Despite the fact that the aviation sector has a relatively better safety record in the year that closed yesterday, the two most deadly and suspenseful accidents took place in our neighbourhood. A total of nine hundred people reportedly died in less than a dozen air disasters during the year. That includes the two in South East Asia. Curiously, both had a strong Malaysian connection. In March, the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 vanished up in the skies and despite every possible effort to trace its remnants there has been no clue whatsoever about its whereabouts. All kinds of theories, some really weird and others wholly diabolic, gained currency following the vain search for the missing aircraft. Global conspiracy theorists had a field day ascribing the motives behind the disappearance of the Flight MH 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It vanished without any contact with the ground air controllers. If it crashed into the seabed, no part of it, including bloated bodies of the passengers and crew on board, has been sighted floating on the surface. However, the Air Asia flight which left Surabaya in Indonesia on Sunday morning for Singapore and went missing soon after contacting the air controllers was found crashed into the Java Sea two days later. Apparently, extreme turbulence in the air led the aircraft captain to seek clearance for flying at 38,000 feet, instead of 32,000 feet. The captain was asked to wait due to heavy traffic in the skies at the time. That was the last time the aircraft was in contact with the ground control. The aircraft in question, the Airbus 320, has a good safety record. It has all the latest computerised safety provisions and leaves nothing much to human error in this regard. The pilot too had a long and flawless record of flying Airbus 320. Quite clearly, the turbulence in the air was a most likely factor. The skies in the region are said to be particularly troublesome for air safety, given the combination of thunderstorms, lightning, heavy rains, etc. It could be that the avionics system on board was affected by lightning. Or there was a combination of bad weather and human error. Until a full investigation establishes the real cause of the crash, it will be hard to pinpoint any single reason for the mishap. The loss of 162 lives, mostly Indonesians flying to Singapore for a year-end holiday, is most tragic. And it is to the credit of the carrier, Air Asia, that it lost no time in reaching out to the next of kin. Air Asia, the low-key budget airline which launched its operations in India sometime ago, has a good safety record. Notably, despite the occasional disaster, air travel continues to be the safest mode of travel. Fatalities in road transport are the highest in any form of travel.
Wrong place, wrong timing
Most people, otherwise fans of M S Dhoni, do not approve his surprise announcement retiring from Test cricket in the midst of the Australian tour. He took the country and the entire cricketing world by surprise announcing retirement at the end of the third Test in Melbourne. India has already lost the series. Dhoni himself was unbeaten at 24 when the match ended in a draw. The point is not that he was one of the more successful captains. Nor that under him India was the number one Test team for 18 months. Nor, for that matter, that he encouraged new blood to be inducted in the team after the recent greats, namely, Tendulkar, Dravid and Harbhajan, etc., said goodbye to the game due to advancing years. The point is that in recent months, Dhoni had come under a cloud due to his close involvement with the controversial BCCI Chief N Srinivasan and the latter’s home IPL franchise, the Chennai Super Kings. Reportedly, a court-ordered probe has thrown up unpleasant facts about some CSK players as well after the involvement of Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was confirmed in a betting scandal. Heavens wouldn’t have fallen if Dhoni had sat out the fourth Test but announced his retirement from Test cricket on return home. Besides, he assumes that he would automatically continue to lead the national side in the limited overs and T20 matches. Propriety demanded he first take the Board into confidence. The tendency to play prima donna often results in lax discipline and lack of good form and manners. Dhoni, or, for that matter, any other player, cannot be bigger than the game.