By Brad Dison
2014 was a bad year for Malaysia Airlines. On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia at 12:42 a.m. en route to Beijing Capital International Airport in China. The Boeing 777 jet carried 239 people from 14 different countries. The flight was to last 5 hours and 34 minutes. At 1:08 a.m., 26 minutes into the flight, the pilot confirmed that they had reached their flight level of 35,000 feet. At 1:19 a.m., Lumpur radar station contacted Flight 370 as the jet was handed off to another radar station. The air traffic controller said, “Malaysia three seven zero, contact Ho Chi Minh one two zero decimal nine. Good night.” The captain responded, “Good night. Malaysia three seven zero.” Those were the last words heard from Flight 370. Two minutes later, the jet disappeared from the radar screen over the Indian Ocean. All search and rescue efforts failed. Although the jet has never been found, all 239 people were presumed dead.
Four months later, on July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 took off from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur. The Boeing 777 jet carried 298 people from 10 countries. At the time, Russia and Ukraine were in the first months of the War in Donbas. Due to this international conflict, some airlines avoided the eastern Ukrainian airspace since several military aircraft had been shot down by surface-to-air missiles. The missile systems were unable to differentiate between military and civilian aircraft. The Ukrainian government restricted flights traveling under 32,000 feet but did not close the airspace to flights traveling at higher altitudes because it received overflight fees from commercial aircraft which flew into their airspace. At 12:13 p.m., Flight 17 departed from Amsterdam. At 12: 53 p.m., 40 minutes later, Flight 17 reached Ukrainian airspace. They were travelling at 33,000 feet. At 1:19 p.m., air traffic control noticed that the jet was 3.6 miles off course and instructed the pilot to return to the flight track. One minute later, a surface to air missile detonated just above and to the left of Flight 17’s cockpit. The jet fell rapidly and disintegrated before striking the ground. Everyone on board, 298 people, died in the what remains the deadliest airliner shoot-down incident in history.
2014 was certainly a bad year for Malaysia Airlines and the families of the 537 people who died in Flights 370 and 17, but it was a good year for Dutch competition cyclist Maarten de Jonge. De Jonge was a member of Malaysia’s Terengganu cycling team, which required him to fly around the world to competitions. On the morning that Flight 370 was set to depart from Malaysia en route to Beijing, De Jonge changed his plans and exchanged his ticket for a cheaper flight which was to leave an hour earlier. Minutes before Flight 17 departed from Amsterdam, De Jonge exchanged his ticket for a later, cheaper flight. Twice in four months, De Jonge’s life was saved because he was thrifty. “It’s inconceivable,” De Jonge said, “I am very sorry for the passengers and their families, yet I am very pleased I’m unharmed.”
- “Dutch Cyclist Changed Plans to Fly on Both MH370 and MH17.” 2014. The Independent. July 20, 2014. independent.co.uk/news/dutch-cyclist-maarten-de-jonge-cheats-death-twice-after-changing-flights-from-both-malaysia-airlines-mh17-and-mh370-9617243.html.
- Dayton Daily News, March 25, 2014, p.5.
- The Gazette, July 30, 2014, p.3.