Monday, 29 December 2014

A year of disaster for Malaysian aviation

The disappearance of AirAsia Flight marks the third incident this year involving a Malaysia-affiliated airline. Why have they been struck by such bad fortune? Before vanishing from radar less than an hour into the flight, the pilot of the Singapore-bound plane contacted air traffic control to request an alternate course to avoid extreme weather conditions.

The AirAsia Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, was carrying 162 people and is now presumed to have crashed off the coast of Indonesia near Belitung Island, about halfway between Singapore and Surabaya, Indonesia’s second biggest city where the flight originated. Southeast Asia has also been experiencing severe flooding, and intense thunderstorms could have been a major contributing factor in the latest incident.

Though the AirAsia plane may have crashed as a result of severe weather, there is an eerie similarity with MH370, which disappeared in March and presumably flew for hours toward the Indian Ocean after radically changing its flight path. Both planes vanished from radar without any emergency signal or indication of distress.

During the last communication with the plane, the captain requested clearance to fly at a higher altitude to avoid clouds that would have caused heavy turbulence, which is an entirely normal action for a pilot to take. What is strange, however, is that the pilot did not attempt to relay any further information or an emergency signal to air traffic control.

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Nile Bowie is a columnist with Russia Today, and a research affiliate with the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an NGO based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at