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For Malaysia Airlines, disasters strike twice


BY CHRIS BRUMMITT

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Two Boeing 777s. Two incredibly rare aviation disasters. And one airline.

In what appears to be a mind-boggling coincidence, Malaysia is reeling from the second tragedy to hit its national airline in less than five months.

On March 8, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, spawning an international mystery that remains unsolved. On Thursday, the airline - and the nation - were pitched into another crisis after the same type of aircraft was reported shot down over Ukraine.

Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over the violence-wracked eastern part of the country. Other details were only just beginning to emerge.

But what's certain is that the struggling airline and the nation must now prepare for another agonizing encounter with grief, recriminations, international scrutiny and serious legal and diplomatic implications.

"This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Amid it all, a question: Just how could disaster strike the airline twice in such a short space of time?

"Either one of these events has an unbelievably low probability," said John Cox, president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems and a former airline pilot and accident investigator. "To have two in a just a few months of each other is certainly unprecedented."

The first disaster deeply scarred Malaysia and left the world dumbstruck. How could a Boeing 777-200ER, a modern jumbo jet, simply disappear? Flight 370 had veered off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the western Australian coast.

The search area has changed several times, but no sign of the aircraft, or the 239 people aboard, has been found. Until then, how the plane got there is likely to remain a mystery.

On Thursday, there was no mystery over the whereabouts of the Boeing 777-200ER, which went down on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Its wreckage was found in Ukraine, and there were no survivors.

Officials said the plane was shot down at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet.) The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists in recent days.

"If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice," Malaysia's prime minister said.

Malaysia Airlines was widely criticized for the way it handled the Flight 370 hunt and investigation. Some relatives of those on board accused the airline of engaging in a cover-up, and there have been persistent conspiracy theories over the fate of the plane, including that it might have been shot down.

There was no immediate reason to think the two disasters to befall the airline were in any way linked.

Najib said the plane's flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body. And Cox said that to his knowledge, there was no prohibition against flying over eastern Ukraine despite the fighting on the ground.

Charles Oman, a lecturer at the department of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it was too early to draw conclusions.

"Given the military conflict in the region, one has to be concerned that identities could have been mistaken," he said in an email.

Malaysia Airlines was especially criticized for the way it handled the communications around the missing jetliner, which presented unique challenges because of the uncertainty facing the relatives of those on board. With the plane crashing Thursday over land and its wreckage already located, there will be no such uncertainty.

But the investigation will be just as sensitive. There will be legal and diplomatic implications depending on who was responsible.

"The airline and the Malaysian transport ministry took a lot of hits for the way they handled MH370, due to their inexperience," Oman said. "Hopefully they will do better this time."

The accident will surely inflict more financial damage on Malaysia Airlines. Even before the March disaster, it reported a loss of $370 million in 2013 when most of the word's other airlines were posting an average profit of 4.7 percent. After the Flight 370 disaster, passengers canceled flights, and even though the airline is insured, it faces uncertainty over payouts to the victims' families.

"They were in worse shape than any other airline in the world before even the first incident," said Seth Kaplan, managing partner of industry newsletter Airline Weekly. "There's little precedent for an airline going through what they have gone through let alone surviving it."

Join the discussion

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phpoling Thursday at 6:36 PM

May 300 Passengers rest in peace

Flag Reply +10 rate up
Michele Thursday at 6:48 PM

Why are they killing Malaysians, why not their own Ukrainians or Russians?
Cowards always target the innocent, in order to terrorize others. This in no coincidence, I hope world officials look into this and exact punishment on the guilty in the world tribunal, for war crimes, and/or acts against humanity. Who does such atrocity???

Flag Reply +6 rate up
4 replies
manmi1 Thursday at 11:17 PM

Tragedy all the way around. But will you idiots on the right quit blaming Obama? Get a brain.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
eeverettm manmi1 Friday at 1:20 AM

Weren't there bumper stickers around when BO was running for office, saying "peace with obama" as if he was the messiah bringing peace and harmony to the world : (

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
doonooch eeverettm Friday at 5:24 AM

what does this have to do with anything. sorry delusional dude, but the USA is not the centre of the universe. Many countries have their own political issues unrelated to any interest of the US. It is utterly asinine trying to pin this even on Obama or any other American political figure. Your post clearly shows what a unsophisticated yahoo you are.

Flag +1 rate up
vegetto764 Thursday at 7:03 PM

In 1983 when the Soviets shot down the Korean Airline President Reagan spoke for 20 minutes condemning such act. Today when the Malaysian Airline was shot down Obama spoke for 20 seconds and off he went to another fund raiser.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
7 replies
Debb Thursday at 6:53 PM

do not pay attion to the ppl behind the curtian !!! its just BAD Malaysian Luck !!!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
dawn Debb Thursday at 7:05 PM

only in the Land of OZ

Flag Reply 0 rate up
frank.foreman Debb Thursday at 10:15 PM

Are you old enough to have a computer? Bad Malaysian luck? Have you no idea what this sort of activity means worldwide? It means we are all being threatened by Russian bullies. And they will be shot for playing with the world. Don't believe people? That's the worst thing you could say , as all of those passengers had family , friends and all sorts of other things. All gone now , simply because just 1 passenger may have been a target. Does that sound fair , and should it be ignored as just more crime? Revenge is not a crime , it is a description.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Pllc15 Thursday at 9:51 PM

We entered WWI when the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat as an act of war. Senator Levin - a prominent liberal at that - said today, if the manifest shows any Americans were on board the plane, it is an act of war. Highly doubtful that we will but certainly we will aid the Ukrainians against the Russia rebels at the ready. Tragedy of a war, collateral damage.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
burlareaguy Pllc15 Friday at 7:36 AM

The lusitania was sunk by the Germans in 1915....The Germans thought it was being used for transporting supplies. The United States did not enter ww1 until april of 1917.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
eaglephoenix2 Thursday at 5:45 PM

Is it a coincidence?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
6 replies
Linda Thursday at 6:19 PM

So sad... I wouldn't want to fly with this airline, its jinxed

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
Meh... Linda Thursday at 7:06 PM

yeah at this point flying Malasian would be like buying GM

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Jane Coryell Linda Thursday at 8:42 PM

I suggest incompetence. One is bad luck, two such accidents are not a coincidence.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
Kristina Jane Coryell Friday at 1:21 AM

ahh, yes, another pithy comment. Umm .. how do you suggest incompetence? for what .. choosing a flight path at 33,000 feet over the Ukraine? Is there another choice, and should they really have said, "hmm, let's fly several thousand miles out of our way to our destination, because someone might shoot us down with a missle?" That is utterly ridiculous ..

Flag 0 rate up
matty4849 Jane Coryell Friday at 9:40 AM

This is all u can say about human tragedy,,' incompetence & bad luck ' ? What a heartless,insensitive dick you're.

Flag 0 rate up
R Thursday at 11:55 PM

". . . incredibly rare aviation disasters."
Incredibly rare doesn't cut it - this plane was deliberately shot down by barbarians. Those passengers were slaughtered.

My heat goes out to the Malaysian people who have to endure another horrific tragedy.

Pray for them and for those murdered.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
burlareaguy R Friday at 7:16 AM

actually of the 295 passengers only 44 were malaysians...The other 251 were of other nationalitys....no americans it turns out were on the plane...Many Asian nationalitys and European nationality were aboard.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
bigcatdaddy Thursday at 10:10 PM

Why would you be flying commercially in a war zone anyway?

Meanwhile in other news, obama attends a fund raiser.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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