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December 31, 2014

Search teams find remains of missing AirAsia plane


The search for a missing AirAsia plane has ended with the discovery of debris and human remains in the Java Sea.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which departed from Surabaya, Indonesia, on Sunday, had been carrying 162 people to Singapore. That plane lost contact with radar about halfway through the flight as it traveled through a storm.

Search teams found remains of six victims and plane metal off the coast of Borneo, about 10 miles from where the plane lost contact. No survivors have been located so far.

Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group, apologized to the families and took responsibility for the accident.

The search operation includes 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters from six different countries. Military divers are looking for the plane’s black box recorders, which hold data that could reveal more about what caused the crash.

The accident is an important moment for the airline industry to consider putting tracking systems on all aircraft, according to Wall Street Journal aviation reporter Andy Pasztor. The plane took three days to locate, but better tracking systems could help speed that process.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Indonesia?
  2. Where is the Java Sea?
  3. How do planes fly? (Not sure? Check out this Kahn Academy video “The Forces on an Airplane.”)
Critical thinking questions
  1. How should the families of the loved ones who died in the plane crash be compensated? Does it matter if the cause of the crash was pilot error, faulty equipment or weather?
  2. “A short time earlier, as they watched Indonesian television, images of bodies and wreckage flashed on screen with no warning.” This describes how many of the families found out the fate of their loved ones. What is the responsibility of the news media to ethically report information to the public? Did they make the right call in this situation? Explain your answer.
  3. The odds of being killed on a single airline flight are around one in 11 million, says Harvard University Risk Communication instructor David Ropeik. In contrast, the odds you will be killed in a car crash are one in 5,000, and one in 3.1 million to be killed by a shark (Ropeik, 2006). Still, do you think the latest fatal plane crashes will have an impact on whether people choose to fly? Would it impact your decision to fly? Explain your answer.
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