Air Tavaris Flight 704
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Air Tavaris Flight 704 (also known by its call-sign ATA704) was a regularly scheduled flight from Lantaž, Rodoka to Nuvrenon, Tavaris that, on January 31st, 2017, was struck by space debris from the Space Debris Crisis and crashed into a residential neighborhood in the city of Dondara in Zinia Province. All 177 people on board the plane were killed, as were 97 people who lived in homes impacted by the aircraft. The Co-Captain of the flight, Nevar Dravana Niktat, was the son of then-Tavari Prime Minister Aniríl Dravana Niktat. The crash occurred early in the morning - approximately 3:18 AM - on the same day as a general election. Dravana Niktat would lose re-election later that day to Šano Šonai Tuvria. The crash is the largest single mass casualty event, during peace-time, to occur in Tavaris in the 21st century. It is remembered not only for the connection to the Prime Minister but also for the recordings recovered from the flight recorder in which the flight crew led the passengers in reciting a popular Akronist prayer, the "Canticle of the Benefactor."
The aircraft was a kAE 999-1, built in Kuthernburg. Flight 704 was a "red-eye" flight, scheduled to arrive in Nuvrenon at 3:58 AM East Tavaris Time (UTC-8:00). Piloting the plane was Air Tavaris Captain Alenda Tovai Aštrovat, who had flown with the company for 24 years. Prior to her civilian flying career, she served her conscription in the Royal Tavari Air Force. She had attained the rank of Captain during her conscription, and was posthumously promoted to Major. The co-pilot was Nevar Dravana Niktat, who had been with Air Tavaris for two years. He had also served in the Air Force during his conscription, and was posthumously promoted from First Lieutenant to Captain. Flight 704 (since renumbered to Flight 706) is known to be a "long-haul" flight, the longest regularly scheduled domestic flight that Air Tavaris flies, though the airline does fly longer flights internationally.
The course of the flight was normal and uneventful until after the aircraft crossed into the Zinia Province Air Control Zone. That check-in, which was done by the aircraft's automated transponder, occurred at 2:26 AM. At some point between 2:26 AM and 2:57 AM, the transponder antenna and a few other communications components were struck by very small space debris, believed to be on the millimeter scale. The flight crew did not notice the malfunction in the transponder until 2:57 AM, when a flight attendant called the flight deck to inform the captain that the plane's onboard wifi had stopped functioning. (This was among the other components damaged by the initial strike.)
Unbeknownst to the flight crew, who had no radio communication ability, the Tavari Space Agency was already tracking a larger cluster of debris, the remnants of a space telescope that had been destroyed by the Kessler effect. By the time the Tavari Space Agency had been able to determine the course of the debris with certainty, ATA704 was already unreachable by radio. The Royal Tavari Air Force dispatched two ANS VZ-4 aircraft from Royal Air Base Dravai to intercept ATA704 and attempt to get it to the surface before the larger debris arrived. The RAAF did reach the plane and was successfully able to signal ATA704 to descend through Morst code, but shortly after the plane's descent, the space telescope debris impacted ATA704 on the starboard wing. While the largest pieces of the telescope missed the plane, an impactor described as "roughly the size of a grapefruit" punctured the starboard fuel line, causing both engines to go out on that side. The wing was severely destabilized and would later break off of the plane entirely.
The RAAF planes, under orders, broke off course to avoid being impacted by debris themselves, as rescue of the passengers and crew was impossible. At 2:59 AM, the Prime Minister activated the National Emergency Alert System and ordered that regions in the path of the plane be evacuated. The Prime Minister had not yet been informed that his son was on the plane. However, he was aware that the plane was over a residential area and that it was likely no significant evacuation could occur in time. Onboard the plane, Captain Tovai Aštrovat announced first that the Air Force was ordering them to descend, and then just after the impact of the space debris - which would have been clearly visible to and felt by the passengers - told the passengers "flying with you all today has been an honor and a privilege," and "each and every one of you is loved, is a treasure, is a gift from the Goddess." She encouraged her co-pilot to lead the plane in a prayer.
Nevar Dravana Niktat selected the Canticle of the Benefactor, a traditional Akronist prayer that is said if one cannot make it to formal monthly services at a Temple. While formal Akronist doctrine does not use the Canticle of the Benefactor as a "last rite," or a prayer said in time of impending death, the 37th Matron would issue an Edict after the crash expressly permitting the usage of the Canticle, and "any traditional or improvised Akronist prayer" at any time the speaker fears imminent death and seeks comfort. She is said to have been personally very affected by the black box recordings of the prayer, and per the Matron's request, the salvaged flight recorder is now kept in her office the Temple of the Emergence in Crystal Coast.
At approximately 3:15 AM, the kAE 999-1 crashed into the ground in the city of Dondara, Zinia Province. Nearly parallel with the ground, the plane swiped through several homes before coming to a stop. None of the homes had been evacuated, and the occupants of every home impacted by the plane perished in the crash. Air Tavaris Flight 704 is the only Tavari air disaster with a casualty count higher than the number of people on the plane, as 97 non-passengers lost their lives.
Aftermath and Memorial
The impact occurred on the day of the 2017 Tavari general election. Prime Minister Aniríl Dravana Niktat specifically had information on the names of passengers withheld until all polls were closed, under the fear that the news of the loss of his son might impact the votes - he is said to have specifically worried about "votes of pity" in his favor. Dravana Niktat lost the election, with the DNP-SPD coalition under Šano Šonai Tuvria taking the most seats. It did not become publicly known that Dravana Niktat's son had perished until the next day. Šonai Tuvria released a statement saying "I am, and all of us are, devastated to hear that Aniríl Dravana Niktat lost his son in the crash, and while I cannot even begin to imagine the terrible pain Mr. Dravana Niktat is going through, I want him - and the families of every single person lost or injured in the crash - to know that every Tavari heart is with you, today and forever." Dravana Niktat is said to have also been personally called by President Gbenga Owosekun of the Federation of Bana, the first time a Banian head of state had spoken to a Tavari Prime Minister one-on-one in over a century. Šonai Tuvria and Dravana Niktat, though political opponents, are said to have formed a very close friendship after the events of the crash.
A temporary memorial was erected on the site of the crash in October of 2017, after all the debris had been cleared. Though the plane's impact had destroyed homes only on the south side of Vodani Street in Dondara, the state paid the occupants of the homes on the north side to be relocated as well, as many neighbors said that seeing the debris and then empty land across the street was traumatizing. Those homes would later be cleared as well, and the street was unpaved, turning the area into a grassy park.
A permanent memorial opened on the site in 2021, in a ceremony attended by the Matron, current Tavari Prime Minister Žarís Nevran Alandar, former Prime Minister Dravana Niktat, and various family members of the victims. The monument is designed largely according to Akronist standards, due to the large percentage of victims being observant Akronists. It is a large stone monolith with the cross section of the traditional Akronist diamond, cut diagonally across the top to show a diamond-shaped face. On the face is the text of the Canticle of the Benefactor in the official Staynish translation:
In a first for an Akronist memorial site, the Church of Akrona coordinated with the Tavat Avati Shrine Association to build the memorial according to aesthetics considered sacred in traditional Tavari ancestor veneration. The memorial site is therefore an official Tavat Avati shrine, and practitioners can pray at the site to the spirits of the departed victims. Around the memorial is a garden of flowers; the types of flowers were selected by the Temple Association as kinds of flowers considered sacred and honorable to the spirits of the departed. The site is open to the public at all times, and the Temple Association has announced that it will hold commemorations of the departed every year at the memorial on January 31st of every year.