The crash of a Yemenia Airbus A310 on its second attempt to land at the Moroni airport on Comoro Island yesterday had all the classic early jet age prerequisites for an air disaster.
It was a crappy airline flying an old jet in the middle of the night in bad weather into a strip with a short runway where the approaches are impinged upon by big hills.
The flight sounds like a re-run of any of too many 60s British charter holiday catastrophes involving killer carriers like Dan-Air, which became gruesomely infamous for its clean-up processes involving large common graves, bags of quick lime and platitudes in the cut-throat budget package market it dominated, despite its record, in those times.
The jet is reported as having abandoned an attempt to land in bad weather and crashed into the sea on its second approach. Of the 153 people on board only one passenger, a 14-year-old girl, has been found alive in the sea surrounded by bodies and debris.
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The EU has been running a name and shame campaign against these sorts of carriers which hang on to the fringes of the travel market.
The Yemeni national airline jet in question had been banned from EU airspace for maintenance irregularities and the airline itself was on notice to lift its game or have its entire operations prohibited within Europe, and put on the same no fly list which includes dozens of small carriers and Garuda Indonesia.
The Airbus type involved, the A310, is a derivate of the first Airbus jet, the A300, and has none of the computer linked fly by wire systems found on contemporary Airbuses and to an extent on later Boeing designs.
It can’t be meaningfully compared with the Airbus A330-200 lost with 228 people on board in the Air France AF447 disaster of 1 June in the mid-Atlantic, or the string of control incidents involving similar A330-300 jets flown by Qantas and other carriers.
The Air France crash remains a mystery, but serious questions have been raised about unreliable air speed data experienced by the type because of icing of external air pressure measuring devices and other peculiarities in the service messages automatically transmitted from AF447 before it crashed after experiencing severe turbulence.
The differences between the A310, rarely seen in Australia, and the A330s, which are common, will not of course lessen the Airbusophobia filling talk back radio and other media.
Even the Christian Science Monitor is running hysterical reports.
However of at least 52 non-terrorist related fatal scheduled airliner crashes in the last ten years, only eight involved Airbuses and 23 were in Boeings, with the rest made up of Russian airliners, McDonnell Douglas jets and assorted commuter turboprops.