysian Airlines tragedy has been in the news constantly over the last few weeks and has generated tremendous interest worldwide. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the suspected fatal flight of MH370 has spawned numerous theories including the usual conspiracy plots, outlandish alien involvement and the more hopeful hijacking scenarios. The lack of evidence of a crash after widespread searches contributes to the continuing bafflement of authorities and governments, while the agony of uncertainty of the relatives and friends of the missing passengers is prolonged.

On Tuesday morning, relatives and friends of many of the 153 Chinese passengers on Flight MH370 gathered outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing to demand that Malaysian officials tell them the truth about the fate of the flight. They went there despite assurances from the police that the Malaysian ambassador would come to their hotel to talk to them, an apparent effort to dissuade them from going to the embassy, according to people on the scene. The protesters, who presented the embassy with a scathing collective statement, said that the families wanted answers and would consider Malaysian officials and the airline to be “murderers” if the families found that wrongdoing had led to the deaths of their loved ones.

In Kuala Lumpur, officials with Malaysia Airlines stressed that despite the lack of details about the plane’s fate, the relatives of the passengers and crew must accept that their loved ones had almost certainly died. Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, announced Monday that new data left no doubt that the plane had gone down in the ocean. Mohammed Nor Mohammed Yusof, the chairman of Malaysia Airlines, stated: “We must accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost, and that none of the passengers or crew on board survived,” said. He added that the airline’s primary responsibility now was caring for the grieving families.

The Aircraft Crashes Record Office (ACRO), a non-government organisation based in Geneva, compiles statistics on aviation accidents of aircraft capable of carrying more than six passengers, excluding helicopters, balloons, or combat aircraft. In 2008, ACRO announced that, in terms of number of accidents, 2007 was the safest year in aviation since 1963. Compared to 164 events in 2006, there were 136 registered accidents, resulting in a total of 965 deaths (this is compared to 1,293 in 2006). Since then, both 2009 (122) and 2010 (130) saw fewer registered accidents. The lowest number of fatalities (771) since the end of World War II, was in 2004. The year with most fatalities was 2001, with 4,140 deaths (mainly due to the September 11 attacks). Those numbers may be less than the total aircraft accidents fatalities as ACRO only considers accidents in which the aircraft has suffered such damage that it is removed from service.

Aviation safety is a term encompassing the theory, investigation, and categorisation of flight failures, and the prevention of such failures through regulation, education, and training. It can also be applied in the context of campaigns that inform the public as to the safety of air travel.  Within Australia, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is the federal government body responsible for investigating transport-related accidents and incidents, covering air, sea, and rail travel. Formerly an agency of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, in 2010, in the interests of keeping its independence it became a stand-alone agency.

Commercial airlines around the world now carry nearly 2.5 billion passengers a year, and despite the inherent dangers of rocketing through the sky, kilometres above the Earth in a very heavy piece of metal, these travellers are amazingly safe. In fact, the odds of dying on a commercial airline flight are as low as 9 million to 1! That said, a lot can go wrong at 10 km above the ground, and if you’re unlucky enough to be aboard when something does, the decisions you make could mean the difference between life and death. Keep in mind that about 95% of airplane crashes have survivors, so even if the worst does happen, your odds aren’t as bad as you might think. The following are steps that increase your chance of survival:
  • Wear comfortable clothes: Long pants, a long-sleeve t-shirt or windcheater, and sturdy, comfortable, lace-up shoes.
  • Sit as close as possible to an exit, and aisle seats are generally preferable. In addition, try to sit in the back of the plane. Passengers in the tail of the aircraft have 40% higher survival rates than those in the first few rows.
  • You’ve heard it tens of times, but it is important: Read the safety information card and pay attention to the pre-flight safety speech.
  • Make a survival plan. If the plane is going to crash, you almost always have several minutes to prepare before impact: Ensure you know where the nearest exit is; put on life vest if the plane is over water; take blanket with you if it is cold outside.
  • Keep your seat belt securely fastened at all times and avoid moving around the cabin without reason.
  • Brace yourself for impact, using one of the recommended brace positions, depending on where you are sitting.
  • Remain calm, level-headed and don’t get caught up in the panic immediately before and after the crash. Follow air crew instructions!
  • Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others. You only have about 15 seconds to do this before losing consciousness, should the need arise to use oxygen.
  • Protect yourself from smoke. Fire and, more commonly, smoke is responsible for a large percentage of crash fatalities. Use a cloth (moistened preferably) to breathe through.
  • Get out of the airplane as quickly as possible. It’s critical to get out of the aircraft without delay: If fire or smoke is present, you will generally have less than two minutes to safely exit the plane.
  • Get at least 150 metres upwind from the wreckage. If you’re stranded in a remote area, the best thing to do usually is to stay close to the aircraft to await rescuers. You don’t want to be too close, though. Fire or explosion can happen at any time after a crash, so put some distance between you and the plane. If the crash is in open-water, swim as far away from the plane wreckage as possible.
  • Do help others as much as you can, although each person is primarily responsible for their own safety. Babies, children, the elderly and the incapacitated may need your help the most.


  1. Sobering to read, and very useful information, but I fear flying and therefore count me in amongst the panic-driven ones!

  2. "Commercial airlines .. now carry nearly 2.5 billion passengers a year, and despite the inherent dangers of rocketing through the sky, kilometres above the Earth in a very heavy piece of metal, these travellers are amazingly safe" (odds = 9 million to 1). Yes I know that... safer than crossing at an intersection in the centre of The City.

    Yet somehow I feel that the City intersection won't run into the side of a mountain, hit appalling weather or run into terrorists who want to massacre hundreds of people. I go abroad every year, but I am liking it less and less, these days :(