Third 2014 Transport Tragedy in Southeast Asia


What Happened?

Yet again, the southeast region of Asia has been struck by misfortune, particularly in the air travel sector. Early Monday morning, at 5:36 AM (local time in Indonesia), AirAsia Flight QZ8501 took off with 155 passengers and 7 members of the crew from Surabaya International Airport in Indonesia. At 6:12 AM, the pilot reported that the path of the airline had been impeded by storm clouds and asked air traffic officials for permission to avoid the clouds by executing a left turn and ascending to an altitude of 38,000 ft. Djoko Murjatmodjo, an aviation official at the Indonesian Transport Ministry, reported that the left turn was approved, but the ascension was not, as another plane was already flying at the desired altitude of 38,000 ft. However, Murjatmodjo suggested that the pilot implemented the ascension anyway, despite conflicting orders. Between 6:18 AM and 6:24 AM, the air traffic control lost contact with the AirAsia flight and, by 7:55 AM, flight QZ8501 was officially announced as “missing.” Its last known location was the Java Sea, somewhere between Belitung and Borneo. As of now, no evidence of the flight has been found, though many theories have been made about the cause of the disappearance, ranging from a terrorist attack to a simple mid-flight stall. Indonesia has been searching the Java Sea, along with Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. However, many underwater research experts like Christine Dennison have ruled out a landing on water and it is very likely that the plane is at the bottom of the ocean now.

Past Occurrences

Many have drawn comparisons between this incident and the catastrophe that occurred regarding flight MH370. Though the name has left the headlines, the Malaysian Airlines flight is still yet to be found. However, the shroud of enigma surrounding this disappearance is considerably more opaque than that of QZ8501. For starters, communication like that between QZ8501 and air traffic officials was nonexistent in the case of MH370 and this leads to a greater amount of ambiguity. Without the benefit of communication, no conclusions about MH370 could have been drawn and no theories could have been made. Also, QZ8501 probably landed in the Java Sea, “a much shallower and busier body of water than the southern Indian Ocean,” which is still thought to be the final resting place for MH370 and its 239 passengers. As for MH-17, it was clear that the plane had been shot down amidst the turmoil between Ukraine and Russian forces and, fortunately the wreckage had been found.

2014: Have We Really Advanced?

While many questions are being asked about the disappearances of these airlines, a heavier one seems to exist in the back of peoples’ minds. How can entities as huge as airplanes just disappear in the year 2014? Reporter Jon Ostrower of the Wall Street Journal says that, while air safety has seen a steady increase over the years, it is still very hard to predict these catastrophes, much less, solve and explain them. As for QZ8501, Ostrower says that finding the aircraft is of the utmost importance right now. However, the understanding of the situation will progress and many comparisons will be drawn between all these disasters. For now, the general location of QZ8501 is somewhere in the Java Sea and the probable cause seems to be erratic weather, but, with the disappearance of MH370 and QZ8501, this slew of calamities coming out of southeast Asia is bound to raise eyebrows…

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