MH 370: Will The Simplest Explanation Be The Right One?
In watching the wall-to-wall coverage of MH 370, Iíve been struck how, absent any information, most sources discussing this event want to assume it was the work of a rational person, that it was carefully planned and that there was some overarching goal. Those who believe the airplane was flown into Central Asia and landed, if they have a theory at all, suggest that perhaps Uyghur separatists planned and executed the seizing of MH 370.
Anything is possible, but the longer the investigation progresses with no verifiable facts, the more the speculation will be bent to suit what spare facts are available, hence the Central Asia theory. But what if itís just a lot simpler than that? What if this was just another example of a pilot committing suicide and taking an airplane with him? Itís not like there arenít any examples of this.
Letís run the list. In October 1999, Egyptair Flight 990 crashed into the Atlantic off Nantucket. The NTSB cited the cause as deliberate actions of the relief first officer, but Egyptian authorities rejected that, claiming the crash was due to mechanical failure, despite producing no evidence to support this.
In 1997, SilkAir 185† crashed in a river in southern Sumatra, killing everyone aboard the 737. Once again, the NTSB found the crash was due to deliberate action of the crew and once again, the local authorities denied this, saying the data available didnít support that conclusion.
In 1994, FedEx Flight 705 was nearly downed by a hammer-wielding deadheading pilot about to be dismissed for lying about his pilot experience. He hoped his family would benefit from a multi-million dollar insurance policy. A horrific, bloody brawl ensued on the flightdeck and the crew was finally able to land the airplane back at Memphis.
In 1964, a Pacific Airlines Fairchild was brought down after a passenger shot both crew members in a murder/suicide scheme. In the days before accident investigation grew to be as sophisticated as it now, investigators pieced together what happened in the airplane. Twenty-three years later, history repeated when a Pacific Southwest Airlines BAE 146-200 crashed as the result of a murder-suicide plot by a digruntled employee.†And of course, there are numerous examples of general aviation pilots using an airplane to commit suicide.
Could this be more likely than some other intent in the hijacking of MH 370? Who knows? The only thing Iíve heard that made undiluted sense to me was what former NTSB investigator Greg Feith told NBC news on Sunday. It may be quite likely that weíll never find this aircraft and by the time identifiable wreckage washes ashore somewhereóif it crashed at seaóit will be long since impossible to determine where it came from. Feith was involved in the SilkAir investigation, but if heís thinking suicide was at play here, heís too much the professional to say it.
The argument against suicide is to ask why the aircraft would continue flying for six or seven hours over what appeared to be a programmed course? That assumes the actions of rational person in the cockpit and since when are people commandeering airliners rational?
Maybe the Central Asia theorists are right. Maybe MH 370 will turn up in a desert wash in Turkmenistan with 239 parched but alive passengers. We can only hope, but history has tended toward simpler explanations.