A few weeks ago the United States and the UK issued bans on some electronic devices larger that 16cm*9.3cm(tablets, laptops, etc) for direct flights originating from several predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle east and North Africa to the US and UK. The ban restricts passengers from bringing their devices into the cabin, those wishing the bring their devices aboard are to bring them as checked in luggage, which is transported in the luggage haul. It was received with mixed feelings by travellers and some industry operators. Airlines with flights from the affected countries responded differently but the Royal Jordanian’s notice caught my attention.
As I read through I got to point 6 and I thought, do people really know what’s going on with the aircraft when they are flying? Is flight really a miracle to them? I wonder how many people ever asked that, I remember my first flight it was one of the most exciting moments of my life. For sometime I had been learning about aircraft but had never had the opportunity to fly. I had flown in a military helicopter but it doesn’t give you the sense of flying except maybe when you are the pilot even though helicopters are great fascination to me.
The UK did not give reasons as to why they had implemented the ban/restriction but the US Department of Homeland Security cited security threats bases on “evaluated intelligence”. There is some suspicion that terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda might smuggle bombs through devices like laptops. An incident of such a nature occurred when a “laptop bomb” exploded in a Somali plane and Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda group claimed the responsibility. The ban is seeking to protect the safety of passengers which is of paramount importance.
After one is done appreciating the miracle of flight then gets to point 12, think of reasons why you don’t have a laptop or tablet with you? If you direct this question to the USA authorities they will tell you it’s for safety reasons(your safety or flight safety). But what really makes flying safe?
The aviation industry is reputable for its high standards of safety, today it remains one of the safest mode of transport. In 2013 with 3.048 billion passengers only 256 lost their lives, that is one per 11,501,886. compared with 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally in 2013. In 2016 there were 325 deaths against some 3 billion passengers. The deadliest year in aviation, 1972, with the highest number of casualties saw 2373 deaths, a small number compared with other forms of transportation. Safety criticality is what differentiates the aviation industry from other industries but this impressive safety record cannot be maintained without the LAME(Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineer). These are the people who sign the CRS (certificate of release to service) of an aircraft after they have performed inspections, checks and problem rectification. This makes them the sole arbitrators of flight safety whilst the aircraft is still on the ground. AMEs are the hidden heroes of aviation safety and they are the difference between a safe and unsafe flight. Some dirt or debris in mechanical parts can cause devastating fatalities, a loose wire connection can set the aircraft on fire mid air. Even a missing rivet can pose a major threat to flight safety. Sometimes the “behind the scenes” role they play make them a target when companies seek to cut costs but such a move can bring a heavy burden to an airline due to maintenance errors that may result afterwards due to a number of human factors such as fatigue as a result of tight schedules. The burden can come in the form of loses, reputational and financial and there is also the loss of lives.
Here is a list of some of the famous aircraft accidents due to maintenance error:
- Japan Airlines flight 123
- Aeroperu flight 603
- Chalk’s flight 101
- Alaska Airlines flight 261
- American Airlines flight 191
- Bond Super Puma AS332L Mark 11
- Aloha Airlines 243
An incompetent AME or maintenance culture is as dangerous as a bomb placed in an aircraft. Next time when you fly remember the people that work to ensure you are safe during your flight.