Sky Talk

Top international aviation stories of 2014


When I compile Sky Talk’s Top Ten list for the end of the year, it is focused on the big aviation news here in North Texas. Here’s a list of the five international stories that dominated the headlines in 2014.

-Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished off of radar on March 8 and to this day, it is unclear what happened to the Boeing 777-200 and the 239 passengers and crew. The search first started in the South China Sea as the flight had left Kuala Lumpur towards its destination in Beijing. But then government officials realized that the aircraft had made a sharp turn off its flight path and crossed back over the Malaysian peninsula and headed to the Indian Ocean. At one point, searchers thought they had heard the ping from the plane’s black box but were unsuccessful in locating any wreckage. There are still two ships dedicated to searching the sea floor of the Indian Ocean which is as deep as 4 miles in some areas.

-When reports that a jetliner had crashed in war-torn eastern Ukraine, the aviation industry was shocked to learn that it was another Malaysia Airlines aircraft. Flight 17 from Amsterdam heading to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on July 17 in territory held by pro-Russian rebels, killing all 298 people on board the Boeing 777-200. Because of the war in the area, investigators had difficulty reaching the crash site to evaluate the wreckage and retrieve bodies. Since a significant number of passengers were from the Netherlands, the Dutch government is handling the investigation and earlier this month parts of the wreckage arrived in the Netherlands by truck.

-“Not again” were the thoughts of many when AirAsia flight 8501 disappeared on its way to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia on December 27. The Airbus A320 was carrying 162 people. Searchers have found debris and bodies in the Java Sea that they have confirmed were from the plane. Shortly before it disappeared, the pilots had asked air traffic control to climb to a higher altitude to avoid severe weather.

-It wasn’t all bad news for the global airline industry in 2014. Fuel prices plummeted in the last few months of the year leading to larger-than-expected profits at many airlines. The International Air Transport Association said it expects airlines to post a total global net profit of $19.9 billion in 2014, up from its earlier projection of $18.0 billion. “The global economy continues to recover and the fall in oil prices should strengthen the upturn next year,” said IATA chief executive Tony Tyler in December, noting that the group expects global net profits of $25.0 billion in 2015.

-The rise of the Persian Gulf carriers continued in 2014 as Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways added new destinations to its networks and to its fleets. Emirates has more A380s in its fleet than any other airline, operating over 50 of the double-decker aircraft on long-haul flights. The carriers have also redefined what it means to travel in style. For example, Etihad recently unveiled its first class apartments on its A380 flight between Abu Dhabi and London, which costs $20,000 one-way. The three-room, 125-square foot suite has a living room, bedroom, shower room and the services of a private butler during the flight.