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September 22, 2017

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Jumping to conclusions does not help victims, families

On Wednesday night, Taiwan was shaken by the tragic news of Flight GE222's crash on Penghu Island. Of the 58 passengers and crew, 48 died and 10 were seriously injured. The cause of the accident was not immediately apparent, but many suspected that inclement weather may have been the cause.

Typhoon Matmo had by Wednesday left Taiwan proper and was moving in a northwesterly direction toward the Chinese mainland.

Assuming that weather conditions were to be blamed, several media outlets began asking why the aircraft had been allowed to fly in the first place, indicating a possibility of gross negligence.

A retired pilot and aviation security expert on Thursday criticized the media, saying that the conjectures were highly inappropriate and did nothing to help the ongoing investigation.

The purpose of the investigation is to determine the cause of the accident and to shed light on what can be improved upon in order to prevent future tragedies, the expert said.

Reporters can of course analyze information related to the accident, but they should refrain from attempting to arrive at a conclusion, because their conjectures do not help either the ongoing investigation or future aviation safety policies, the expert added.

A China Post employee who used to work in the aviation industry explained that the 15 minutes after takeoff and before landing are a critical phase, and that weather conditions are seldom the only cause behind such accidents.

The actual cause of the accident cannot be determined until the recordings and the data are obtained from the two black boxes and analyzed, she said, adding that whether or not an aircraft can land is determined not only according to meteorological data, but also through air traffic control and/or the pilot's own judgment.

Sometimes pilots will choose not to land even if weather conditions permit landing; sometimes weather conditions, previously deemed to be safe, can change abruptly when the aircraft is preparing to land, she added.

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