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World needs answers – and closure

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For plane passengers, there’s a one in 9821 chances of dying in the air - making it one of the safest modes of transport

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SUNDAY morning’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet soon after take-off has once again ignited concerns about airline safety. Yet aviation authorities are at pains to reassure the public that flying remains the safest method of travelling.

By way of example, the US Department of Transportation says car drivers have a one in 114 chance of dying in an accident, while for vehicle passengers, the ratio is one in 654. For plane passengers, there’s a one in 9821 chances of dying in the air – making it one of the safest modes of transport. In 2015, about 848 million people flew to and from the US – and there were 444 aviation-related deaths.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging that the US Federal Aviation Administration and its Canadian counterpart have joined airlines in Europe, China, South Africa, Latin American and other nations in suspending Boeing 737 MAX flights.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash – which claimed 157 lives – was the second disaster involving a 737 MAX, the world’s most-sold modern passenger aircraft, in less than five months. The other crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX, last October in Indonesia, killed 189 people.

Ethiopian Airline Flight ET302’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder have been recovered and have apparently been sent to Europe for analysis. The results will hopefully answer questions about what happened on the flight on Sunday morning near the town of Bishoftu. Ethiopian Airlines flies the largest, most modern fleet in Africa and prides itself on its profitability and wide reach of its services.

The Boeing 737, in terms of numbers built, is the most successful aircraft of all time and has an excellent safety record. More than 350 have been delivered to airlines around the world and about 5000 more are on order.

This particular aircraft was only four months old and was the most up-to-date variant.

Investigators will look at every possible aspect – weather, mechanical problems, pilot error, etc. Dozens of countries have closed their airspace to the aircraft, and this is having profound financial repercussions for the aircraft manufacturer and airlines.

The world needs answers now, not least to prevent future tragedies. This accident has affected more than 30 nations, and all have a vested interest in finding answers – and closure.