Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lao Airlines Crash in Pakse

It is the morning after the horrific news and I am still shocked. All passengers and crew members of the Lao Airlines flight from Vientiane to Pakse on October 16th died will the plane crashed in what the airline calls bad weather conditions. The teen daughter of a friend of mine was on that plane. She was on the way to Vietnam - she just had received a scholarship to study.

Lao Airlines doesn't have a bad record, and the ATR Turbo prop planes are safe and widely used in regional flights. Australian News quoted an expert who said Lao Airlines did not participate in international safety audits.

 I actually like it to fly with an ATR. The route to Pakse isn't particular difficult and the pilots are used to it. What comes into account this time was the bad weather. Tropical Storm Nari just hit Vietnam and was effecting Laos as well (but storms like this are usual as well).

Again, it isn't per se a reason to postpone all flights. But Lao Airlines cancels actually a lot of flights frequently, for several reasons. Weather is one, in particular in the south. Mining people can tell you how many times they have to use the bus because the flight were cancelled. So the question will remain, why this flight was considered safe.

The competence about flying in Laos declines within the hierarchy. That means pilots, crew and ground staff are the most competent workers, while the top management both within the airline, but also within the ministry of transportation, doesn't have a lot of skills when it comes to flying. A friend with a pilot licence once told me there isn't one person with a flying licence working in the ministry.

It is actually a miracle that Laos has just a clean record, and everyone was actually wondering why there were not accidents. Maybe because of the experienced pilots, maybe because of the limited numbers of flights. The frequency is increasing, and this increases the risk of an accident.

I hope that Laos will follow international regulations regarding the investigation of the crash. Pictures showed that the scene was kind of secured with ropes, but I wouldn't be surprised when the hundreds of spectators took debris and/or valuables they found. There is always something to learn from a crash, and thats why a proper investigation is so important. Not to blame someone in the first place, but to know why. That is also important to know for the families of those who lost their lifes.

There are some rather disturbing news that Lao authorities want to cremate all bodies before the buddhist lent ceremonies start on the weekend. I wonder how foreign families will react to this - but maybe foreigners are excluded.

My thoughts are with the families who lost there loved ones.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Science Show on radio in Laos!

Science isn't something that comes into ones mind when thinking about Laos. The countrys number of patents is very low - close to zero - and universities focus more on communist ideas and Lao culture than providing knowledge. The Lao education system isn't encouraging young people to be curious - it's more a shut up and write down what I just told you policy.

But this is going to change. One man seems to have enough of the lack of science news and just took things in his own hands. Virasak Viravong is a IT teacher, who is also quite interested in science himself.
So a few months ago he decided to just set up a facebook page and start posting science news. "I think Science it's very hard for general people to understanding but it's very interesting and fun. so I try to share about info that i read, listen, watch... to Laos people by created a Facebook Page name "ວິທະຍາສາດ" ( for write a short article about Science (short, easy to read and easy to understand)", he told me via Facebook message.

 The success is already there. "I started my facebook page on 14 feb 2013 to now I've 2,800 people like the page", he counts. But it goes even further: "In July Vientiane radio Fm98.8MHz (Butterfly Radio) staff saw my page and contracted me for bring science to a radio program name "Science Talk" with the slogan "science is not something distant".

 "Science Talk" is on air every Mon-Sat, starts from 9pm to 10pm at FM98.8MHz (Vientiane Radio) with various topics such as healthy, biology, physic, Astronomy, technology, scientist biography, etc. For me this is just an amazing thing to see. I always believed (and still do) that people should take education and sharing of knowledge into their own hands. Virasak (nickname Mee) is also part of the Barcamp organizers team, and maybe it was there when he saw that you don't need superiors or much of an institution to share knowledge.

 Of course I asked him if the program is already available as podcast, but he told be the radio station doesn't even record it. But he may think about doing it himself.