Journalist Noah Sneider was at the site in eastern Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down, killing all 298 people onboard. Sneider updates Audie Cornish on the state of the site.
The downed Malaysia Airlines jet has passengers and airlines alike asking new questions about safety, wondering why the company stuck to a flight path directly over a volatile conflict zone. President Obama says it appears the plane was shot down by a missile from Ukrainian land controlled by pro-Russian forces.
Ukrainian authorities had closed the flight path up to 32,000 feet. But Flight MH17 was above that altitude. Even before the incident, some airlines avoided the area altogether. Malaysia Airlines, however, stayed the course, as did several other carriers. A less efficient flight path means more money spent on fuel, crews and maintenance. So it’s not a decision carriers take lightly.
“This industry has gotten so dog-eat-dog and so competitive that they’re looking at the bottom line far more than they ever have in the history of this industry,” says University of Portland finance professor Richard Gritta, who has long studied commercial aviation.
The strict cost cutting of modern airlines is striking to those who remember aviation’s glamorous golden age. Retired American Airlines pilot Jim Tilmon remembers taking a plane hundreds of miles off its planned path to avoid nasty weather and provide a more comfortable ride for passengers.
“I did burn a little bit more fuel, but it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t so much that the airline got upset,” Tilmon remembers.
With airlines facing high fuel prices and relentless shareholder pressure, pilots today don’t expect their employers to be so lenient.
Mark Garrison: Airlines use computer modeling and human judgment to choose flight plans. Basically, they look at two things, says aviation consultant George Hamlin.
George Hamlin: The first thing is safety. The considerations after that are basically you would like to do that at the lowest possible cost.
A less efficient flight path means more money spent on fuel, crews and maintenance. So it’s not a decision carriers take lightly. Ukrainian authorities had closed the flight path up to 32,000 feet. But Flight MH17 was above that. Some airlines still avoided the area altogether, paying more for extra safety. Malaysia Airlines stayed the course, as did several other carriers.
Richard Gritta: This industry has gotten so dog eat dog and so competitive that they’re looking at the bottom line far more than they ever have in the history of this industry.
University of Portland finance professor Richard Gritta says a longer flight path may only cost a few dollars more per seat. But multiply that over all the flights and it takes a real bite out of profits.
Gritta: It becomes a fairly big deal, especially if you’re flying that route several times a day.
Strict cost cutting is why you don’t often hear captains of today’s commercial jets talk like Jim Tilmon.
Jim Tilmon: I’ve flown hundreds of miles around weather to keep my passengers secure and safe and comfortable.
Tilmon was a longtime American Airlines pilot, whose career included air travel’s golden age.
Tilmon: I did burn a little bit more fuel, but it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t so much that the airline got upset because I did that.
With companies facing high fuel prices and shareholder pressure, pilots today don’t expect their employers to be so lenient. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.
He was a passenger on the downed Malaysia Airlines flight. Those who knew researcher and activist Joep Lange say he was a giant in the battle against AIDS — and truly "a scientist with a heart."
Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen, was born in New York City. His father reportedly lives in the San Francisco area.
In Congress, there’s been a big, heated debate about a bank most people probably haven’t heard of: The Export-Import Bank of the United States, commonly called the Ex-Im.
The bank’s charter expires in September, and many conservative Republicans would like to kill it, while others are calling for reforms.
Conservatives say the Ex-Im bank is bloated, inefficient, comes at a high cost to the taxpayer and is really just a form of corporate welfare for big companies, including Boeing.
But Democrats and some Republicans say Ex-Im helps small businesses enter foreign markets, helping boost exports.
To help explain what the Ex-Im bank does and put it in context, we took a little field trip to a fabric whole seller in New York City who once did business with the bank. We also spoke with entrepreneur and investor Jan Boyer* in Washington, D.C.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story provided the misspelled the name of Jan Boyer. The text has been corrected.
Smartphones hold so much of our lives. From our photos to our emails to our texts, there is a lot of personal info housed on our smartphones. Hayley Tsukayama, tech reporter for the Washington Post, joins Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary to tell listeners what they should be doing with their smartphone before selling it.
Selling your smartphone is a quick way to make some cash. But a study published earlier this week by the security firm Avast, in which the firm bought some used Android phones and recovered thousands of "erased" personal files, stands as a good reminder that you have to think carefully before you sell.
NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on the latest news from the Gaza Strip, where Israel has undertaken a ground invasion against Hamas operatives. It's the first time in five years that the Israeli military has conducted a ground operation.
Malaysia is reeling from the loss of a second plane in five months. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on the reaction from Malaysians in the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted Friday on a recommendation that Congress lower certain mandatory drug sentences retroactively. The move could cut almost two years off of thousands of prisoners' sentences.