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Monday, May 24, 2010

Tragedy On Day Break: Could This Have Been Avoided?

Team Being Cynical
158 lives perished within no time. The unfortunate event at Manglore airport brings us back to the same question again. Are we safe as fliers in India and how safe are our Sky's? Answer to both is 'Not Much'. What happened is for sure unfortunate and can't be rewind back but tough questions need to be asked and disturbing answers need to be digged out from the derbies out there much like our investigating authorities working overtime for that dreaded black box.

A casual look at one of our busiest airport at Mumbai would confirm on how serious we are for security. The slums surrounding the airport with a waist length boundary wall doesn't give that confidence on security aspect. Much worse none seems guarding those venerable areas and I am sure if some one wants can just jump upon the walls and go for a evening walk along the air strip. Many would say that's nothing to do with aviation security but physical. Agreed! but this small effort of ours definitely suggests our attitude towards the very word: 'Security'.

I had some first hand experience of Manglore airport. Not the one where the flight skidded off, as it is operational for last couple of years only, but the older one which was no less worse than the current one. The approach for landing is a fearing one, at least for first time flyers. Initially I thought, the flight might be heading for an emergency landing somewhere in those deep valley and the pilot has gone insane for deciding to do so, only to be relieved when actually we landed on some sort of airstrip. The moment I got out I did pointed the funny topology of the airport to one of my friends who was accompanying me and equally frightened with that nightmarish landing. I am no aviation expert, but definitely I have some reservation on that very airport, much less making that one international airport.

As all idiots across the globe do to figure out some details, I also got my hands dirty on Google to find out what and where we were wrong for this incident to happen, and trust me, if the results of Google are to be believed then they are disturbing to say the least. For the records there were at least 10 PILs lining on the very geography of the airport. Like a modern day Nostradamus, one such PIL outlines exactly what happened on Saturday morning from the skidding part to the plunge deep down the valley. If a complete novice on aviation security can fore see to that detail are the so called experts on this sleeping when they approved this death strip to go operational?

There is this perpetual controversy of foreign pilots flying all over the place on Indian sky and bringing that ever existent communication problem to the fore. Even if we can somewhat overlook it, but the core of the issue remains. Are we so bankrupt when it comes to having our own pilots, so that we have to borrow all those expat from all over the planet? The answer is no. We certainly are not bankrupt, but it is the shear talent and brilliance of guys like Tulsi Das who was ex Air India chief who could run a consultancy somewhere in London to stuff our own national aviation office with all those retired, non-english speaking pilots on daily basis. If we think Mr.Das was doing this for charity and social well being of few retired individuals then we won't need any second opinion to confirm that we are fools of highest order. As usual, whenever there is some catastrophey of this magnitude we promptly get hold of some scapegoat and get our backs off the mud. Pilots are dead, so so long live the pilot error happens to be the mantra this time around. When a novice individual can see the horror coming someday and file a PIL to stop it, how in earth the authorities can't see this? Or is it also has got something to do with politics and lobbying? If so then all those individuals who were responsible in commissioning it should be brought to justice with criminal negligence tucked behind them. We just can't keep our arms folded and blame entirely on couple of guys who were flying the beast.

Who will book DGCA authorities for giving the green signal, who would book Tulsi Das for his continuous feeding of expat pilots, who would book Prafull Patel for thinking the Aviation ministry is at the disposal of his daughter's wish, who would book those who behind the close doors lobbied for the airport to be there, who would book the big mouth Air India spokes person who is going around uttering nonsense on disaster management when the disaster management is a disaster itself? There are so many such uncomfortable questions need to be answered and answered in a hurry. 158 lost their lives and lets not talk about their bereaved families. No words can define there stigma, and I won't be surprised if few of them won't fly in future.

Far from getting into the truth our investigating authorities are busy searching for the black box and running around the offices of NTSB with their request of helping them with this. Is this the disaster management that big mouth spokes person was touting about? From 26/11 to today, it seems we are a clown lot when it comes to investigation. When we can't find of our own on what went wrong, much less expected, if we could ever learn anything from it. The simple reason could be we don't want to learn. The classic example of it could be the miraculous escape of our law minister Mr. Veerappa Moily on this very airport a decade back in much more the same scheme of events, only that his flight never tipped off the runway to the valley and the same person was seen giving all the gyan about aviation on the day that this new death strip opened for operation. This shows we didn't learned anything from past mistake, as we don't want to learn at the first place. As simple as that!

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