Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which took off on March 8 from Beijing Capital International Airport, has now been missing for over two weeks. To our current knowledge, the plane went down with its 227 passengers somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, killing everyone onboard. Although none of the information is certain, this theory seems to be the most plausible out of the  many that have been proposed over the last two weeks.

Even so, the plane has yet to be recovered.

This brings up a major question: how does the airplane industry ensure that it doesn’t lose track of a 112-ton airplane and hundreds of people ever again? It is not an easy question to answer, but one thing is certain: changes will and must be made.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has people worrying about the safety of planes. Nearly everyone flies, including UR students who come from all over and travel home quite frequently. Each and every passenger wants to know that he or she will be safe throughout the duration of his or her travels.

The airplane industry wants to quell these fears for its personal benefit and for the benefit of all of its users;  it is looking to make any improvements necessary. This is not the first time that a plane tragedy has forced legislative and safety changes.

The following three airplane accidents are key turning points in the implementation of instrumental changes.

1. TWA Flight 800

What Happened: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Accident Report said that the airplane exploded in midair and fell into the water outside of New York City only minutes after takeoff on July 17, 1996. It caused the death of everyone onboard.

“TWA Flight 800 in-flight breakup was initiated by a fuel/air explosion in the center wind fuel tank,” the NTSB reported. Sparking wires that ignited the fuel tanks were deemed the most probable cause of an explosion.

Results: The report recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examine the design of the fuel tanks. Later, a design for new planes was created that greatly reduced the likelihood that the fuel tanks would catch fire and explode.

2. Air Canada Flight 797

What Happened: In the middle of a flight headed from Dallas to Montreal with a scheduled layover in Toronto, the cabin crew discovered that a fire had started in one of the airplane’s lavatories.

The plane then began to descend for an emergency landing in Cincinnati, Ohio. By the time the plane reached the runway, firefighters were already waiting on the runway, ready to extinguish the fire.

According to the NTSB, half the people onboard the plane were able to escape before the cabin “burst into flames” only ninety seconds after landing.

Results: The flammable materials on board were what made it easy for the fire to travel the length of the plane and reduce it to a skeleton. As a consequence, regulations were created that required signs prohibiting smoking, automatic fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors to be installed on all planes.

3. United Airlines Flight 718

What Happened: On the morning of June 30, 1956, United Airlines Flight 718 and TWA Flight 2 both took off out of L.A. International Airport, only three minutes apart from one another. UA Flight 718 was headed for Chicago, while TWA Flight 2 was Kansas City bound.

At about 10:30 am, the planes intersected each other’s paths above the Grand Canyon as TWA Flight 2’s propeller ripped through UA Flight 718’s fuselage and rear cabin. Neither plane was expecting to cross paths.

Unfortunately, no one survived the crash.

Results: This accident led to the Air Traffic Control system being revamped so that pilots would have a better idea of where other planes were around them. It also led to the creation of the FAA. They are responsible for ensuring airplane travel safety.

Without these notable changes, we would still be flying home for summer break in “fatigued”, ready-to-explode, flammable, blind death traps.

It is unfortunate that the most influential cause of aviation safety improvement is through disasters and loss of life. The tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 will undoubtedly motivate change and improvement in the way planes are tracked and how the black box system works, but it can never bring back the people who were lost on the flight.

Kluxniak is a member of the Class of 2017.


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