The world is still in shock days after the loss of MH17.
Only months before MH17, the mystery of MH370 had taken place and still no answers are forthcoming. These two events, their timing and significance, feel more like the stuff of fiction rather than the tales of human tragedy that they are. And as always, aviation must learn from its lessons and evolve as it has always done.
Unfortunately, a common saying amongst pilots is that many of the regulations are "written in blood". It is a disturbing truism that recounts how aviation's pioneers have often paid for progress with their lives to improve the road for those that eventually followed. Even today, when a tragedy occurs, it is important that we mourn the loss but we must also do our utmost to learn from the event and safeguard against it in the future.
Following the disappearance of MH370, aviation's governing bodies had begun working on solutions to prevent another airliner ever 'vanishing' from the face of the earth when they were confronted by the apparent shooting down of an aircraft in authorised airspace. The issues that have surfaced from these two events are set to change aviation yet again.
The task is not a simple one. In the case of MH370 there is no airframe to inspect and the remnants of MH17 are apparently compromised, trapped in a war zone and wrapped in global politics. The hard facts and evidence that normally constitute the world of air safety investigators are not readily forthcoming.
Yet even without valid outcomes from either investigation, the scene is set to change on all sides of the arena. Satellite tracking of flights is the most commonly raised issue regarding MH370 and only days after MH17 a number of questions are on the table. Each of which would have a significant impact on world aviation.
The assessment of the suitability of airspace in zones of conflict will be a major focus and what must transpire for airspace to be 'closed' or 'open' by the governing bodies may be more specifically defined in the future. Will the process become more 'global' such that all airlines will avoid the defined areas?...not just those that have done so of their own volition. Will the risk-management protocols and processes of airlines come under greater scrutiny? Will counter-measures against attack need to be fitted to civilian airliners and their crews appropriately trained?
The questions are many, but we must also be wary of knee-jerk responses in these emotive times. Like the investigators at a crash site, the process needs to be methodical and valid to ensure the best outcomes.
There is no doubt that the loss of these two airliners has presented even more challenges for the aviation industry. This is not a new situation. The events of 9/11, SARS, Avian Flu and a wealth of other global issues have had a significant impact on aviation in modern times and it has survived thus far. For the moment the focus must lie in discovering the real questions that need to be answered. Only then can we truly honour those that have been lost by guarding against these tragedies ever happening again.