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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

China Airlines チャイナエアライン

By now you've probably read the news and seen the pictures of the China Airlines jet burning up at Naha 那覇 airport in Okinawa 沖縄. Both the Daily Yomiuri http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20070821TDY01003.htm and the Japan Times http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070821a1.html featured yesterday's incident among their leading stories in today's online editions. It was fortunate that no one was hurt, but once again the poor safety record of Taiwan's national flag carrier has been put in the spotlight.

I've flown with China Airlines on a couple of occasions, and both times those flights went off without a hitch. But according to this Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_airlines#Incidents_and_accidents, the airline has averaged 6.44 fatal events per million flights, while the worldwide average is under 1.0. Just looking at the list of accidents involving China Airlines planes is unnerving (I remember seeing the wreckage of Flight 605 sitting on the tarmac in a corner of the old Kai Tak Airport when I flew to Hong Kong in December 1993). What is it about the apparent lack of concern regarding safety that seems so common in Taiwan? Or perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, Taiwan's other major international airline, EVA Air エバー航空, seems to reach its destinations without its planes falling out of the sky, or bursting into flames on the runway.

There was a time when China Airlines was the only international airline still flying into Tokyo's much more convenient Haneda Airport 羽田空港, but now that it (along with EVA) uses Narita International Errport 成田国際空港, it's hard to think of a good reason why I should put my life at greater risk when flying.

UPDATE: The Japan Times has an editorial on Monday's incident http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20070823a1.html from today's edition (Thursday).

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