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Unfair criticisms of plane-crash response

Published:Saturday | January 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

The crash of AA331, and subsequent reports, have brought out the best and the worst in us as the NMIA and its management are criticised without objectivity.

1. Some reports said the aircraft careened off the runway. That is a misuse of 'careen,' which means: to lean, sway, or tip to one side while in motion. The aircraft simply ran out of runway, overshot and landed on its belly in the sand near the sea. The pilots were in control.

2. As I understand it, the aeroplane touched down near the middle of the wet runway, with a tailwind. However, if touchdown was closer to the designated zone instead of near the middle, reverse thrust should have stopped the aircraft in time. Aircraft are built for these conditions. However, with a runway only 8,910 feet long, there is little room for error. The pilots should have noticed that they were too high. They had ample time to power up and make a second attempt.

3. Some passengers accused the NMIA of backwardness because of a lack of ambulances and buses. Our airports use the most modern equipment, so we would not have a fleet of airport buses on standby as some suppose. If there had been a distress call, fire trucks, fire boats, tractors, ambulances, buses (commandeered from JUTC), hospitals, mops, brooms and the kitchen sink would be on standby because of an anticipated crash. This was not the case. The aircraft was fine until the mishap. It would take about two minutes to speed to the end of the runway just to see the unreachable aircraft across the road. They reached it by driving on the public roadway. However fast one could expect them to drive, they did.

4. Some passengers, assuming that they knew procedure, went to the airport demanding answers and treatment from junior persons who were unaware of a crash. That happened while the team and authorities were either on their way to the crash site or were already tending to the injured.

This is Jamaica

But nobody died. If this was the USA, they would be hailing somebody as a hero. But our reports and opinions have been judgemental. This is Jamaica. Handclapping swiftly changed to a frightful and angry dirge, with the media and reporters joining the chorus. Somebody, anybody in Jamaica, has to be terribly at fault.

Such a pity.

I am, etc.,


Box 242

Kingston 9