Sunday, September 11, 2005

Winds of Change...

Having been flying a lot lately, I was looking forward to a two day break. Wanting to get away from Kota Kinabalu, we decided to go to the Tip of Borneo, nearby Kudat. The journey would take about 3 hours from Kinabalu one way. Initially we wanted to start out as early as possible, but heavy rain almost cancelled our plans! We however decided to go ahead hoping the weather will improve later on. This was not the case but it didn't turn out too bad as well. We reached the Tip at around two in the afternoon. The wind was picking up speed making the swell bigger than usual. We manage to reach the Tip albeit the challenging winds. Standing there looking at the power of Mother Nature, my mind wonders off again towards aviation, this time, the recent Air Mandala crash in Medan, Indonesia.

Just when I said three posts ago that flying was still safe, the latest incident further deepens the wound inflicted by the past four incidents affecting my profession. As a professional pilot, its not unusual to hear of accidents and incidents and we all take it as a possibility and we are all trained for the unexpected. But after five accidents in two months, the stats are starting to look a little bit scary. Lately, rumours on aircraft reliability and maintenance/safety standards of some particular airlines are in question. Authorities believe that some airlines, particularly budget airlines (not to be taken in a negative manner), are not complying with strict maintenance and safety standards. I have seen and heard of airlines operating without any regard for safety, even though their company policy stresses on this matter. For example, old aircrafts aged 10-15 years or more. Its not the age that really matters to a pilot. Its how well the aircraft is serviced and maintained.

Maintenance plays a very important role in ensuring safety standards are kept. Aircraft engineers are responsible for the maintenance of aircraft. However, airline companies sometime dont spend money on important maintenance upgrades such as refurbishing or overhaul. This in turn will pose a safety hazard towards operations of the aircraft. Especially now with the cost-cutting measures some companies are implementing (primarily due to increase in oil prices), the management might overlook the safety aspect of a well maintained aircraft. I hope this will never be the case as we have lost one too many lives in the past two months.

(p.s. - In Memory of Lives lost during the terror attacks of 9/11)


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