Not too long ago, we started receiving reports of another Malaysian Airlines flight, MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashing somewhere in Ukraine, with survival of 295 passengers and 10 crew members in doubt. Details are still coming in now, although there are unconfirmed reports of it being shot down by a missile. While we don’t really want to speculate as news comes in (just follow The Guardian’s newsfeed here), we thought we’d help in our own little way to at least clear up one question on everyone’s mind.
What was it doing in a warzone in the first place?
Update: picture removed due to not taking into account curvature of earth. Please refer to google maps one below.
As you can see from this flight path picture of MH17, it takes an absolute straight line through Kuala Lumpur, and straight onto Auckland New Zealand. This means passing over
Iran Pakistan (Update: Thanks AVH for pointing out this error! We did write this pretty early in the morning), Ukraine and Afghanistan, all of which are certified warzones. Actually, Ukraine has only been added to the list as of June 2014.
So why didn’t MAS move the flight? Well, Thailand was also added to the list around the same period, so as you can see, it’s about risk management – and matching that against fuel costs. The fact is, we fly over warzones ALL THE TIME, and very few people are even aware of it. We found an article exploring the danger of flying over Syria at Bold-Mag.com.
“Flying at 30,000 feet places MEA at a safe enough altitude that airplanes are out of the range of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that could be used by rebels” Nizar Khoury, MEA (Middle East Airlines) head of commercial operations.
Another thing to note is how absolutely straight that flight path is. Thing is, airplanes make flying possible for more people by being affordable. How they stay affordable is taking the most fuel-efficient path possible between two destinations. While some people do question the savings…
“If I had a choice to fly for $100 over a conflict zone or to fly an alternate route for $200, I would take the alternate route,” Ret Gen Elias Hanna, host of MTV’s “General View” program.
…how often have you checked the flight path of the AirAsia flight you’ve been taking? What if it passed over Thailand?
UPDATE: One of our readers has asked if other airlines follow the same path. This is what we got from google images. Do note the top right corner information.
As such, it is our unprofessional opinion, that MAS holds no fault in the events that occured. The IATA has since confirmed this.
Incidentally, news has started to come in that some airlines are changing their flight paths with immediate effect. Expect everyone to follow shortly.
So how many planes have been shot down in Warzones?
According to this Wiki, 21 in history, and 18 in non-wartime eras. While that might sound alarming, considering billions of people fly every year, it’s a relatively low number. Having said that tho, there was a Siberian flight brought down in the same region only 13 years ago. Do read the Wiki for what happened next as a good indicator of what might happen if MH17 is found to have the same fate.
To the families and friends of the passengers, our deepest, sincerest prayers and sympathies are with you.