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EgyptAir 804/MH Flight 370 Déjà vu… All Over Again

Been there!  Seen that!

In the hours and days following the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370, speculation was rampant.  The “talking heads” on Fox and CNN felt they had a license, maybe even a mandate, to speculate.  Few and far between were genuine experts and, even fewer and farther between, were  talking heads who were genuine experts and who refused to engage in speculation.

Plane-ly Spoken went back and looked at the posts in the days and weeks following March 8, 2014, the day MH 370 went missing.  The similarities are striking.

At the risk of being accused of repeating ourselves, we re-print our post from March 25, 2014.  Substitute EgyptAir for Malaysia Airlines, dates, airplane model and a few other things, and what can we say, but “Welcome to back to the future!”

EgyptAir 804/MH Flight 370 Déjà vu… All Over Again

MH370: Let’s Avoid Hysteria . . . Again

When MH 370 first went missing on March 8, 2014, Plane-ly Spoken was highly critical of the amount of media hysteria and speculation that was taking place. [Link]

The discovery of what appears to be a piece of a wing of a Boeing 777 aircraft, likely MH 370, is like a short fuse set to ignite an explosion of speculation.  Most 24/7 media outlets have, to a greater or lesser degree, entered the arena with a whole host of aviation, ocean current, marine biology, forensic, criminal and other “talking heads.” Theories go from, it’s the key to unlocking what happened to, it’s meaningless since it was found 2400 miles from the area the aircraft was flying, 16 months later.  It would be refreshing if just one of the media outlets would call what they’re doing “All Speculation. All the Time.”

Maybe examination of the piece will yield some answers.  Probably, it won’t.  Either way, speculation is useless and is like a continuing series of gut punches to the families of the crew and passengers, who may very likely never have answers.

And, oh yeah, while we’re talking about the crew, let’s remember there still isn’t a single shred of evidence that the pilot or co-pilot did anything wrong.

Recent reports attributed to unidentified US intelligence authorities that the flight track of the aircraft had to have been directed from the flight deck, has, once again, cast a shadow over the two pilots who, by all accounts, were highly professional, dedicated airmen. Unlike the Germanwings co-pilot who left an evidentiary trail of medical/physiological problems, these men appear to have been squeaky clean.

Despite this, their character and integrity have once again been called into question.  Despite no evidence they did anything wrong, their memories and families will be forever under a cloud.

Let’s not repeat the mass hysteria and speculation of 16 months ago.  Let’s recognize that oceans are vast and may never, despite how hard we ask or how long we look, give up their answers.

MH370: Let’s Avoid Hysteria . . . Again

MH 17/MH 370: One Year Later . . . . And Counting

A year ago MH 17 crashed in Ukraine, killing 298 people.  The airplane was shot down, but other than that one fact, little else is known.  Sure, there’s been a lot of geo-political finger pointing and the talking heads of the 24-hour news cycle have speculated and theorized.  However, there has been no meaningful investigation and no real closure for the families or, for that matter, the international community.

Even more frustrating is MH 370, where, despite extensive efforts to find some evidence of the airplane, here we are, 16 months later, not knowing any more than we knew on March 8, 2014, when the airplane disappeared.  At least the families of the passengers of MH 17 know how their loved ones died.  Seemingly, neither of these events rises to the level of news anymore, let alone “breaking news.”

So what happens now for these two tragedies?  The Australian/Malaysian search effort for MH 370 has been unsuccessful.  In all likelihood, whatever residual search efforts are still going on will end, followed by outcries from the families.  But the time is coming, sooner rather than later, when the involved governments will have to “bite the bullet” and declare they’ve done their best and, simply stated, there’s no place else left to look.

As for MH 17, the involved governments have never gotten past the finger pointing and political games. To date, there has been no meaningful accident investigation.  ICAO Annex 13 has become a theoretical exercise and the international community has essentially found itself, if not powerless, pretty close to it.  At this point, it appears that there may never be a meaningful investigation of this aviation tragedy.

It is a tremendous contradiction that while the safety of airline travel is at unprecedented levels, we still have two airline disasters with very few meaningful answers.

MH 17/MH 370: One Year Later . . . . And Counting

MH 370: The End Is Nearing…

The mystery of MH 370 has left the front pages and is no longer considered, even by CNN standards, to be “Breaking News.”  Disappearing on March 8, a year ago, an international search effort, led by the Australians, has scoured tens of thousands of square miles of the Indian Ocean.  Even with all that effort, not a single shred of evidence associated with MH 370 has been found.  Everyone, including the investigators, remain confounded as to how a Boeing 777 aircraft, filled with passengers, baggage and cargo, can just disappear.

Both the Malaysian and Australian Governments have repeatedly said they will continue the search until the aircraft is found.

Several days ago, even while expanding the search area, the searchers indicated they don’t know where else to focus the search if they don’t find the aircraft in the area upon which they are focusing  [LINK]. The problem is that once they complete the search in the area in which they’re now looking, an area of 23,000 square miles, they’re going to expand the search to 46,000 square miles.  Compounding the problem is winter weather moving in and the depths at which the search is operating.

So far, even with a widening of the search area…NOTHING!

Let’s all hope, for the sake of the families, the aircraft is found.  Whether we ever figure out what happened or not, closure for so many who have suffered with no information for so long, is of paramount importance.  But at the same time, let’s hope those directing the search also have the common sense to know when to end the search.

No one can suggest that the Australian and Malaysian Governments haven’t given it their best shots.  They have already done so.  But nothing can go on forever and, as painful as it may be for the families and as unacceptable as the finality of the effort without closure may be, an aimless search makes no sense.

We certainly hope MH 370 is, for all sorts of reasons, found, but it’s time for everyone, including the families, to start accepting the reality that it may never occur.

MH 370: The End Is Nearing…

MH370: Malaysian Government Officially Declares Disappearance to Be An “Accident”

Malaysia Airlines 370 and its 329 crew and passengers went missing 327 days ago, and the search continues.  The speculation machine has conitnued to work overtime, churning out theories from accident to hijacking, to pilot misconduct to, as we recall, even the aircraft entering a black hole.  None of these theories, however, provide any comfort to the families.  Currently, the search is focused on four ships mapping the ocean floor.  While no new hard information into the cause of the accident has been uncovered, the Malaysian Government believes the time has come to conclude that the crash was an accident.

The Malaysian Government’s declaration that the loss was the result of an accident has real significance, as it is “a move that will open the way for the victims’ family members to receive compensation.” [Link] As we have observed previously, the parameters of that compensation are governed by the Montreal Convention which covers international air transportation and to which Malaysia is a signatory.

Malaysia Airlines, based upon the Malysian Government’s statement, has indicated that it will now proceed to pay compensation “in accordance with applicable laws.”  We would read that as being in accordance with applicable international agreements and, to the extent those agreements mandate the use of local laws, the laws of the various countries of citizenship of the victims, including China.

While all of us hope that ultimately there are some real answers regarding what happened and that we can put the speculation to rest, moving forward with the payment of compensation is reason for some optimism that progress is being made.  It won’t bring closure to the families, but it may, hopefully, assist them, to some degree, in coping with the loss.

It has been reported that some of the families find the determination of an accident unacceptable since it brings a measure of finality to the hope many of them harbour that their loved ones are still alive.   Plane-ly Spoken respectfully disagrees.

Some news, however limited, in the context of MH370, is still good news.

MH370: Malaysian Government Officially Declares Disappearance to Be An “Accident”

MH 370: Let’s Give Malaysia Airlines A Break

No airplane!  No news!  No nothing!  That is unless you consider the report that Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, is quoted as saying that “Malaysians are stupid.  They don’t know how to manage aviation.”  Link

The statement was reportedly made following the announcement by Malaysian Government investment fund, which controls Malaysia Airlines, that it had hired a German national to run the financially troubled airline.

Let’s take a step back.  The last we heard is that, essentially, there’s nothing new regarding the mystery of Malaysia Flight MH 370.  The latest report is that the mapping of approximately 110,000 square meters of the floor of the Indian Ocean by the Australians is currently underway.  Not a search, but rather a mapping exercise which, as Plane-ly Spoken understands it, is a predicate to actually resuming the search itself.

There’s also a report which suggests to some that the 440 pounds of lithium ion batteries shown on the cargo manifest of MH 370 may have been responsible for bringing the airplane down. Link

Meanwhile, the families of the crew and the passengers, as well as the investigators, have no answers.  As if this wasn’t enough, politicians weighing in with comments on the economics of the international airline industry that can’t possibly make any meaningful contribution to the dialog, even a dialog which remains on hold as the search for evidence continues, doesn’t serve any useful purpose except to further distract from the meaningful efforts underway.

What we do know to date is that there’s no evidence or facts of any kind whatsoever indicating that Malaysia Airlines did anything wrong.  C’mon guys, give them a break.

MH 370: Let’s Give Malaysia Airlines A Break

MH 17/MH 370: A Whole Lot of Nothing!

Reuters recently reported that Dutch investigators looking into downing of Malaysia Airlines MH 17, the Boeing 777 aircraft shot down on July 17 over the Ukraine, are finding themselves having to largely rely on publicly available information.  Because the crash occurred over rebel-held territory, investigators have determined the site is too dangerous to visit.

There are also reports of discussions between the Dutch and US intelligence communities aimed at getting satellite and/or radar data which might settle the question of the source of the weapon that downed the aircraft.  The Russians — always a trustworthy source —- say it was a Ukrainian military aircraft.  The United States has stated that it was shot down by Russian–backed rebels using a ground–to–air missile.

Lost in this discussion are the families of the 298 crew and passengers who perished.  Governments care about the source of the instrument of destruction.  Accident investigators care about causation.  At least in this case, we can all agree the aircraft was shot down and, quite frankly, we know very little else.  Meanwhile, on November 10, a “somber” commemoration ceremony took place in Amsterdam, attended by 1600 family and friends of the 298 passengers and crew who perished.

We also note that the greatest aviation mystery since the disappearance of Amelia Earhart continues, as the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 goes on.  Once again, a planeload of passengers and the aircraft disappeared, and a large group of friends and families know virtually nothing about what happened on March 8, except that it’s a big ocean which doesn’t easily yield answers.

Plane-ly Spoken, like everyone else, waits for answers.

MH 17/MH 370: A Whole Lot of Nothing!

MH 370: Breaking News! The Search Resumes . . .

After a hiatus of several months, the search for MH 370 has apparently resumed.  Whether this is truly good news or just the beginning of another cycle of frustrating news remains to be seen.

While the scheduling is probably a coincidence, as this is being written, the NTSB is holding a one day forum on Emerging Flight Data and Locator Technology.  No doubt the NTSB examination of this area was driven by MH 370 vanishing without a trace.

What’s so striking about the announcement regarding the resumption of the search for the aircraft is the complete absence of any meaningful information since the search was discontinued four months ago in late April.

So let’s see what’s really happening . . . .

The Australian government has been conducting a low resolution survey and mapping of over 111,000 square kilometers of ocean floor.

Once the survey and mapping is completed, sleds will be towed close to the ocean floor to conduct a high resolution examination.

The Australian Government and the Malaysian Government have agreed to each provide approximately $53 million, for a total of $106 million.

Public statements attributed to the search authorities suggest they believe they have identified the correct search area.  If we were of a cynical nature, we might observe that every time the focus of the search efforts has been changed, search authorities have expressed great optimism.

Plane-ly Spoken, which, as our readers know, has closely followed the MH 370 investigation, has repeatedly expressed concern regarding statements coming from the investigators.  While reporting on the resumption of search efforts and what is being done is appropriate, statements of optimism are no less irresponsible now than they were four months ago, no matter how cautiously they may be phrased.  Given history to date, for Martin Dolan, the Chief Commissioner and CEO of the Australian Transportation Safety Board, to suggest to CNN or anyone that they have any measure of confidence in anything, is, if not irresponsible, certainly silly.

Seemingly lost in the rush to report the resumption of the search activities, is the fact that the families and the airline continue to be without any answers.  While the search activities have taken on their own life and meaning, everyone should stay aware of the fact that, first and foremost, this is not really a logistical exercise in search and recovery.

Let’s not forget this is a human tragedy.

MH 370: Breaking News! The Search Resumes . . .

MH 370: ATSB Reports Aircraft Was Depressurized and on Autopilot and . . .

In a report from The Wall Street Journal, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), has announced they have concluded it was “highly, highly likely” the autopilot on  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately turned on after the aircraft veered off course.  They also have concluded the crew and passengers has blacked out after they were deprived of oxygen and, after that occurred, the aircraft ultimately ran out of fuel.

Just when you thought the Australians were the adults in the room, they go and do something like releasing this type of speculation.  And, lest there be any doubt at all, while the Australian Deputy Prime Minister said it was “highly, highly likely” these things occurred, the ATSB stressed that “its conclusions weren’t backed up by hard evidence.”

After reading this, you have to ask yourself whether anyone – any government – has learned anything from the months of missteps since March 8.  Think about it, its “highly, highly likely,” but there’s no “hard evidence.”  We suggest this is precisely the kind of thing in which professional investigators should not engage.  It’s okay to confirm that these are areas the investigation is examining, but to say its “highly, highly likely,” but there’s no “hard” evidence, is “highly, highly” irresponsible.

We note that the ATSB also indicated that the Malaysian authorities, who are leading the investigation, may not share their view.  Apparently, and, we note, wisely, both Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian Government wouldn’t comment on the ATSB report.  Bravo!

Apart from engaging in speculation of the highest order, why is the ATSB even talking about the investigation publicly?  The Australian Government, admirably, assumed direction of the search efforts since, according to them, the initial search area was in the international waters for which they have search and rescue/recovery responsibility.  But they’re not leading the investigation and they shouldn’t be speculating about the investigation, much less doing so and, at the same time, acknowledging the absence of “hard” evidence.  We guess the logical question which presents itself is “What evidence is there, other than what we know already, that someone engaged the autopilot and that the occupants were unconscious?”

At the risk of answering our own question, other than speculating, there is no evidence.  Our advice to the Australian Government is to focus on the search, and stop making announcements about what is “highly, highly likely.”   No one knows what happened other than knowing that it’s highly, highly likely the aircraft is at the bottom of the ocean somewhere.  The only things we know, perhaps with certainty, are that the aircraft didn’t fly thru a “black hole” or get taken away by an alien spaceship.

MH 370: ATSB Reports Aircraft Was Depressurized and on Autopilot and . . .

MH 370: The Search: Game Changers and Break Throughs . . . . Revisited

CNN describes it as “Outside group tell governments where to search for Flight 370.”  Well, another group of experts has been heard from about where the search should be focused, this time “hundreds of miles southwest of the previous search site.”  This group timed the release of its conclusion to come before a BBC documentary on the missing plane so that, according to them, there would be no question about the independence of their findings.

A cynical person might question the timing and suggest their appears to be more a publicity motive associated with the timing than one of intellectual independence.

If this group truly thinks they can be of help, they should have simply provided their analysis to the Australian search authorities to let them evaluate it and proceed.  Beating a television documentary to press doesn’t really seem to compelling reason to do anything.  After all, and it’s a big “if” given the history of the search so far, if their analysis is accurate, it will withstand scrutiny, inspective of when and by whom it is released.

Once again lost in the shuffle of competing theories and analyses are the families of the passengers, the crew and, whether you agree or not, the airline itself, which is just as much a victim as anyone else.  While families and others have vilified the airline, principally because they’re an easy target, what facts are there that they did anything wrong?  We suggest…none.

Maybe the just reported analysis of where the airplane is located is correct, but unless and until the aircraft is found, we suggest that the “search” stop playing out in public statements and races to beat TV shows and be limited to the confines of the investigation.  The last time we heard about a “game changer,” it was about the “pings.”  This time CNN reports one of the experts talking about a “breakthrough piece of information,” regarding the new location.

We all know how the “game changer” turned out.  Let’s hope this “breakthrough” doesn’t end up in the same place.

MH 370: The Search: Game Changers and Break Throughs . . . . Revisited