When the American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright invented and built the world’s first successful aircraft and made the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight on December 17, 1903, these daring creative geniuses may not have imagined the height, breadth and length to which aviation has risen in 2015.
Sri Lanka joins the world community today in marking International Civil Aviation Day which was first celebrated in 1994 by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) through a resolution to mark the 50th anniversary of the ICAO which was setup on December 7, 1944. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly officially recognized December 7 as International Civil Aviation Day.
According to the ICAO, the purpose of the global celebration is to generate and reinforce worldwide awareness of the importance of international civil aviation in the social and economic development of States, and of the role of the ICAO in promoting the safety, efficiency and regularity of international air transport.
As the UN and world nations have now adopted Agenda 2030, and embarked on a new era in global sustainable development, the importance of aviation as an engine of global connectivity has never been more relevant to the Chicago Convention’s objectives to look to international flight as a fundamental enabler of global peace and prosperity, the ICAO says.
From this year to 2018 the ICAO has selected the theme, “Working together to ensure no country is left behind”.
The ICAO in its latest Air Transport data report says, World passenger traffic grew strongly by 8.2% in July 2015 compared to July last year. Despite the weak global economic growth, air travel grew robustly with a strong domestic traffic growth of 29% in India. The falling oil prices over recent months are expected to further stimulate passenger demand because of lower cost of travelling.
Though the world today has risen from the Wright flight to the giant double-deck Boeing and Airbus passenger jets, it is not plain sailing. For several decades we have heard of hijackings, big and small, with one involving a Lankan Sepala Ekanayake. The worst case scenario was the biggest ever attack on the super power United States on September 11, 2001. Al Qaeda suicide bombers hijacked three passenger jets and crashed them in to the skyscraper Twin Towers in New York and the US Defence Department Pentagon, while a third plane reportedly heading for the White House exploded in mid air preventing what could have turned out to be a nuclear holocaust.
Since then despite the marvels of modern technology, it has not been plain sailing for innocent passengers. Last month ISIS terrorists planted a 1 kg bomb in the cargo-hold of a Russian jet liner and it exploded in mid air, killing more than 220 passengers and crew. Besides the growing terrorist threat, modern technology including sophisticated autopilot systems have also caused fatal crashes. An investigation on the recent Air Asia crash showed that the pilot and crew depended too much on the autopilot system, so that when something went wrong they did not respond in the way they should have. Another major problem relates to the skill of pilots and air crews, their physical and mental fitness. One of the bloodiest cases was where a mentally unbalanced German Air co-pilot locked the pilot out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the loaded passenger jet on to the French Alps.
As for Sri Lanka, especially during the previous regime, the flightpath was more on corruption and frauds in the national carrier Sri Lankan and the budget airline Mihin Lanka. We hope that the new National government, while taking action against those who plundered from our national airlines, will take effective steps to strengthen passenger security on our civilian airlines and also at the Bandaranaike International Airport. As in other areas, passengers also need to cooperate by alerting the air crew if they see anyone behaving in a suspicious manner. Civil Aviation is vital for international goodwill and peace, trade cooperation and related issues. We hope all countries will come together to promote peace through Civil Aviation.