For the relatives of the 239 passengers and crew aboard, the confirmation that their loved ones must be presumed to be dead is traumatic. Their grief may be all the greater because of the fact that more than two weeks have elapsed since the plane disappeared, during which time they will have gone through false highs of hope and depths of despair all the while knowing nothing of any substance. All the sympathy in the world cannot alleviate their anguish.
The search now for wreckage to confirm the findings of Immarsat, the British company which analysed the data, can at least be focused in one area. Even so, given the speed of ocean currents and winds, many thousands of square miles of ocean will need to be scoured, a formidable task given that the presumed crash site is about 1,400 miles west of the Australian mainland.
After that, there is the task of finding out what went wrong. That will be even more difficult, even if the wreckage containing the vital recorders is found, a task that will surely take many months barring a stroke of luck. Its recovery from the seabed, now that that part of the Indian Ocean is moving towards winter, will be immensely difficult, if in fact possible.
In the meantime, the relevant authorities need to review what is known. Though the purpose and reason seems incomprehensible, it is known that the aircraft’s transponder, which identifies it and its location to air traffic controllers, was deliberately switched off. It is also known that the aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (acars) which does a similar but more technical job, was also intentionally switched off.
As to why, there is not the faintest clue. Speculation about a possible hijack and possible crew involvement, or some sort of suicidal impulse by the pilot and/or co-pilot is pointless. Indeed, whether there were any such factors may never be known.
The more immediately important fact is that it did happen, and was made to happen for the purpose of making the aircraft disappear from view. If this vanishing act was an important part of whatever plan the perpetrators of this tragedy had, should it be possible for these communications systems to be switched off?
It must surely be possible to create systems where aircraft transponders cannot be switched on and off by the pilots. Perhaps that would help spare other families in the future the agony seen in the past two weeks.
Above par Ryder Cup transit essential
Driving won’t be allowed at the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles this autumn, news which may shock some golf fans. Actually, we mean that driving as in tee shots will of course be allowed, but driving to get to the course will not, which some may find only slightly less shocking.
In fact, it makes perfect sense. Once you leave the A9, there is only one rather narrow and twisty single carriageway road leading in and out of Gleneagles. Having some 15,000 private cars using it to arrive and depart, apart from causing many hours of traffic jams, would make it extremely difficult for emergency vehicles to get up and down the road as well.
So paying punters will have to use park-and-ride facilities being built at Perth, Stirling, and Kinross, and then take to buses, or use trains to a refurbished Gleneagles station, to get to the golf. In all probability, that will make getting from home to course a lot quicker.
Making a success of the Ryder Cup is not just about making sure that the three days of it go as smoothly as possible, but about it being a showcase. It attracts the third largest global TV audience of any sporting event, behind only the Olympics and football’s World Cup. Those viewers need to have the impression that Scotland is first-class place to visit. It is no understatement to say that the eyes of the world will be upon us and there are many tourist dollars at stake.
That means that the buses and trains that get laid on also have to be first-class and there has to be plenty of them. The last thing Scotland wants the world to hear is that our buses, trains, and transport planning for a big event known about years in advance is not up to par.