It’s shocking news about the loss of flight MH17. All the more so because 298 civilians appear to have been killed in a conflict that has nothing whatsoever to do with them. And all because some trigger-happy Ukrainian rebels, armed by the Russians with surface-to-air missiles, appear to have mistaken a passenger airliner, flying above 32,000 feet on an established route over Ukrainian air-space, for a Ukrainian military transport plane.
It’s a route and flight that was well-known to me during my last years working for Shell. We were setting up a data centre in Kuala Lumpur, and many of my colleagues, of many nationalities, would be travelling back and forth between Shell’s head office in The Hague and KL. I myself flew that route on a couple of occasions. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that at least one Shell employee, working in IT, was on that flight.
This article in today’s Guardian points up the phenomenon of Dutch pragmatism. Dutch passengers checking in at Schiphol today seem to be of the opinion that the downing of flight MH17 was an isolated incident, and unlikely to happen ever again. They are right, but that’s probably of little comfort to those who have lost family, friends or colleagues in this tragic event.