Friday, July 18, 2014

Reacting to a man-made disaster (and thoughts on the Malaysian Airlines tragedies)

In this picture's foreground are planes from the two airlines
I've been most likely to fly with these past few years

Late last night, I got home from a film screening to news about a Malaysian Airlines plane having crashed in the Ukraine, the second plane from my country's national airline to have met with disaster in just five months.  Shock turned to horror and disbelief upon finding out that MH17 had been shot down despite being a civilian plane from a nation not involved in the conflict in the area over which it had been flying more than 30,000 feet above.

And then came the personal fears and worries that comes from my being one of those people who lives thousands of miles apart from family members, making flying about the most convenient way for us to meet up every once in a while.  In addition, there's the fact of my parents being among those who travel in planes a lot more than most others -- in part because they have a child each in Australia, England and Hong Kong.

My favorite footballer of all time -- Arsenal and Holland's Dennis Bergkamp -- was nicknamed The Non-flying Dutchman (as well as The Iceman, Bergie or just plain God) because he was afraid of flying on planes.  While his teammates flew to play Champions League and international matches in far away locales, he stayed at home.  When Arsenal played clubs within driving distance of London, such as Paris or Amsterdam, he'd be chauffeured there while, again, his teammates flew over.

In contrast, I can't imagine a life without flying on a plane -- not because I particularly love this form of transportation but, rather, due to flying having been something I've done ever since I was a very young child.  And being Malaysian and living in Malaysia for the early part of my life, I naturally tended to fly on Malaysia Airlines (and its precursor, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines).

Soon after the MH370 disaster, I returned to my home state of Penang for a short visit.  Before I left Hong Kong, a friend asked me which airline I'd be taking there, and expressed his relief when he heard that I was going on Cathay Pacific (which operates daily direct flights between Hong Kong and Penang) rather than Malaysian Airlines.

Although I didn't take Malaysian Airlines that time, I actually hadn't thought of deliberately avoiding flying on its planes in the wake of what happened to MH370.  And even while I have to admit to having thoughts post the MH17 disaster that the airlines may be jinxed, I still am not going to point fingers at the airline and say that these two tragedies are its fault.

The thing is: until this year, Malaysian Airlines had had a very good safety record -- and I've definitely felt much safer on its planes than on quite a few other airlines' (including Air India, where on one flight, I couldn't get the seatbelt buckle to work, Air Tanzania Corporation (i.e., Air Total Chaos), and some American airlines' whose planes looked considerably older and less well maintained than Malaysian Airlines').

Leaving aside national pride and family concerns, there's also the matter of the victims of MH17 (and MH370) and their loved ones.  Truly they have suffered in ways that I do not wish on anyone, and my thoughts and condolences go to them.  And I sincerely hope that no more disasters and tragedies of this sort will befall anyone else for some time, if not ever.


The Fragrant Harbour said...

HI YTSL -- this latest incident is tragic... and hopefully we will soon find out who shot down that plane. As for the missing plane... it is really bad luck for Malaysian Airlines to have these two incidents months apart from each other...but the crazy thing is, traveling by plane is still safer than by car.

alejna said...

It is such a tragedy. I saw the news of this when I woke up this morning, and I had several minutes of confusion, thinking that I was reading news related to the missing plane of earlier this year. It is so heartbreaking, for so many.

This is one of those days when I want to bury my head in the sand.

YTSL said...

Hi "The Fragrant Harbour" --

Those people who shot down MH17 should not be equipped to operate the kinds of weapons they have. How many more innocent people must die before the powers that be get to realizing that?

And yes, travelling by plane is still safer than by car. A good point to remember, and remind ourselves when we're on a plane or have loved ones going on one.

Hi Alejna --

If we're impacted by this tragedy, imagine how it must be for those directly affected by it. What has happened is so utterly sad, senseless and unneccessry.

Bill said...

Hi Yvonne,

It was thoughtful of you to post this memorial page to the victims of MH17. Whenever disasters of this magnitude happen, the problems in our personal lives are suspended, replaced by the shock of seeing news images of the debris field of this tragedy.


Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

2 in such a short time, very sad indeed.

YTSL said...

Hi Bill --

There are so many terrible things that happen in this world -- and I generally try to blog about things and events that make me happy. But I felt I had to comment because what happened to MH17 impacts not just the people on it and their loved ones but pretty much all of us who go on planes and/or have loved ones who do.

Hi Ann --

Sad indeed -- as well as shocking and horrifying.

eliza bennet said...

God rest the souls of the departed in peace.

YTSL said...

Hi eliza bennet --

I hope that peace of mind also will eventually come to the departeds' loved ones.