Some Closure For AirAsia Flight 8501, But Still Questions

Indonesian authorities have confirmed they located the wreckage of AirAsia flight 8501.  The recovery operation is under way already, with a number of countries contributing resources to aid a difficult effort in high seas.

While it must be devastating to lose a loved one in such a manner, the uncertainty of the last couple days while the plane was missing had to be maddening for friends and family.  Hope had already waned that survivors would be found, but at least the grieving process can proceed with some certainty of what happened, unlike Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which disappeared 9 months ago and still hasn’t been found.

That leads us to the first of two questions.  The emergency beacons from QZ8501 never alerted authorities to the position of the airplane:

One of the most pressing questions for searchers and investigators had been why signals from multiple emergency beacons on the aircraft weren’t detected. The beacons, known as emergency locator transmitters, or ELTs, are designed to emit signals to satellites upon crashing and last about 30 days.

The disappearance of MH370 lead to calls for better tracking of airplanes since the beacons there weren’t specifically helpful in locating the plane.  In the case of QZ8501, the plane itself appears to have been found in much shallower waters and may not raise the same outcry.  But, it’s still an open question why the beacons don’t appear to have responded as they’re supposed to.  Since there are some very open questions about what caused the crash (weather is believed to have played a part) the recovery of the black boxes from the plane may yield some crucial details about the crash and potentially why the beacons didn’t perform.

The second question involves compensation for the victim’s families.  The majority of the passengers on the flight will likely be covered by the Warsaw Convention of 1929 instead of the more modern Montreal Convention, since Indonesia has not signed the Montreal Convention.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t specifically familiar with the changes in victim compensation associated with the Montreal Convention, but Wikipedia helped solve that for me.  To distill some of the more complicated language regarding how payments are made, there’s a formula (adjusted for inflation based on some currency valuations) that dictates the amount of money victims and their families are entitled to without having to sue an airline for willful neglect.  It surprised me a bit to find out that just over 100 countries have ratified the Convention, with almost 100 ICAO members (Indonesia included) still not signed on.

As the Wall Street Journal article above notes, the difference in the two Conventions could mean a huge difference in compensation for the families of QZ8501:

Indonesia, unlike its neighbors Malaysia or Singapore, hasn’t signed the Montreal Convention, an international treaty that offers payments from airlines covering total liability of around $170,000 a passenger and covers advance payments for accommodation and transport costs for the families of victims after an air crash. Carriers based in countries that have signed the 2003 treaty are liable for the compensation, which is separate from personal insurance contracts.

Indonesia observes an older aviation agreement—the Warsaw Convention of 1929—which has a substantially lower liability limit per victim of around $8,300 according to one expert’s estimates, and doesn’t require advance payments for passenger’s families.

$170,000 can’t make up for the loss of a loved one (no amount can, in my opinion), but if the families are paid out at the Warsaw Convention amounts ($8,300) they may be stuck with expenses such as travel, funeral and other items associated with the tragedy.  That’s a bitter pill to swallow after losing a loved one.


The post Some Closure For AirAsia Flight 8501, But Still Questions was published first on Pizza In Motion.

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