HANOI, Vietnam — Two Boeing 777s. Two incredibly rare aviation disasters. And one airline.
In what appears to be a mind-boggling coincidence, Malaysia is reeling from the second tragedy to hit its national airline in less than five months.
On March 8, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, spawning an international mystery that remains unsolved. On Thursday, the airline — and the nation — were pitched into another crisis after the same type of aircraft was reported shot down over Ukraine.
Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over the violence-wracked eastern part of the country. Other details were only just beginning to emerge.
But what’s certain is that the struggling airline and the nation must now prepare for another agonizing encounter with grief, recriminations, international scrutiny and serious legal and diplomatic implications.
“This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
Amid it all, a question: Just how could disaster strike the airline twice in such a short space of time?
“Either one of these events has an unbelievably low probability,” said John Cox, president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems and a former airline pilot and accident investigator. “To have two in a just a few months of each other is certainly unprecedented.”
The first disaster deeply scarred Malaysia and left the world dumbstruck. How could a Boeing 777-200ER, a modern jumbo jet, simply disappear? Flight 370 had veered off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the western Australian coast.
The search area has changed several times, but no sign of the aircraft, or the 239 people aboard, has been found. Until then, how the plane got there is likely to remain a mystery.