Opinion: The Problem of Aviation in Media

A Delta 757-200 over the runway at LAX (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Often times the mainstream media is criticized when it comes to coverage of the aviation industry. More often than not, coverage is incomplete, inaccurate, or sensationalized. The aviation industry is often too complex and time consuming for mainstream media to properly report in their news cycle. However, what can be worse than inaccurate or incomplete media coverage is the lack of coverage.

Two weeks ago Atlas Air flight 3591 crashed while on descent for landing at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Two crew members and a deadheading crew member from a regional airline were onboard at the time of the crash. The crash was fatal for all those onboard. The NTSB is currently investigating the accident and recently transcribed the data from the cockpit voice recorder, along with the digital flight data recorder.

On the day of the crash, mainstream media provided coverage of the crash. However, coverage quickly died down in the days following the crash. Two weeks after the fatal accident, the media has moved on. Even when news of about the accident is released, there is no mention of the updates into the investigation online from major news sites; the news has moved onto its next story.

Part of the problem is the public. Atlas is company that not many people have heard of, and being a cargo flight, people assume that it does not affect them. When they see a cargo plane has crashed in the news, they will quickly flip the channel and forget about it. However news is news, and deserves the same attention whether or not people will watch or read it, and to some the story does matter..

When Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared five years ago, the story was on the front page of news sites for months. Each anniversary of the disappearance, the flight resurfaces into the news cycle. After Colgan Air flight 3407 crashed ten years ago outside of Buffalo, N.Y., the story remained on news sites for months.

The main difference between the disappearance of flight 370, the crash of flight 3407 and the crash of Atlas Air flight 3591 were that there were no passengers on the Atlas Air flight. To the mainstream media, the only thing lost in flight 3591 was boxes. Since it was a cargo flight with no passengers, the media no longer deems the story worthy of keeping it in the news cycle. The media can no longer get views on the story because there were no passengers involved in the accident.

However, there was not only boxes onboard flight 3591. Three airmen were killed in the crash. Three families were broken. Three futures lost.

Every airplane crash matters. Even more so if it is a large aircraft, whether it is only carrying cargo or passengers. The media needs to treat both the same, whether it is a passenger Boeing 777 that disappeared, or if it’s a plane filled with cargo operated by an airline that the public may not know. One should not be given any more weight than another.

The media needs to grow and learn in order to report the news correctly and accurately. Often times the non-events in aviation garner the most attention. Earlier last week, two Southwest Airlines aircraft collided wingtips at Newark. There was little damage to the aircraft and no injuries onboard either aircraft, however, news sites have blown this into a major event.

Often times when a story has good visuals it often will get the most attention in the news. One that often makes the front page is when two airplanes appear to be in a ‘near miss’ mid-air collision. This recently made headlines with footage of two jets over the skies of London. However, there was no safety issue in this case; the aircraft were in no danger of collision and the video only made the news because it had a good visual.

In aviation, the most important part of a story often comes months or even years after the event. In many cases, this is never reported as the media has moved on from the story. Accidents and incidents help grow aviation safety as a whole. However, by the time a final report has come up and the industry becomes safer, mainstream media is nowhere to be found.

Daniel Morley

Daniel Morley

Daniel has always had aviation in his life; from moving to the United States when he was two, to family vacations across the U.S., and back to his native England. He currently resides in South Florida and attends Nova Southeastern University, studying Human Factors in Aviation. Daniel has his Commercial Certificate for both land and sea, and hopes to one day join the major airlines.
Daniel Morley