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Now Boarding: A Former Pilot’s Daughter on the Disappearance of MH370

Sprawling blue skies, blood-orange sunsets, and the silver gleam on the horizon that appears unattainable regardless of how much you chase it – the simple things always look amplified from the window of an airplane.

Air travel has revolutionised the way the world operates, making it ever-so-interconnected, as different things beckon us to board airplanes every single day: The loved ones we’re returning to, he burning sense of exploration across new terrains, the prospect of careers and job opportunities, the quest for knowledge and education. To my dad, a life in the skies encompassed all those things, and much more. He was an esteemed pilot with Malaysian Airlines for the better part of 20 years and a flight instructor with Air Asia subsequently.

It comes as no surprise then, that the disappearance of MH370 struck a very personal chord with me – not only as a Malaysian, but also as someone who grew up around a lot of accomplished, dedicated aviation personnel. The life of a pilot isn’t as glamorous as most would think. Sure their careers involve getting paid to have travel itineraries we’d all be envious of, but the risk that accompanies a title like that is phenomenal. My dad, like most pilots, had only one priority in mind every time he ventured into that vast, limitless sky – the safety and protection of all the lives on board. Lives that at that moment in time he was solely responsible for. Not one to cut corners, he was always subject to rigorous training whenever new makes and models of aircrafts were brought in, and that is standard procedure – to cultivate pilots who are well equipped with the technical skill and the ability to remain calm under pressure, so they can handle emergency situations optimally.

I recall moments as a child when my dad had near-death experiences during flights, and though they were few and far between, the magnitude of potential disaster that could have befallen everyone on board is a chilling idea to consider. What remained etched into my memory even more however, were all the doubtful, second-guessed goodbyes I said to him before each flight following these ‘episodes’. How would I know if this was the last time I was going to say goodbye, or if I would ever see him again? And that same kind of fear is what many around the world are facing right now in light of MH370’s disappearance.

Evidently, the one thing that has everyone rattled on a global level is how random the incident was. Something no airline had ever dealt with before. So unpredictable, it got us thinking, “It could have happened to anybody. In fact, it could have happened to me.” It’s a rudely sobering notion, when faith in a system believed to be so solid and so safe begins to falter in the eyes of many. Adding fuel to the fire, anxiety levels are turned up a notch by what’s being said on social media and the news. In the midst of tragedy and chaos comes the opportunity to do something out of love, out of support, but the flaw in our human patience leads to judgements and accusations. The unexplainable becomes easier to accept when there’s someone to blame.

What’s forgotten amidst the name bashing and the conspiracy theories is that these are still real people who are affected. These are families abruptly separated. People who knew their partners and children inside out. People who were loyal friends, great colleagues and stellar family members. People who always knew exactly what to say and do to make everyone laugh. Pilots, crewmembers, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, lovers, children, best friends, acquaintances – every single person on that plane meant something to somebody. To continuously play the blame game, is to put the people closest to the 239 souls on board MH370 through repeated agony. All they yearn for is closure and answers, and not to see this tragedy be ridiculed and speculated upon endlessly in the press and on the Internet. As for talk surrounding pilot error and pilot incompetency, it is as premature as it is ignorant. These are men and women who undertake immense responsibility on a daily basis, and truly invest all their effort into ensuring the safety of their passengers. They want to come home too.

Tags : Travel
Sonia Gill

The author Sonia Gill

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