Now, I recognize that aviation accidents occur far more often then we’d like to admit. Often times, incidents involving small planes do not even make the national news. However, the last two days have yielded no fewer than 5 stories involving plane crashes or accidents. What is going on? Some of these stories you might have heard; others you probably haven’t.
1) Southwest Flight 812: This past weekend, passengers got quite a scare when a flight departing Phoenix for Sacramento developed a five-foot hole in the fuselage during the flight. No one was seriously injured as the flight landed in Yuma, Arizona, but oxygen masks were deployed and passengers described the sound as similar to a “gunshot” at 36,000 feet. Southwest Airlines called the problem a “new and unknown issue” and investigators confirmed that airplanes were not inspected for fatigue in the area where the hole developed because they believed no cracks in the skin could form there. They were obviously quite wrong. Cracks were found in three additional planes and 80 other US planes were grounded for inspection. One passenger snagged quite a few images of the incident (one is below):
2) Air France 447: More than two years after it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean during a routine flight from Rio De Janeiro to Paris, investigators have located a large piece of wreckage of the plane underwater. The discovery included human remains, which France now plans to retrive. Not much is known about what happened to the plane. Investigators surmised that poor weather could have brought it down, but now hope to recover the flight’s data recorders and get some answers.
3) American Airlines 883: The flight left Boston for St. Thomas, but was forced to land at New York’s JFK Airport after some sort of pressurization problem in the cabin. Oh, and the plane went from 36,000 feet to 9,000 feet in a little over a minute. That’s really fast to drop 27,000 feet. No injuries were reported and the passengers later boarded another plane, which took them to their destination.
4) Small Plane on Queens Beach: A 24-year-old pilot landed a small plane, with three people aboard, without permission on a Queens beach after one of his passengers allegedly became violently ill. The plane landed at Rockaway Beach near Beach 56th Street. All three passengers were uninjured in the crash. Update: Actually the pilot, Jason Maloney, sounds like a real jerk.
5) UN Plane Crash: A plane carrying 33 people crashed while landing in the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during heavy weather. Thirty-two of the people died in the incident. Early reports suggest that the pilot missed the runway as heavy rain fell around the airport in Kinshasa. All but five of the passengers worked with the United Nations, and most of the UN staff worked on peacekeeping operations in the DRC. The plane had been coming from the north-eastern city of Kisangani. Plane crashes are notoriously common in the DRC, where maintenance and safety inspections do not commonly occur.