The Washington Times - August 20, 2008, 03:59PM

By Jeffrey Denning


A commercial airline crash in Madrid, Spain killed over 100 people today. The plane sped off the end of the runway, crashed, caught fire and broke into pieces. As damage estimates and reports continue to come in, the numbers of those injured or killed might change slightly. Currently, however, it is reported that 149 people are dead and only 26 have survived.

It was reported that the Spanair’s takeoff had been delayed an hour due to technical problems. (It should be noted that the aircraft, Spanair Flight JK5022, was cross-listed as Lufthansa LH 2554.) Technical problems on airplanes seem to be all too familiar lately. In late March of this year, American Airlines canceled dozens of flights.        


The MD-80 aircraft were grounded for much needed maintenance. Other legacy carriers followed suit here in the U.S. Coincidently, the Spanair flight that crashed was a MD-82, in the same family of the technically troubled MD-80s.

The next time your plane is delayed on mechanical issues, particularly on a MD-80 series (that is, if you still choose to fly at all), it’s best to exercise extreme patience. While the full investigation of the accident today has not yet been completed, a problem pertaining to technical issues seems forthcoming at this point.

To add a conspiracy theory up front, one might wonder if the accident may have been sabotage. According to a New York Times report:

Spanair is a troubled low-cost carrier owned by S.A.S., Scandinavian Airlines System…

It lost $81 million in the first half of the year, and S.A.S. has said that it plans to cut a quarter of Spanair’s flights and eliminate about 1,000 jobs, or about a third of its employees.

On Wednesday, before word of the crash, Spanair pilots had threatened to go on strike, saying management did not have a plan to fix the carrier’s problems.

Let’s hope the accident wasn’t deliberate - the direct destruction of a frustrated and unstable airline worker, fed up with airline management. But such a thing cannot be ruled out. Nor can the possibility of that happening with any of the U.S.-based air carriers. Mysterious puncture holes, the size of screwdriver heads, appeared in U.S. commercial aircraft fuselage a few years ago during airline troubles and woes.

Furthermore, who can forget the Madrid train bombings? Could there a link to Islamic terror in the incident today? It cannot yet be ruled out.

Finally, this is a tragic day for all those involved or affected in some way. It is often pointed out, particularly after a well publicized and tragic plane crash, that the odds of crashing and dying in an automobile are much greater than in an airplane.

Warning! If you didn’t already make the connection, the odds are increased - and NOT in your favor - when you choose to fly an MD-80 series aircraft.

Nevertheless, the ground travel versus air travel comparison does not negate the very real need for aviation security standards to be nigh-impeccable. Any negligence is simply unacceptable. People cannot be replaced.

UPDATE:  Here is the latest broadcast report of the crash.