Reykjavik| A flight of the now infamous Malaysia Airlines was forced to land in Iceland, after their plane’s navigation systems were damaged by the heat and debris erupting from the volcano over which it was flying. The company’s flight MH131 going from Paris to New York reportedly went through a zone of “heavy turbulence” with “very low visibility” for a few minutes, before many of the navigation equipment simply stopped working, forcing the pilots to land the plane manually.
The pilots were directed to fly the Boeing 777 almost directly over the active Bardarbunga volcano, despite many warnings from the International Civil Aviation Organization. The extreme heat and the large quantity of sediments projected in the sky by the volcanic eruption have made the flight path extremely dangerous, as the damage to the plane shows.
“There was lots of smoke and flying embers, it looked like hell!” says Mohamed Teuku, one of the survivors. “The plane was shaking and trembling, I thought it was going fall apart! I thought the company had learned their lesson and that they would stop putting people’s life in danger, but it looks like I was wrong… That’s it, I’m never flying with them again!”
The company’s regional senior vice president PK Lee, explained that the company had “thoroughly evaluated the risks” before choosing that flight path and that the passengers’ lives were “never really at risk“.
Malaysia Airlines has been implicated in a series of incidents recently that has led many travellers away from the company. Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, completely vanished on 8 March 2014. There has been no confirmation of any flight debris, and no crash site has been found. Flight MH17 crashed on 17 July 2014, presumably shot down over eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile thought to have been fired by pro-Russian rebels, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.
Combined with an already poor financial situation, some aviation and economic experts believed these tragic events could spell the end for Malaysia Airlines. An ill-conceived promotional campaign asking passengers to nominate what they wanted to do before they died, did not help, following a series of people posting pictures of near empty planes on social media.
But the airline is fighting back, promising “best value airfares for UK and European dream holidays”, a policy that had brought a few passengers back. This new incident could however destroy much of their efforts.