*Update, 29th January 2015: Malaysia officially declares the disappearance of flight MH370 an accident — and that all 239 people on board are presumed to have lost their lives.
**Update, 15th March 2014:
The plane or its wreckage has not been found yet. There have been many new developments, notably that the plane is now believed to have continued flying for a few hours EVEN after communications were broken. This is in contradiction to what was written in Point 3 below, which suggests sudden catastrophic failure.
The rest of the article below is in its original format published on 9th March 2014 at Emmagem.
At 0041 hours on the 8th of March, 2014 – Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. It was a scheduled 6-hour flight, but the plane never made it to China. It lost all contact with air traffic control at 0240 hours while flying towards Vietnam.
At the time of writing, the plane has not been found yet. Several countries have mobilized planes and ships to search for the remnants of the plane in the South China Sea.
While we wait with bated breath, and pray for the safety of the passengers and crew – here are some lessons we can learn from the ill-fated flight.
1. Check Your Facts Before Sharing
News of the missing airplane started showing up in the early morning of 8th March. My Facebook feed and Whatsapp groups were abuzz with the latest news by 10am. And then it happened – false reports that the plane had landed in a province in China.
Then there was the customary bone-headed tweet by an idiotic politician.
Here’s a word of advice that would help every person in the modern world. Before you share something, please verify your sources. Spreading unverified news, rumors and hoaxes just causes more trauma and confusion for everyone. If Reuters, CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera and 2,390 other sources at http://news.google.com are saying something in direct contradiction – it’s a hoax. Just because your “news” has a picture of an Airbus A380 beside it doesn’t make it genuine.
And please, don’t make fun of sensitive issues. Even if you’re a bone-headed politician.
2. Air Travel is STILL Incredibly Safe
For long-distance travel, commercial flight is still by far the safest way to travel. It’s just due to Air Crash Investigation on TV, and the fact that fatal air accidents always involve a huge number of people – that we think flying is dangerous.
Wikipedia tells us that there are only 0.05 deaths per billion kilometers of air travel. It’s 3.1 deaths per billion kilometers for car, and 108.9 deaths per billion kilometers for motorcycle. (And I don’t think that’s even taking into account the Rempits in Kuala Lumpur every weekend midnight) A professor at MIT tells us that “…flying has become so reliable that a traveler could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before being in a fatal crash.”
The Boeing 777 plane that was flying has had an almost perfect safety record for the past 20 years. The only blemish came last year, when 2 people were killed in a crash at San Francisco.
As for Malaysia Airlines? The last time anyone died in a crashed Malaysia Airlines flight was in 1995. And the only other fatal crash before that happened in 1977.
Let no one deceive you. Malaysia Airlines is a loss-making airline, which is currently being plagued by management and financial troubles. But would I get on another Malaysia Airlines flight tomorrow, if I needed to travel to China? Yes.
3. You Can’t Control Everything
At the current time of writing, it is still uncertain what had caused the disappearance of the plane. But the facts suggest a sudden catastrophic failure. If it had been some kind of less serious failure, the pilots would still have had time to send distress signals. The plane also “disappeared” from air traffic’s radars, suggesting that whatever happened – it happened very suddenly.
It’s a testament to modern engineering and science that we can control our risks so well – and make something as difficult as traveling continents in a matter of hours incredibly safe and cheap. We have to applaud the ingenuity and diligence of all the best people in the world – who make our lives better with technology. And be grateful to the common man who diligently inspects and cleans the airplane’s tires.
But every now and then, something happens that even the best in the world can’t control.
4. But You Should be Fully Responsible for What You Can
I fully believe that no party involved in the engineering, maintenance and operation of the airplane had any fault in its disappearance. I believe in the professionalism and skill of the people involved.
But imagine what would happen if there had been a trace of incompetence or negligence somewhere along the line. What if somewhere in a Boeing factory in the world, someone had spotted a small crack in the wing, but decided to slack off and not report it?
My point is that we all depend on each other to do our jobs competently. It’s important for every single one of us to strive for excellence in our daily lives – because it not only affects us, but further up the chain it could impact a huge number of people and their families.
For every man and woman in this world who is saddened by a tragedy like this – every time you feel like not doing your best, remember that your work is part of a larger, collective effort of humanity. And that by being competent in what you do, you are contributing.
Take pride in your work. Do it well. And you’ll be able to sleep well at night even if the whole world is panicking.
5. At The End, Relationships Are All That Matter
I’ve never had a near-death experience. But everything that I’ve ever read tells me that when people are facing death – they don’t think about how much money they made, how many Oscars they won, or how they wished they had traveled to Paris more. Rather, they think about times shared with loved ones, how they’ll miss them so much, and wonder about how they’ll carry on without them.
A few years ago, Bronnie Ware published a list of 5 common regrets that dying people have. She had worked with dying people for many years and compiled the list from her multiple conversations with them. Two of the most common regrets are “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings” and “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.
Out of all the lessons shared today, I think this is the most important. Cherish your relationships, and love the people that matter to you as much as possible. Every day – make right with God, and make right with man.
In the end, it’s the only thing that matters.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by flight MH370’s disappearance. May God be with them.
Pic by: Laurent ERRERA