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Air travel: the new death trap

Last week a very tragic air accident happened in Grootfontein when a military helicopter crashed shortly after lift-off, killing five of the ten occupants, with the remaining survivors still receiving medical treatment.
A very sad situation indeed. It seems as if the air traffic situation in the country has turned into what one could call a “death trap”, and across international water some aeroplanes even disappear off the radar screens, like the Malaysia Boeing 777 with 239 passengers on board, and until now they have  found no trace of it.
Of late it seems as if air traffic accidents are the order of the day and, frankly speaking, I think I am going to opt for the more conventional mode of transportation, which at present I see as the railway sector.
Yes, it may be slow, but at this point I feel much safer travelling by train, even if it’s at a snail’s pace.
I would have gladly said that I would like to travel by road, seeing that the Easter holiday is just around the corner, but according to a recent report from the World Health Organization, Namibia was ranked number one in the world in terms of most road deaths per annum and per capita, with the causes linked to speeding and reckless driving, general non-observance of traffic rules and animals on roads.
It was revealed that road accidents are the third major killer in the country, trailing behind HIV and malaria, so it becomes clear why I say that it is better to opt for the conventional rail network.
Back to the issue of air crashes: With the recent military crash last week, nagging questions kept on sprouting in my head, and I could not ignore them and turn a blind eye on this matter.
The first thing that baffled me about the crash: Among the passengers of the military-issue helicopter were three children. Whose children were they, and why were they aboard the helicopter? Who authorised such an arrangement to let civilians aboard a military helicopter?
I always thought that a military-issued helicopter does not directly carry civilians other than in the case of natural disasters like floods, where the services of a helicopter are needed to airlift people to safety, or to be used to transport food aid.
Since the investigation is under way and the military being tight-lipped about the issue, we will just have to wait until the cause of the crash is established.
In a situation like this one can only speculate and ponder on the reasons.
 Is it maybe because it was a Chinese model helicopter? Was it human fault or just a mechanical mishap, which is usually the case?
Another question to tackle is: Why is there no maintenance plan? Was the helicopter fit for flight? Were there any anomalies? Do not get me wrong, but accidents do occur due to human error, but for someone to go and be able to operate an aircraft, vigorous training and flight hours have to be undertaken to become a fully qualified pilot.
I am not saying that the pilots were not qualified, I am just leaving room for thought.
Another example that seems to back up the safety levels of air travel in the country is the death of One Africa Television founder and group chairman Paul van Schalkwyk, who died in a plane crash last month.
The Aircraft Accident Investigation is still uncertain about what caused the crash, and investigations are still going on. In the end, what really matters is the prevention of such incidents and not necessarily the cause of it, as the cause does not change past events but gives room for the rectification of faults.
Until I am assured of safety on planes, I think I best should keep my feet on the ground and hope everyone enjoys their Easter celebrations and try not to become a statistic on the roads or in the sky.

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