Malaysia Airlines MH370. Into thin air?
As I write these words, there is still no trace of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flight MH370. By contrast, the level of speculation and the range of theories know no bounds. The usual suspects of terrorism, catastrophic failure and hijacking have appeared in print beside theories as extreme as UFO abduction. It’s all hearsay and guesswork; but I suppose the media can’t sell advertising on an empty page.
MH370 is not the first, nor will it be the last, sizeable aircraft to go ‘missing’. There has been a Boeing 727, 707 and Lockheed Constellation that have vanished from the face of the earth and even Air France 447 was ‘whereabouts unknown’ for a good period of time before some debris was located. This is just an abbreviated list.
The fact remains that it is a big sky and a big planet. Even when a search area can been positively defined, the ability to find a needle in a haystack is no mean feat. A good number of aerial searches in the past have had to make numerous sweeps over the very same area before any tell-tale signs of wreckage have been found. In the case of MH370, its precise tracking details are still a point of conjecture as it appears to have left its planned flight route. This complicates the task even further.
In an era of ‘smart phones’ and reality TV, everyone seems to want the inside information and an answer now. Patience has gone and the quick fix is close enough it seems. The truth is that there are no answers to be found regarding MH370 at this stage. The investigators are undoubtedly doing their utmost to examine the few details they have to piece together a starting point, while any resolutions are still a long way off.
Aviation in both its execution and its subsequent investigations prides itself on methodology. Measured responses and practical solutions are the order of the day and the aircrew or investigator that rushes in does so at their own peril. It is understandable that families need answers and aviation bodies want facts to shape future plans, purchases and policies. However, jumping to conclusions serves no-one in the short or long term.
All that is truly known is that a large aircraft established in cruise flight has experienced an event and now it cannot be found. The nature of that event is unknown, but the fact that the crew were possibly over a dark ocean in the middle of a dark night would have brought all manner of additional factors into play. For the moment, all other details are subject to investigation.
Not yet a week has passed since the disappearance of MH370 over patches of sea and jungles that have kept secrets for centuries. Still the mainstream media yearns for a juicy detail or the latest theory, often selling it as if it were virtually fact. They are straining to keep the story on the front page, but how long can they last. If the search creeps into weeks, will their resources remain focused on the story when there is celebrity news breaking from Hollywood?
A few hard core professional reporters will undoubtedly remain, but I suspect the rest will fade to sporadic updates until something of substance is found. And then the circus will come back to town and want immediate answers and big headlines once again. All the while the aviation professionals tasked with uncovering the real truths will continue to work away, poring over data and endeavouring to draw conclusions from threads of information. These individuals are in it for the long haul to enhance aviation safety. The mainstream media is a caffeine shot.
For all concerned, I hope that the wreckage and its ‘black boxes’ are located sooner rather than later. Then we will be able to gather the facts and begin to fill in the sentences. Then those same facts can be used to build a better future. Aviation is an industry built on lessons from the past, with a good many regulations written in the blood of those that have gone before. Unfounded speculation sells newspapers, TV time slots and little more. Only through patience and dedication will the apparent tragic loss of MH370 ever serve any real purpose.