| 9.7°C Dublin

Tragedy in the morning fog

OF all forms of transport, aviation is the most unforgiving of failure. It is too early to jump to conclusions but one indisputable element from yesterday's Cork plane crash was the fragility of existence; inches were the difference between tragedy and survival.

That two people walked away from the mangled shell of the Manx2 while four others survived, albeit with serious injury, is a miracle. The families of the six are in the thoughts of the nation. Thankfully Ireland has an exemplary record on air safety. The swift responses from the emergency services are a testament to the rigorous standards that are enforced. The containment of the fire was a key factor in saving lives.

All the same this was a serious and tragic incident. Not since the 1985 Air India crash have there been multiple deaths. Before that, we have to go back to the Tuskar Rock disaster in 1968. In both of these disasters external factors were to blame.

Flying, as we know, is regarded as the safest mode of transport. An estimated two billion journeys are made safely annually. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why yesterday's tragedy was so shocking. Exhaustive investigations will have to be held before there are any answers to the many questions raised by this accident. The foremost of these may well be why the plane was making a third attempt to land in low visibility conditions.

Air traffic control tapes, radar information, weather reports and the condition and operation of the aircraft will need to be examined before any real clues as to what happened can be attained. It is understood that the Metroliner was not a modern aircraft but it is widely accepted it could easily fly for 30 years providing it was properly certified and maintained. There is a general rule that for every hour an aircraft spends flying an average of 12 hours' maintenance takes place.

All of this merely reinforces both how poignant yesterday's calamity was and how absolutely essential it is to explain precisely why it happened.

Irish Independent