Jose Thomas

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Friday 02nd January, 2015



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It’s been a while since I posted my blogs. I must confess that this is due to unexpected and increased travel schedules. Of  late I have been flying more than what I should be doing  which put a lot of pressure on my time and time zone adjustments. I have written to you in the past that we must learn not to look back but to look ahead. I think I should be doing the same thing and instead of giving you reasons, I must now continue to write my experiences and my thoughts the way I used to write in the past

Before I go into my posting, I want to wish all my friends world over a very  peaceful and prosperous 2015.

2014 has not been a very interesting year for many whom I know and to some extent it applies to me as well. I don’t call it as bad luck nor bad times, but I certainly would attribute it to various happenings. Today,  I am sitting here in New York stunned watching the television about the Air Asia flight QZ8501 crash in the Java sea. In fact I haven’t sat in front of the TV for a long time but I did it today, simply because this particular accident put lots of doubts in me as a person who travels frequently.

The year 2014 has seen a few major air crashes. The MH370 which crashed on 8th March 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Air Algerie Flight 5017 which crashed in Mali near Gossi on 24th July 2014 leaving no survivors, Sepahan Airlines Flight 5915 which crashed on 10th August 2014 leaving 39 people dead, the recent Air Asia Flight QZ8501which crashed in the Java Sea. While there are different reasons for the crash before Air Asia, this particular crash throws up lots of questions and doubts. While the experts are pointing towards weather as the main reason, I feel if this be the case, air travel, especially in the hands of young pilots with less experience becomes highly questionable.

Most of you know that I have done my flying and I take serious interest in the field of aviation. I have friends all over the world who are commercial pilots with whom I am always in close contact and whenever I met them we generally used to discuss aviation and technology advancement matters that exists on the ground and in the cockpit. I used to keep myself updated with all the technology advancements and accident investigation reports. I did this just to keep myself updated with knowledge related to aviation.

I have travelled in Avro aircrafts in India during the monsoon season which to me during those days was pretty scary. These aircrafts had weather radar which was not that accurate and dependable like what it is today. Today’s fly-by-wire aeroplanes have more than what they need in the cockpit and ground and I am shocked to see this  Air Asia aeroplane flew into a dangerous thunderstorm ending the lives of 162 innocent people. While many experts are finding reasons for this  crash, I still believe that there is a mystery surrounding this crash. This airbus A320 is equipped with some of the best weather warning systems and I cannot believe a Captain with 20,000 hours of flying flew into this terrible terrain.

With all the advancement in technology happening in the world, I hope this will become an eye opener to all those people who conduct research into aviation advancement. Once again I was always in the belief that “gone are the days that an air crash can occur due to weather related issues, especially at an altitude above 35000 feet. Today, when I see some of the pilots who get their command during the early stages of their life, I wonder if they are trained to over-ride the automation in the cockpit. The joke today is “you don’t need an intelligent person to fly a plane”  Looks like this theory has to be reviewed. When I was young and as and when I boarded an aircraft, my eyes used to always go to the cockpit to check if the pilot had grey hair. Is that something that is missing today?

I remember when I was planning to start my airline “Choice Air” way back in the 90’s, I had an excellent idea. I knew those days that there were many people who were very skeptical about flying as a passenger and often got scared with just the thought of flying. The unique plan that I had for Choice Air was that before the passenger boarded the aircraft, the experience of the cockpit crew and their names, name of the pilot with the number of hours flown and his credentials including safety records has to be displayed at the entrance of the main door.

Some of my readers who are experts in aviation may disagree with my views as to how a captain can operate an aircraft in command with zero hours of flying in an aircraft. While I know simulator training is what provides training to these brand new commanders, hands on flying is equally important to make a captain confident, especially to handle emergencies. All of you know that there will be a captain one day flying an aircraft in command who just got his promotion as a commander. Does this person have enough experience to handle emergencies? I wonder! To mitigate this risk, I suggest a newly certified commander should fly with a check pilot till the individual completes at least 2000 hours of flying time in command. By doing this, we can minimize the risk related to experience. Even though the training procedures are a lot more strict when it comes to aviation, I still think there should be some changes made in this regard.

In the next two hours I am flying from New York to Miami with my family. I am writing this as a concerned person with reasonable knowledge in flying. I know that traveling by air is the safest mode of travel. With today’s technology, I must believe that the aircraft manufacturers  insist  on all Airlines upgrading their systems in the cockpit and on ground which may not have been implemented due to cost constraints. Hopefully the 2014 life loss would be an eye opener to all concerned.

As we walk into 2015, let us hope that the Aviation sector will not see any more loss of life. I want to join all of you in offering my condolences to the entire family and members who lost their loved ones in this Air Asia QZ8501 crash. Let us all hope and pray that the entire world will stay in peace, protecting the lives of innocent people world over.

God Bless and all the best for the year 2015!
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