Aeroplane technology has unquestionably improved by leaps and bounds. “Fly by wire technology” is a phrase that trips off the tongues of airline executives and experts, hacks and flacks. But, globally, there is a sad pattern to air crash investigations: in the end, because there is nobody to defend themselves and because the aircraft companies have well-oiled PR companies with enormous lubrication powers, it is all pegged to “human error”.
So it was in Bangalore in 1991, when an Airbus A-320 fell short of the runaway at the old HAL airport in broad daylight and bumped off the golf course into a blazing ball of fire. And so it will be in Mangalore, where this morning, a Boeing 737-800 either fell short of the runway or overshot the runway, depending on your news source.
For a couple of days, the talking heads will froth at the mouth about safety standards, airport infrastructure, etc, before it is business as usual. Few will talk of the extraordinary role Praful Patel, the civil aviation minister, has played in singularly bringing Air-India, Indian, and Indian Airlines to the ground, as the competition soars.
So, what do you think caused the Mangalore air crash that turned the dreams and hopes and prayers of 160-odd people and their families into a pile of ash in minutes? And will things ever change in India?