It was a week completely absorbed by a number of geopolitical crises facing the Obama administration – and leaving the rest of us skittish about riding planes. Within the span of 24 hours, all hell broke loose as if the apocalypse lit up: pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine got trigger happy and mistakenly blew up a commercial air flight and a few thousand miles away. Israel, figuring Western civilization would be distracted by crisis in Central Europe, got busy commencing a ground invasion against Hamas in the Gaza strip. And, always wanting a spotlight, North Korea couldn’t help but escalate new rounds of missile tests, a move that’s making its neighbors jumpy all over again.
That it has not been a good year for Malaysia Airlines is a severe understatement. First the mysterious ghoul-like disappearance of Flight 370, now a Boeing 777 tagged as Flight 17 … lots of sevens. How the airline will remain solvent or exist will more than likely depend on the Malaysian government since it’s the flagship carrier for the country. But, important and rather simple questions arise in the wake of Flight 17’s tragic misfortune. What was it doing over a conflict zone in the first place?
Common sense would dictate going around that spot – the one where pro-Russian separatists are busily blasting Ukrainian military aircraft out of the sky. For some reason, Malaysia Airlines, along with Air France, British Airways and Russian airliner Aeroflot were all flying over eastern Ukrainian airspace as if nothing was going on down below. So now, according to the aviation tracking news site FlightRadar24, everyone gets it, time to move away from the yellow tape (see below):
Ukrainian aviation officials didn’t necessarily make it a no-fly zone, despite the obvious presence of surface-to-air missiles, but they did say airlines could fly over so long as it was more than 23,000 feet. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration was smart enough to advise American airlines to stay away. Either these other airlines were hard pressed to save a buck on gas or Europeans and select Asian airlines are just that impervious to risk, who knows. The question will come up in litigation.
Some now feel the world’s on fire. The cat who pulled that trigger, from what’s been reported, could be wishing he could go back in time … if he was able to stay alive in what was surely one of the most intense geopolitical plays at “Cover Your Ass” ever attempted. Word went out about the shoot down over the wire while at a recent conference on an unrelated subject, attendees looking at each other with wide-open eyes and round scary faces all casting for Van Gogh’s The Scream. There was a collective, but silent “oh shit. So what happens next?”