Sunday, April 12, 2009

Altruism and Humanitarianism in Aviation: Not Economically Viable?

Ever since that incident in July 2008 when the price of crude oil and aviation fuel reached sky-high, is using planes to help the unfortunate now too expensive?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe it was the news back in January 5, 2009 when Mission Aviation Fellowship – a Christian charity working in Mongolia – racked-up debts of up to 2 million US dollars to their aviation fuel suppliers. Thus placing Mongolia’s equivalent of Australia’s Royal Flying Doctors in really dire straits. Even though the crude oil price spike of July 2008 seems like a distant memory, especially half a year later when on average it is 3 times cheaper in comparison. The failure to hedge aviation fuel when it was cheap or hedging too soon before it became sufficiently cheaper not only endangered the big airline companies, but also budget airlines and their humanitarian / charitable counterparts as well.

Airplanes and other forms of aircraft are the primary mode of travel in Mongolia due to the vast distances separating between villages and towns. Not to mention the prohibitive sums of money that could be involved in creating paved roads to connect these towns and villages. Travel across Mongolia other than by air can be extremely inconvenient, especially during the winter months when a car breakdown can easily result in an unfortunate motorist freezing to death. Traditional pastoral sheepherders are the primary recipients of the vital medical aid provided by Mission Aviation Fellowship.

While on the African continent, Zambia’s national airline suspends its operation due to high aviation fuel costs back in January 11, 2009. Given that most of Africa has been plagued by still unresolved peace and order issues; air travel had since become the de facto safest mode of transport on the continent. While man-portable surface-to-air rockets are still a relative rarity for those rogue militants operating in the continent and they can only hit planes flying at 10,000 feet or less, air travel is indeed the safest way to travel across most of Africa. Lets just hope that these rogue militants never manage to acquire large truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down planes flying as high as 120,000 feet. Until then, if they can afford the relatively high fuel and aircraft maintenance costs, most – if not all – humanitarian organizations operating throughout Africa should stick with air travel.

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