Mishaps on the tarmac

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Mishaps on the tarmac

Over 300 passengers and crew members were evacuated when a Korean Air plane caught fire while on the runway for takeoff from Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Friday. Thanks to fast action from the airport, no one was injured. The Boeing 777-300 stopped before changing mode to V1, a speed beyond which the takeoff can no longer be aborted, upon discovering a fire on its left wing.

We cannot imagine what could have happened if a passenger plane took off with a wing on fire. Examining the cause may take some time. Japanese police plainly stated that it could not be related to terrorism around the time of the May 26-27 G-7 summit in Japan. Various other options — a faulty engine, other faulty parts, a bird strike — are being studied. Aviation authorities from the two countries will have to carry out a thorough investigation.

But we must note that accidents seem to be happening more frequently. Incheon International Airport went on alert May 5 when a Singaporean plane bound for San Francisco had to suddenly stop before liftoff after a Korean Air plane made an unlicensed intrusion into its runway. Earlier this year, a Jin Air plane bound for Busan had to return to Cebu in the Philippines because it had been flying with the front door partially open. A Jeju Air plane had to make an emergency landing due to a faulty pressure control system late last year, while a flight on another budget carrier, Eastar Jet, bound for Hong Kong in December had to make an emergency return to Incheon due to machinery problems. More and more people are getting nervous about flying with domestic carriers.

Air travel safety concerns not only public lives but also the economy. Over 14 million people arrive in Korea via planes. Incheon International Airport tops global ranks because of its 6.6 million transit travelers. We cannot risk losing confidence in the safety of Korean airliners and airports. The accidents must not be treated lightly simply because no casualties have been reported. Airlines must toughen maintenance and aviation discipline. Authorities must examine whether the safety system in local airports adequately meets their amount of traffic.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 28, Page 26
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