A number of nations, including the United States, have been avoiding the dangerous airspace over Ukraine near the Russian border, but the Malaysian airplane shot down by suspected Russian separatists probably took the risk for purely financial reasons, a retired Air Force pilot says.
Forty-year veteran Capt. Tom Bunn told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV
said his first thought upon learning about the missile strike on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was "Why is this airliner flying in that area anyway?"
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"The short answer is – it's money," he said, noting earlier this year the Federal Aviation Administration decided no more American airliners would fly over the area.
"Some of the other countries followed suit," he said, including Quantas, Singapore, Asiana, Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, and Pakistan.
"So a lot of people thought it wasn't a good idea, so why did they keep going it? There really isn't any good reason except that this is a cash-strapped airline, and they didn't have the money to go around it, or didn't want to spend the money to go around it."
Even if an individual pilot was concerned, he added, "when an airline tells you this is what you got to do, if it's a unionized airline you could get together with the other pilots and say 'hey, look, we've got to take a stand against this.'"
"But if it's a non-unionized airline, you just kind of have to do what you're told to do. That's what it comes down to," he said.
The remarks bring to mind a similar controversy involving the airline during the investigation into the disappearance of Flight 370 earlier this year.
A satellite industry official
told The Washington Post that a simple computer upgrade that would have cost $10 per plane, which Malaysia Airlines declined to purchase, would have enabled investigators to track the direction, speed, and altitude of the jet. The mysterious disappearance of Flight 370 captured the world's attention in March.
Bunn called it "uncanny" – but unrelated – that the missile strike over Ukraine happened on the same day TWA Flight 800 went down off the coast off New York's Long Island in 1996.
"Accidents are so rare, it's like lightning hitting twice in exactly the same spot when it's supposed to do that only one time out of billions," he said.
"I don't think it's going to be a wake-up call for the airline industry," he said of the ground-to-air missile strike on the commercial airliner. "What's going to happen with people who are afraid of flying is they're just going to say, 'I don't want to have anything to do with anything that goes into the air unless it's a kite or a baseball.'"
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