All of us are stunned to hear the news about AirAsia 8501 and the fact that it has gone missing on a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore. Having just experienced the on-going tragedies of MH17 and MH370, the fact of another aircraft catastrophe, particularly involving an aircraft gone missing, is itself a catastrophe.
Putting aside what has been learned from the unfolding events of MH370 and MH17, Plane-ly Spoken hopes the media has learned some lessons as well.
The media frenzy, driven by a 24 hour news cycle, following the loss of MH370 in particular, was, in a single word, disgraceful. Judging from the last 24 hours, there appears to be a certain amount of self-restraint being shown, but at least one of the 24 hour news outlets is presenting “wall to wall” coverage, breaking only for commercials. Whether the word “disgraceful” will carry over from the media response to MH370, to the loss of AirAsia 8501, remains to be seen.
What does seem to be different is the way the airline has responded, particularly as it relates to dealing with the families. Malaysia Airlines was savaged in the days and weeks after MH370 for the way it dealt with the families. In some respects, the airline was as much a victim as anyone else, caught in the middle between the Chinese, Malaysian and Australian Governments, as the response to the accident became as much a political issue, as a humanitarian and safety issue.
The big difference with AirAsia 8501 is that of the 162 persons on board, 155 were Indonesians, thereby minimizing the involvement of foreign governments and, as a result, the likelihood that AirAsia, unlike Malaysia Airlines, will become a ping pong ball in a game of government egos.
AirAsia and Mr. Fernandes are doing everything right and, more importantly, are being permitted to do so without interference by any government. We are hopeful this will continue and that the investigation of this tragedy will be carried out in a less politically charged environment.
The Indonesian Government has extensive experience in aviation accident investigations, including those conducted pursuant to ICAO Annex 13. We see no reason why that experience will not manifest itself in this investigation. We can only hope the on-going efforts to locate, not only AirAsia 8501, but MH 370 as well, are ultimately successful.
In the meantime, we all wait.
(Originally posted December 29, 2014)