The disappearance of a Boeing 777, one of the safest commercial jets in service, has become one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history.
How is it possible for a plane like Malaysia Airline flight 370 to vanish without trace?
A unique set of failures over the last ten years made the disappearance of a giant airliner, along with 239 passengers and crew members possible.
Fault lies with the Malaysian carrier, radar blind-spots, no coordination between civil and military air-traffic control, shoddy passport inspection and lack of pilot background checks.
The flying public deserves much better. This situation has shown us that:
- All passports should be double checked automatically with Interpol.
- There should be data sent to ops directly from any flight at all times so we immediately know when-where-why if a flight is hijacked or crashes.
Data was being sent from MH370, but certain data was not. The aircraft’s maintenance troubleshooting systems were ready to communicate with satellites if needed, but no links were opened because Malaysia Airlines had not subscribed to the full troubleshooting service, a source close to the investigation said
- There should be high standards internationally for all commercial air carriers regarding a pilot’s background and frame of mind.
- When traveling overseas, hotels often require passengers to turn over their passports and these passports are sometimes stolen. Travelers should make copies of their passport for personal protection to discourage the stolen passport black market.
- The FAA certifies other countries for their safety rating. Those countries often lobby to have their ratings skewed higher than they should be based on the number of incidents and accidents of their commercial carriers.
FlyersRights should be the public watchdog to oversee the ratings for countries with substandard aviation standards.
Kate Hanni, former president of FlyersRights said “I have been contacted by many families who’ve had this issue with a family member dying on a commercial airline in a Third World country, and bringing to my attention this idea that the FAA knows some countries are far safer than others to travel in. Yet if enough money flows in from the tourism industry suddenly they get a Category 1 rating
regardless of putting our citizens in harms way.”
Last week, The BBC ran a show, ‘Inside Science, Tracking Planes’ with Dr. Matt Greaves, a Lecturer in Accident Investigation at Cranfield University, UK.
Another Malaysia Airlines Mystery: Who Pays?
Int’l treaty entitles families of the victims to payouts of up to about $150,000
Published: 19:07 March 14, 2014
As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues, it’s only a matter of time before the families of the lost passengers begin to ask a pair of questions: How much money will they receive for the losses of their loved ones, and who will pay?
They are questions that don’t necessarily need to wait for the plane to be found to be answered.
As it turns out, there’s an international treaty for every occasion. In this case, it’s the 1999 Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, which entered into force in 2003 and standardizes the rights of passengers on international flights.
Under the Montreal Convention, “the airline, even if it’s not responsible, is required to compensate the victims’ families,” said Mike Danko, an aviation attorney in Redwood Shores, California, who has worked on litigation related to the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco in July 2013. Passengers of that crash have filed suits against Asiana Airlines and, in January 2014, against Boeing.
In some instances the airline will not even wait until the wreckage is found to start discussing payments – that was the case when Air France began dispersing money to the family of each passenger aboard a flight that went down off the coast of Brazil in June 2009 just days after it disappeared.
“The question,” according to Danko, “is how much.”
The treaty entitles families of the victims to payouts of up to about $150,000 per person, but how that gets doled out is specific to each incident. After Air India Express Flight 812 crashed in May 2010, the Indian government said that the airline was liable for up to $160,000 per passenger, but when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 crashed taking off from Beirut in January of the same year, the airline only paid out $20,000 per passenger.
“The real issue, as is the case in all these cases, is under whose law,” Danko said. That gets more complicated. Victims’ families have the option to sue for more damages in multiple countries under the Montreal Convention, and they will likely file suit in the country where they’re most likely to win their cases and receive the highest settlements. In this case, families of the missing passengers can file in Malaysia (because it is the base of operations for the airline), in the country of the victim’s residence, or in the country of the victim’s intended destination (which is not necessarily Beijing – if the victim had a connecting flight to another country, the family could sue in that country).
That may give an advantage to families who can bypass Chinese and Malaysian courts, like the families of the three American and nine European passengers. “In some countries, fair compensation for the loss of a son may be deemed to be $20,000. In the United States, that may be millions of dollars,” Danko said. “That is determined on where you bring suit.”
All the passengers’ families, though, will have the option to file a suit in the United States against Boeing, the manufacturer of the disappeared 777 jet.
“Usually what happens are family members who are otherwise unable to bring suit against the airline will bring suit against the manufacturer,” Danko said. For example, after a flight from Manaus to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, crashed, families of the victims filed suit against the US companies that operated the jet and made some of its safety equipment.
But until the plane is found and more is known about the circumstances that brought it down, it would be difficult to prove that families are owed compensation because of a mechanical failure. As with so much else about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the biggest mysteries are yet to be solved.
We are still on square one.
Balancing the Risk of Flying
A longtime FlyersRights member sent in the following thoughts:
I was in the jumpseat of airliners on a number of occasions.
Airliners are very complex beasts, lots of things can and do fail, nearly every time I was in the cockpit there was a failure of something, the navigation system for example. Or the trip began with a note from the previous crew, of some failure on the previous flight, something for mechanics to check later.
Flying carries some risk, in the many times I have been in a plane there were a few incidents that were serious, a stall just after rotation during a departure, a near collision with traffic from one airport on approach to another airport, etc.
Don’t wish for zero risk, even staying home and hiding under your bed has its’ risks.
The best we can hope for is to identify risks, decide if they are worth mitigating and if they are then devising mitigation proportional to the risks.