I have followed very little mainstream media coverage of Malaysian Airlines’ flight 370, apart from National Radio. It seems that not paying attention to mainstream media has made me clearer about what might have happened to it.
All those way-out theories never held any sway for me. Or the idea about tracking cellphones or some of them clicking through to voicemail being a sign that the passengers were alive: don’t most cellphones do this when you are out of range? These just appeared to have been cooked up through sensationalism, by some media outlets wanting to fill air time or pages. The Malaysian government has managed to mess things up even further so there are meta-stories: stories within the story.
Only two articles made it on to my Facebook wall, since Facebook appears to be the new Digg. The first was an engineer with a Ph.D., entitled, ‘Flight 370 did not explode; it vanished—really? That is your scientific argument?’. This was written three days after the aeroplane disappeared and kept things rather simple: the plane did not just vanish because that is a scientific impossibility. The writer goes on to explain why the black box signal had not been located, rationally and expertly. She believes that the plane could have gone down for an attempted emergency landing.
The second was posted today on my wall, via Robert Catto. An experienced pilot, Chris Goodfellow, points out some basic facts on his Google Plus account. Goodfellow begins:
A lot of speculation about MH370. Terrorism, hijack, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN—almost disturbing.
He obviously shares my concern at how the media have been filling us with water-cooler junk, and proceeds to have a simpler explanation. He continues (sic):
Two days later we hear of reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar meaning the plane is being tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the straits of Malacca.
When I heard this I immediately brought up Google Earth and I searched for airports in proximity to the track towards southwest.
The left turn is the key here. This was a very experienced senior Captain with 18,000 hours. Maybe some of the younger pilots interviewed on CNN didn’t pick up on this left turn. We old pilots were always drilled to always know the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us and airports ahead of us. Always in our head. Always. Because if something happens you don’t want to be thinking what are you going to do—you already know what you are going to do. Instinctively when I saw that left turn with a direct heading I knew he was heading for an airport. Actually he was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi a 13,000 foot strip with an approach over water at night with no obstacles. He did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000 foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier towards Langkawi and also a shorter distance.
Goodfellow theorizes there was a mid-air fire and the plane did not make it, but that it was heading to Langkawi after the emergency broke out.
Instinctively, this tragedy seems like a deeply unfortunate mid-air accident, and while these other theories might help families believe their loved ones are alive somewhere, I am sorry to say that I believe the two simplest explanations above. Of course, I would like the truth to come forth earlier so, if these experts are right, these families can commence mourning. Taking them through these unlikely possibilities—a hijacking with the plane descending below radar and landing on some Lost island among them—seems cruel and irresponsible.
PS.: Esquire has a complementary editorial on the mainstream media reporting—which apparently now includes a supernatural possibility. I’ve also head one where MH370 supposedly flew perfectly under another aeroplane, thereby evading detection. I’m delighted not to have entertained either first-hand.—JY