Another Black Day For Taiwan’s Aviation – Flight GE-235 To Jinmen Crashes Shortly After Take-off
In the past 20 years 7 plane crashes occurred in Taiwan, killing around 900 people. The country had barely recovered from the tragic plane accident that happened on July 23 of last year, when a TransAsia Airways aircraft flying from Kaohsiung to the outbound island of Penghu crashed near the airport.
Today, Taiwan mourns again the victims of a fatal plane accident, and again a TransAsia Airways flight is involved.
Flight GE-235 from Taipei City to Jinmen, an island off the coast of the People’s Republic of China, carried 53 passengers, 31 of whom are tourists from mainland China, and 5 crew members. The plane took off from Songshan Airport, in Taipei City, at 10:45 of February 4.
Only 5 minutes after take-off the engine of the aircraft failed. The airplane was forced to attempt an emergency landing. The machine precipitated at high speed towards Jilong river, hitting a bridge and a taxi. The plane broke into pieces. According to reports, the last communication of the pilot to air traffic control was “Mayday, mayday, engine flame out”.
The shocking footage of the airplane falling towards the bridge soon went viral, conveying to the public the horror of this disaster.
As to 19:00 of February 4, of the 58 people on board 23 are dead, 15 are injured, and 20 people are still missing. Of the injured people, 12 were Taiwanese and 3 were tourists from mainland China.
I never liked flying, and the images of such disasters make me feel even more anxious. Even the great Mohammad Ali was afraid of flying, and I think this is a more common feeling than one may think. Many people are just too embarrassed to admit it.
If you look at the statistics, however, flying is relatively safe. While less than 1000 died in air crashes over the past 20 years in Taiwan, in 2006 alone around 1,200 people died in car accidents.
What makes air crashes so scary, however, is their psychological impact. If you have a car crash, you either die or you are injured, but the accident happens fast and you are on the ground. Car accidents usually involve a limited number of people, so even if many people are killed over time, a single accident claims a restricted number of victims.
Airplane crashes are different. First of all, airplanes are huge machines and there are many people inside. If one single airplane crashes, there are many victims. Second, if you are on board of an airplane the accident may last for a few minutes, during which you perceive that a disaster is unfolding. These are moments of panic and terror. Passengers can’t do anything. They can only wait and hope the pilots will save them. Third, there is also the scenario of an emergency landing on water or in isolated places, like mountainous areas (as told by air crash survivor Nando Parrado in: Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home).
Having said that, I am myself a frequent flyer. Just a few days ago I flew for over 14 hours. Although I don’t like it and I’d rather take a bus or train if I could (short distances is what I love about Europe), I do not give up travelling.