Issue of safety in the air cannot be handled with levity. It is unlike many other forms of transport where there may be casualty and high rate of survivors. The rate of survivors when Air mishap happens anywhere around the world is always close to zero. This is especially so when it is on a long flight across oceans.
Within Air transport system; there are various stakeholders who must do their jobs in order to guarantee the safety of esteemed customers- who are always known as traveling passengers. Many airline companies are given operating licenses when they have met all the required standards. The safety of Air passengers these days can no longer be the sole responsibility of the Airlines. This is because they have minimal control on the passengers while they are still on ground. But today, given the level of crimes and criminals who board flight with hidden mission, passengers too have been warned to be vigilant and watch movements of other passengers around them.
There is a demand on all the Aviation bodies across the world to wake up to their huge responsibilities. The business of Air transport has gone from what it used to be to a level of sophistication which requires adequate support of technology, loyal ground staff including the Military personnel who help to monitor and ensure security issues on the ground are taken care properly.
Travelling around the world and taking example from some African countries, a keen observer will usually see military personnel inside the bush along the Airport runway /perimeter. It is a common practice when you go to places like Addis Ababa in Ethiopia among others. This is a missing factor in our clime. Coming home to Nigeria, there is a lot to learn and take care of if we must stay on board. It is on record that we have great professionals especially within aviation industry but those who take their work with carefree hands must be flushed out.
A not so good incidence happened on June 8, 2014. Check our previous story here. It involved passengers on Delta Airline Lagos to Atlanta route. This was 10.15 pm flight. As usual, every passenger got in, some excited about their journey while it was considered by some as a routine. One must commend the Delta airline cabin crew for all the security precautions and excellence. But only fate and God could have manifested in saving lives of hundreds of Nigerians on that fateful trip. Few hours after takeoff, a passenger was observing another who seemed to be uneasy and working on something. This passenger was using electronic devices to communicate, take photo and sending them to another who was suspected to have been inside the cargo/freight compartment. It was obvious he and his colleagues were up to something. Unfortunately for the one inside the cabin, his equipment was low on battery. In an attempt to recharge in the restroom, the nearby passenger alerted the crew who eventually sought the help of two US Air Marshals who were also on board. One thing led to another, the effort of the two bombers was foiled and arrest was made. The Airline had to do emergency landing in Dakar Senegal after hovering for about three hours in the air, seeking permission to land. At Dakar Senegal, a new level of screening was carried out on all passengers and goods. Prior to this, the Captain/Pilot had announced there was a breach of security which would require emergency landing. Despite all efforts to manage the information by the Cabin crew, every passengers became aware of the danger they have been saved from. After 7.00am Nigeria time, passengers embarked on the journey which took them to Puerto Rico instead of Atlanta Georgia where they were screened again before the flight to Atlanta Georgia. The passengers were still in Puerto Rico till 4.00pm Nigeria time. Apparently to get aviation fuel or something as full detail was not given to the passengers anymore.
The questions then were many. Who facilitated the other suspected bomber’s entry into the freight’s compartment? Whose job it was to ensure no one without official function should be seen near the plane freight’s compartment as well as runway? How did the other suspected bomber within the cabin gained access without full screening? In a decent environment, a panel of investigation would have been set up and arrest made.
While one must commend Delta Airline for efficiency and effectiveness which saved lives, there are loopholes they need to cover in order to assure passengers all through the journey. The passengers were not informed they would go through Puerto Rico. Even at Atlanta some passengers who needed to take connecting flight to other parts of the USA were delayed for another four hours without enough emotional and feeding support.
Time to protect lives of air passengers and ensure they get value for money.