Thirty-three Australians were tragically killed in two air disasters which shrouded 2014 and the years which have followed in sadness, anger and frustration.
Both incidents, which left a total of 537 passengers dead, forever seared the flight code of Malaysia Airlines into the consciousness of Australians.
What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, or MH370, remains perhaps the greatest mystery of aviation and the subject of intense speculation.
Of the 227 passengers, six were Australians. On the morning of March 8, they boarded the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and expected to step off in Beijing, China. The plane never arrived, and the search for the missing jet became the most costly in aviation history. The most likely scenario involved someone in the cockpit of Flight 370, probably Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, re-programming the aircraft’s autopilot to travel south across the Indian Ocean.
The downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17, just four months later, appeared far more clear cut. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed, including 27 Australians.
A total of 33 Australians were needlessly killed in two air disasters in quick succession.
In the MH17 disaster, the lives of Perth parents Anthony Maslin and Marite “Rin” Norris were ripped apart in the most devastating way.
They lost their three children – Mo, 12, Evie, 10 and Otis, 8 – and Ms Norris’ father, Anthony, when the jet was shot down. Their three children had been returning home to Perth for school, while they had stayed behind in Amsterdam.
Why it matters?
A nation of great travellers, Australians want to feel safe as we journey abroad. But there were also broader implications in both stories.
MH17 threw the spotlight on Moscow’s intervention in the Ukraine and its likely hand in the disaster, despite denials.
What happened in the cockpit of MH370 continues to intrigue. A picture began to emerge of Captain Zaharie’s mental health. Had Malaysia Airlines done enough not only to support a troubled pilot, but also spot the warning signs of an employee struggling with mental illness?
Malaysia Airlines came under intense pressure over its investigation. The carrier and Malaysian government were accused by families of MH370 victims of obscuring the truth. When disasters strike, people need and expect clarity from leaders and those in power.
What has changed?
Family members of victims are pushing for international law changes which will oblige countries embroiled in civil wars to close their airspace.
In the modern age, it was unthinkable a plane like MH370 could simply disappear. In 2016, a new aviation standard meant all aircraft over open ocean report their position every 15 minutes. The 30-day battery life of a plane’s underwater locator beacons has also been increased to 90 days, beginning 2020.
Hit with two devastating disasters, Malaysia Airlines renationalized on 1 September 2015, in an attempt to avoid financial uncertainty. Meanwhile, families of the victims of MH370 and MH17 are still fighting for compensation in civil suits.