Current Issues in Aviation 3


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CurrentIssues in Aviation

Sincepast, the aviation industry has been rocked with several accidentsand incidents, most of which have been fatal, leading to loss oflife. Aviation accident entails occurrences that involve operationsof aircrafts, from the time passengers aboard the aircraft with theintention of flying to the time such persons are disembarked or theaircraft crashes (Airsafe 2015). The crash leads to fatal injuriesand the aircraft is wrecked leading to a structural failure. In somecases, the aircraft is completely inaccessible or untraceable. Aircrash investigations on various air crashes has attributed aviationaccidents to mechanical and technical failures, most of which areavoidable, given sufficient care and precision amongst allprofessionals of the aviation industry (Barrett &amp DeVita2011).Among the established causes of aviation accidents include hazardousdebris on runways, bad weather leading to mechanical or technicalfailure, as well as poor repair and maintenance job. Other causes mayinclude human factors such as deliberate attempts by humans to causethe accidents and pilot’s exhaustion or inexperience (Price &ampForrest. 2013). Additionally, engine failures and other technicalfailures have been established to be among the major causes ofaviation accidents in the world today. Aircrafts are fitted withadvanced technological kits, such as black-boxes, which are vital ininvestigating air crash. In this view, finding the wreckage of theaircraft is one of the most important steps in establishing the causeof an air-crash (Benny 2012). This paper exemplifies recent aviationaccidents, basing its arguments on known facts about MH 370, MH 17and Flight 8501. These findings will be used to form a discussion onlessons learnt from aviation accidents, detailing appropriatemeasures to reduce aviation accidents.

MalaysiaAirlines flight 370 (MH-370)

MH-370is a commercial aircraft owned and operated by the MalaysianAirlines. On the eighth of March 2014, the aircraft was scheduled totravel from Kuala Lumpur International Airport near Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia, en route to Beijing Capital International Airport in China.MH 370, a Boeing 777 model, had two hundred and twenty-sevenpassengers and crew members on board, who are all presumed dead. Theaircraft disappeared from the radar on the eighth of March 2014, anincident which has since been declared an accident by the MalaysianGovernment. Despite the extensive search of the MH370 wreckage in thesouthern Indian Ocean by the various international players, there hasbeen no trace of the aircraft. As such, there is no concrete evidenceon the cause of the accident (Almasy 2014).

MH370took off from KLIA at 1241 hours and was scheduled to land in Beijingat 0630 hours, but it never reached the scheduled destination. At0100hrs, one hour after the take off, the plane sent its ARINCCommunications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) transmission,which is a service that allows onboard machines, such as computers tocommunicate with computers on the ground (Volpe 2008). Sometimesafterwards, the aircraft silenced and did not send the ACARStransmissions expected at 0137 (Almasy 2014). At 0119, there was thelast recorded communication between the aircraft and air trafficcontroller. At 0121, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam reportedthat Flight 370 had failed to check in as scheduled with the airtraffic control in Ho Chi Minh City. By 0122, the planes transponderhad stopped working, and the flight disappeared from the secondaryradars as the plane passed over the Gulf of Thailand. One hour later,at 0122 Flight 370 was picked up by the military radar as theaircraft flied northwest over the Malacca Strait, west of the lastknown location of the aircraft. The Thai Military radar confirms thatthe plane turned west then northward, flying over the Andaman Sea,which is two hundred nautical miles northwest of Penang on the northwestern side of Malaysia. This was against the planned route thatwould have taken the flight north-eastwards over Vietnam and Cambodia(Almasy 2014).

Analysesof data from satellites led to a belief that the plan plummeted inthe Indian Ocean, far west of the Perth, Australia. The revelation ofthe changed flight-course led to a new search in the Indian Ocean,focusing a refined ocean area, covering sixty-thousand squarekilometers, eighteen thousand kilometers off the west coast ofAustralia. The area is being scanned with highly specializedequipments, such as sonar technology and other crucial equipmentsthat help in mapping ocean floors in search of the missing aircraft(Almasy 2014). The missing aircraft has been the source of variousconspiracy theories, most of which claim that the craft was hijacked.However, available evidence attests that there were deliberateattempts by an individual on board to divert the craft from theplanned route an hour after takeoff. Plausible evidence attests thatthere was tampering with cockpit equipments, leading to mysteriouspower outages during the initial stages of the flight, which expertsbelieve that was a deliberate attempt to avoid radar detection(Almasy 2014).

MalaysiaAirlines Flight 17

Flight17 was a commercial aircraft scheduled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpurand crashed on the seventeenth of July 2014 after being shot down inthe Ukraine-Russian border. The aircraft killed all the two hundredand eighty-three passengers, including the fifteen crew members onboard. The Boeing 777 airliner lost contact about twenty-fivenautical miles from the Russian Ukraine border and crashed nearTorrez in Donetsk Oblast (Yan &ampCripps 2014). TheDutch Safety Board took over the investigations of the crash few daysafter the crash, and established that MH17 was shot down and fellapart in the mid-air as it flew over territories held by pro-Russianseparatists fighting the Ukraine Military. The crash spread debris ofthe aircraft across eight square miles on an area that is ferociouslyfought over between the separatist and the Ukrainian Military (Yan&amp Cripps 2014).Despite easily locating the debris of the doomed aircraft, theinvestigator took days to reach the wreckage, duration leading toincreased accusation between the separatists and the UkrainianGovernment over tampering with flight evidence. Most of the wreckagehas since been transported to Netherlands for reassembling, but somedebris is still strewn across the wreckage area (Preston 2014).

IndonesiaAirAsia Flight 8501

Thiswas an Airbus A320-216 model passenger’s aircraft, owned andoperated by the AirAsia group, which is an affiliate of Indonesia AirAsia. On the twenty-eighth of December 2014, the aircraft wasscheduled to ferry a hundred and fifteen passengers from SurabayaIndonesia to Singapore (Branigan 2015). The plane crashed in JavaSea, due to bad weather, killing all passengers and seven crewmembers on board. Two days after the crash, researchers found humanremains and debris of the aircraft floating in the Java Sea. Thewreckage was found on the floor of the sea on the third of January2015, with the flight data and voice recorder recovered on thethirteenth of January 2015. Further search and recovery of thewreckage and human remains is still on-going (Branigan 2015).

Developingevidences attests that the less experienced co-pilot was flying theplane when stall warning began to sound due to the stormy weather. Atthat time, the captain was monitoring the co-pilot at the same timecommunicating with the traffic control. The pilots cut power as theystruggled to gain control of the aircraft as the aircraft beganfalling at a dangerous speed. It is believed that the Airbus hadclimbed so rapidly to avoid the bad weather at the time (Branigan2015).

Lessonsto Learn from the RecentAir Crash


Sincethe 9/11 attack in America, there has been advanced changes andimprovisation in security, requiring passengers to undergo stringentsecurity checks before boarding the aircraft (Sweet 2009). Amongthese checks include the stringent passport checks, to ensure thatonly the collect registered passengers aboard the plane. The standardprocedures require the appropriate management check the accuracy ofpassengers travelling document, allowing passage after verification(Airsafe 2015). The security checks require that the passport picturebe scanned using the Interpol picture database, to identifyindividuals who have past violent behaviors, which may lead tosinister motives such as hijacking airplane. This helps in reducingthe number of plane hijacking by terrorists, who may be posing aspassengers (Elias 2009). This stringent measure was introduced afterit was discovered that most of the air accidents were acts ofterrorism, such as the 9/11 aviation accident (Benny 2012).

Despitethe requirement, there are many cases where individuals boardairplanes using forged or stolen documents, owing to thetechnological lap in scanning passports and other travel documents(Federal Aviation Administration2014). In most cases, the relevant authorities responsible forchecking passports fail to scan passport pictures in the Interpolpicture database, increasing chances of allowing terrorists on board.For instance, after a stringent passport scanning, it was found thattwo of the passengers on board in MH370 were travelling on stolendocument, an evidence of the lapse in passport and documents check(Almasy 2014). Aircraft operators should establish an automatedpassport control (APC) measures, to resolve cases where passengerstravel on stolen or forged documents. Instead of filling out papersin customs declaration as is the case in most airports today,eligible passengers can directly go to APC kiosks and process theirpassports. They are prompted to take photographs and answer series ofquestions verifying flight and biographic information. This willeffectively reduce cases where terrorists impersonate other peopleusing gaps within the current passport check systems (Barrett &ampDeVita2011).

Afterthe passport checks, passengers are screened checking for weapons andother illegal processions, which may be used to cause havoc duringflight. Though the passengers undergo stringent security checks,pilots and other crew members are assumed to be less likely to hijacktheir plane (Garibay &amp Young 2013). As such, they undergo lessstringent security checks, which are often physical, with stringentmoral positions conducted only at the time of their employment.Security footage of flight 370 shows the pilot undergoing a physicalcheck, which is by far ineffective and flawed However, there arecases where pilots hijack their planes a co-pilot of an EthiopianAirline Flight, hijacked his plane that was bound for Rome and landedin Geneva, where he sought asylum (Benny 2012). As such, all peopleboarding aircraft should undergo stringent security checks, despitetheir roles in the plane, reducing gaps that can be explored byhijackers. Modern technology should also be implemented to scanfacial expressions, eye movements and other psychological andsociological factors, helping the security personnel identifyindividuals under duress. Further, baggage screening process shouldbe fully automated, eliminating the current lapses in screeningsystem (Chialastri 2015).


Airtraffic controllers are responsible for controlling aircrafts oncethe aircraft is airborne. These Air traffic controllers (ATC) useground-based systems to direct airplanes on the ground and whenairborne through a controlled airspace (Lee 2014). They use thetransponders, which blinks and sends digital messages to computers onthe ground. The digital message is picked up by radars allowing theATCs to identify the specific aircraft, identifying altitude andposition on a given airspace (Airsafe 2015). The ATCs advice pilotson appropriate attitudes using VHF or UHF radios, preventing aircollisions and expediting the flow of aircrafts. Additionally, theATCs uses the cited plane location to advise the pilot on weather andother important information to the pilot, who is supposed to liaisewith the ATC all through the flight (Elias 2009). ATCs of differentcountries coordinate to control aircrafts as they fly over differentairspaces. Sometimes, there exist inconsistencies during the crafthanding over process between ATCs of different countries, creatingblack-spots that can be exploited by people with sinister motives. Ablack spot is a communication lag that exists during handoffs betweenATC of different countries (Barrett &amp DeVita2011). The MH370handing over from the process between the Malaysian ATC andVietnamese ATC was incomplete, with the Malaysian ATC logging ofcommunication without surety that the Vietnamese ATC had initiatedcommunication with the plane (Almasy 2014). As such, automatichanding off equipments should be implemented to eliminatecommunication blacks-pots during aircraft control handoffs(Chialastri 2015).

Besidethe transponders, aircrafts use the ACARS, which is a digital datablinks, which transmits speed, route and other flight information tothe manufacturer (Lee 2014). However, both the transponders and theACARS of MH370 were shut off almost at the same time, raising thequestion of deliberate attempts by a person on board to shut downthese communication channels (Powell &amp Bartolacci 2013). This hasled to the increased theory that communication channels of flight 370were deliberately destroyed by the pilot, who is better positioned toswitch off these communication channels. However, communicationchannels may be cut off by other factors such as fire in the cockpit,which may interfere with the wiring system. For instance,transponders of a commercial aircraft from Cairo experiencedcommunication shutdown all communication channels due to fire in thecockpit in 2012 (Kölle, Markarian &amp Tarter 2011). However,there was no intent to land the flight 370, out ruling thepossibility of accidents. Commercial aircrafts should be fullyautomated, complete with an autopilot to take over the flight in caseof communication shut down. Aircraft operators should invest inmodern technology in the aviation industry to eliminate the varioushuman errors that mar the industry. The sector should shift from thetraditional radar system of Aircraft control and adopt newer ways ofcommunicating with aircrafts when they are airborne (Chialastri2015). The industry should adopt the use of satellite technology,rather than the primary radar system that was designed since theSecond World War. Military uses primary radar, which uses thesatellite technology rather than the transponders digital blinks, butthe satellite pings are not designed for tracking aircrafts. However,they come in handy in locating crashed aircrafts (Elias 2009). Thesemilitary satellites have assisted in determining the possiblelocation of the ill-fated flight 370.

Further,aircrafts should be fitted with modern technologies, such as smartblack-boxes, which will be recording real-time data from aircrafts(NTSB 2015). The real-time data will be transmitted to both the plotand the ATCs, for accurate aircraft control. This will assist thepilot to interact with the technology reducing accidents that occurdue to gaps between understanding planes dynamics and the actualmotion taking place (Barrett &amp DeVita2011). The smart black-boxwill be imperative recognizing, analyzing and reconstructing theaircraft and rotorcraft pilot couplings events in case of anaccident, assisting in determining the course of the air crash. Otherimportant automation should include automated cockpit informationsystems, with enhanced turbulence detection radars to predict andwarn pilots about possible turbulence, thereby avoiding crashes suchas that of AirAsia Flight 8501, believed to be caused by bad weather(Airsafe 2015).

Boeing777 plane series are among the most secure aircraft, with reducedaccidents reported. Most of them have onboard emergency locatorequipments, which send electronic signals weeks after the crash,easing recovery of the wreckage. Planes carry huge electricfootprints of flight parameters that, together with current age ofdigital transmissions, provide a tracking story of the position ofthe plane at a time (Garibay &amp Young 2013). Virtually, all jetplanes lost since the start of the jet age (1950s) have been found orrecovered, making the disappearance of a huge jet plane MH370 sobefuddling (McKirdy 2015).


Whena crashed aircraft is eventually located, the recovery process shouldstart fairly quickly depending on the location and complexity ofaccessing the wreckage (Garibay &amp Young 2013). There may be aneed to conduct post-mortem to determine the cause and nature of thecrash (NTSB 2015). There should be an international collaboration inthe recovery process, to make sure that right technology andequipments are available to access wreckage and recover flightrecorders such as the black boxes. However, there are cases wherelack of international cooperation in the recovery process slows thepace of aircraft recovery process (Kölle, Markarian &amp Tarter2011). For instance, increased fighting in Donetsk Oblast slowed therecovery of the wreckage of Flight MH17. To date, there is importantplane debris still strewn around the crash site. The recovery processof MH370 has been slowed by the reluctance of the technologicallydeveloped countries to share their satellite pings, perhaps forreasons of national security. However, Britain used its satellitepings to assist in the recovery process, thereby determining thepossible crash site of MH370 as the southern Indian Ocean.Investigators should attempt reconstructing the aircraft looking forpre-crash signs, such as damage or operational inconsistencies,assisting in the prevention of such accidents in the future (Barrett&amp DeVita2011).


Fromthe aforementioned, the aviation industry has since past been marredby tragic accidents, often leading to massive casualties. Most ofthese accidents arise from human inconsistencies, in such activitiessuch as security checks, handing over processes or plane control. Inthis view, automation of all processes would prove essential inreducing aviation accidents. Automation will reduce human errors,promoting air safety. Additionally, players in the industry shouldinvest in modern equipments, such as modern communication systemsthat do not rely on transponders among others to enhancecommunication with the ATCs. However, in events of aviationaccidents, there should be an international collaboration promotingthe wreckage recovery process. However, the question that remainsbefuddling in the modern aviation industry is how a huge jet planesuch as flight 370 simply disappears in this digital age of increasedtechnological intelligence.


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