This is much too frequent an occurrence, and I’m not sure what it says about English language journalism in the Kingdom, but the headlines in yesterday’s editions of the Bangkok Post and The Nation demonstrate just how different the two papers’ world views seem to be.
Speaking of the crash, there is wild speculation and a lot of armchair aviation investigation experts pontificating on things they know little or nothing about. This is happening both in the media as well as in everyday conversation (as Tawn explains to me). Different from the reporting and conversations I would expect, which tend to just be analysis and speculation about possible causes, the reporting and conversations here in Thailand seem desperate to find out who’s to blame.
Two suspects that have quickly risen to the surface: “low cost airlines” and “that Indonesian pilot”.
The first suspect falls under the group think that because they have lower costs and air fares, the so-called low cost carriers must be less safe. One logic used for this is because their aircraft are generally older, previously flown by other airlines. Of course, this logic ignores the fact that the national carrier, THAI Airways International, has a fleet that is – by international standards – downright ancient.
The second suspect seems to be only thinly veiled nationalism or – dare I say it? – racism. Because the pilot of the doomed plane was from another developing country, it seems easy enough to assume that he must have been under-qualified or incompetent. And yet I heard no such concerns about under-qualification when in July a THAI Airways A300 (a very old plane) was driven off the runway at Suvarnabhumi by a Thai pilot, who then failed to follow proper procedures and notify the control tower and the aviation authorities of this incident. It was only discovered an hour later when a pilot from another airline reported seeing tire tracks leading off the runway and through the mud. The muddied tire THAI plane was found at the gate. There was surprisingly little coverage of that in local media.
Of course, none of us will know the answers until the investigation is complete, and I suspect that like most aviation accidents, there are a chain of factors that led to the accident, not just a single point of blame.
The bright spot in all of this is Udom Tantiprasongchai, the chairman of Orient Thai (aka One-Two-Go) Airlines. Immediately after the accident he made a public statement and then flew down to Phuket to offer assistance. When the Thai press asked him whether he thought this accident would cause his company to go out of business, he responded by saying that there were more important things to take care of now: the passengers from the flight and their families.
Bravo to at least one person who seems to know what the priorities should be.