[OPINIONS]:::Giving thanks for the 'AA 331 miracle', but...

No. 46 Wednesday, January 27, 2010
[POSTED BY:::Maurice Tomlinson, Attorney-at-Law}
I join with all well-thinking persons in giving thanks that there was no loss of life as a result of the crash of AA flight 331 last December. I am also pleased that the over 140 survivors stand to receive at least US$135,000 or over JA$12 million each if Anthony Hylton is correct. This money will certainly go some way to assisting our ravaged economy.

   However, I must register a concern about what the crash means with regard to the knowledge/experience of pilots of certain airlines flying into Jamaica. While I would also not wish to speculate as to the cause(s) of this particular crash, my concern comes against the background of two previous incidents which I witnessed involving American Airlines planes flying into the Sangster International Airport. On both occasions, the plane appeared to be approaching the runway too high and had to ‘pull-up’ at the last minute before attempting another landing.
   I have never seen this occur with Air .Jamaica flights, despite having worked at or near both Norman Manley International and Sangster International Airports for years. When I enquired about the training AA pilots receive I was advised that a lot of their senior pilots are in fact ex-military pilots who are accustomed to landing on either aircraft carriers (where there is a sling-shot to catch the plane and slow its landing) or very long air bases and American airport runways.
   The Norman Manley International Airport has a shorter landing strip than Sangster which was why the Concord could not have landed there. From the reports I have heard so far from persons first on the scene (including the brave diminutive female JUTC bus driver who transported 70 injured survivors to the airport and KPH) it appears that the AA flight on that fateful evening was coming in very high.
   The preliminary crash report also indicates that the pilot landed the plane almost half-way down the runway. Combined with the rainy conditions that night and the shorter runway at Norman Manley International Airport, I suspect that the cause of the crash is a foregone conclusion. Res ipsa loquitur.
   Any reasonably trained lawyer (even without the benefit of specialist training in aviation law) could see the implications of this. American Airlines’ extensive route network makes them the most convenient mode of air travel for me. I am therefore more than a bit anxious about the exposure their pilots have of Jamaican airports. In the interim, I am personally happy that I don’t have to fly AA in or out of Norman Manley International Airport. Sangster’s longer runway gives me greater comfort in these challenging and stressful days of air-travel.

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