Missing Planes: A Concern of National Security

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By C.N. Staff Writer
Airplane Photo
On July 17th the world learned of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down near the Ukraine-Russia border. For weeks news outlets reported the plane missing, with 298 victims families left in the dark about the plane’s whereabouts. A week later details emerged about the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The plane is believed to have been shot down by pro-Russia separatists and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Russian President Vladimir Putin bears some responsibility.

She told CNN, “I think if there were any doubt it should be gone by now, that Vladimir Putin, certainly indirectly — through his support of the insurgents in eastern Ukraine and the supply of advanced weapons and, frankly, the presence of Russian Special Forces and intelligence agents — bears responsibility for what happened.” Pro-Russian militants have been accused of downing the plane using Russia-supplied armaments and of interfering with the subsequent investigation at the crash site.

Just as international forces are beginning to wrap their investigative forces around this tragedy another airplane has gone missing. This time an Air Algerie Flight AH5017 crashed over northern Mali en route from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, to the Algerian capital Algiers.

Reports state that 116 people were aboard the flight that lost air navigation services about 50 minutes after takeoff. Officials say the crew asked to make a detour due to weather related issues, but soon lost contact after the detour began.

Another international plane crash, the TransAsia Airways plane, happened in Taiwan that killed at least 48 people. And in March Malaysia Airlines had another flight disappear, Flight 370. The dramatic nature of these events has once again raised questions about the safety of air travel, and how it compares to other forms of transit.

Commercial aviation is, statistically, a very safe industry. The 10-year average of airline accidents resulting in a fatality is 17 per year. Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident that damaged a plane beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. The statistic includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines in its data as well as scheduled passenger airline flights. This week’s aviation disasters have the potential to push airline fatalities this year to over 700 deaths — the most since 2010.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, in 2012, 33,561 people died on highways in the U.S., but zero died on a commercial airline flight. There were 432 deaths in general aviation — which includes amateur-built aircraft, rotorcraft, balloons and turbojets.

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