Tuesday, March 11, 2014

As a former international jet captain, every time an airliner makes the front page I sigh heavily for the people on board, their families, and for the resulting media hysteria.

I had a reader write me today and ask me about the vanishing Malaysian 777.  My reader suspects the latest news, that the airliner changed course, makes this a conspiracy...that it might be on the ground somewhere.  Which would actually be an interesting plot for a novel, but from what I've read, I doubt that's what's happened:

Here are a few things I do know: 

A 777 in the ocean is very hard to find.  A 777 on the ground is extremely hard to miss.  Having made many oceanic crossings, I'd like to calmly impart some facts about procedures aboard a  transport category jet.

As to the reported course change: There are three reasons to change course and altitude without first getting clearance to do so from Air Traffic Control.

1. Severe weather

2. Catastrophic airplane problems

3. The guy with the gun/bomb tells you to do it.

The likeliest scenario is a mechanical one--the percentage of crashes caused by terrorists, crazed pilots, or conspiracies are low.  

If I were tasked with finding this aircraft, I would do exactly what the authorities are doing.  Searching the ocean for debris, and listening for the pinging from the "black boxes."  The 777 is out there somewhere and will be found. 

The truth is, this airplane was in massive trouble from something gone horribly wrong.  It lost communication, possibly tried to turn around, and then started a descent.  What I am positive of, is that the crew did everything possible to get every soul home safe--and couldn't.  My best advice to everyone is to turn off the televised hysteria and wait to read about the facts--when there are facts.  Oh, and maybe say a prayer for the missing, as well as those who are out looking for them.  

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