Few incidents prompt greater focus on the airline industry than a fatal crash.

Following the tragic loss of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 on Monday, the scrutiny – informed or otherwise – has been intense, in general reporting and particularly on social media.

The internet is awash with theories regarding the cause of the crash, notably including those carelessly based on imagery from a computer reconstruction of an incident that happened 25 years earlier.

During such times, the commentators worth listening to tend to be those urging people to wait for further evidence to emerge.

So far, aside from flight-tracking data, the few fresh details released via official channels include acknowledgements of failed attempts by air traffic control to contact the aircraft as the incident occurred and of the damaged cockpit voice recorder being recovered.

One certainty is that in China’s huge aviation market, the incident marks the first fatal crash since 2010.

And within the wider context of airline safety, the crash has occurred in an industry that has a remarkable safety record, as was reflected in IATA’s recent summary of 2021 data.

None of that is, of course, any comfort to those who have lost loved ones this week.

As ever, commercial’s aviation licence to connect the world is contingent on it doing everything within its power to establish why catastrophic incidents have occurred, before acting promptly on any recommendations. The first part of that process may take some time.

As investigators continue their work, many commentators will already be tired of having to point out that the crash is unrelated to the safety issues with the 737 Max programme. The requirement to do so undeniably reflects that the latter programme and Boeing’s reputation are still very much in the public consciousness, even as hundreds of Max jets fly without fanfare in markets around the world.

On the latter point, it is not unreasonable to question whether this week’s crash might further extend the long wait for Max jets to fly again in China, on the grounds of optics alone.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

China Eastern Boeing 737-800, registered B-1791, seen in Bangkok in 2016.

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