Whole system under too much pressure

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2000, 12:00am

My emotions about the Singapore Airlines crash in Taipei have moved from shock, to pain, to anger.

How can accidents such as this happen in today's world? It reveals several disturbing signs about the way international air traffic is handled.

It would be easy to place all the blame on the pilot. I believe an experienced pilot should not have made that mistake. How could he not notice something wasn't right? No sideways lights on the runway and the weather was already a cause for concern. Shouldn't he have double-checked with the control tower? Certainly.

But I think the deeper reason for the crash lies not in the day's events, but in the pressure on the system. Airports are operating at full, or even over-capacity. Air traffic controllers' stress has been found as a cause for several accidents in recent years. Airlines and their pilots, faced with the significant losses a late arrival causes, are pushed to ignore little risks and, therefore, are prone to overlook big ones.

It is time for the world to take a step back and assess the international air traffic situation more carefully. Are we paying too high a price for convenient and fast intercontinental travel? Should we really get upset if we are asked to open our suitcases at a security check? Air travel is still a highly sensitive operation and it requires great care. We should not forget that.