A colleague and friend, knowing of my history flying large Air Force transports internationally, and who’s intensely curious about the fate of Malaysia Flight 370, has sent me a string of emails, most with the subject line: “does this make any sense?”
My first response, and one which is still correct was this:
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”
I did observe to my friend that the world is a big place, but that I was still confident that eventually 370 would be found. I also observed that aviation technology is dramatically better, and the amount of data generated from routine operations dramatically greater than when I was flying internationally. That was a few decades ago, which depending on your perspective was a long time ago or practically yesterday. But to me, the changes have been both fast and great.
Other than that, I’ve refrained from comment, except at home (my wife is a very patient person). Well, it’s time to come out of my corner and make public some of my own observations. Here’s the first, which is on the news coverage.
The TV news coverage has been a decidedly mixed bag. I’ve been generally impressed with the guests on several shows, who have accident investigation experience. They’ve been informative, while being appropriately cautious and not overrunning the evidence. Anecdotally, the ones I’ve watched have rarely, if ever, made absolute statements. Instead they tend to express themselves in terms of possibilities and probabilities.
In contrast, the reporters and hosts overdramatize and express themselves in absolutes far too often (once is probably too often.) Here’s Lt. Col. Robert Bateman’s apt criticism of CNN: “CNN Malaysia Flight Coverage – On CNN’s Reckless Malaysia Flight 370 Coverage – Esquire“
And here’s Nick Martin at TPM pointing out Don Lemon’s (CNN Anchor) questioning a guest about whether the flight may be missing due to a supernatural event or might have been sucked into a black hole. Really? I couldn’t bear to link to CNN on that one. That’s pathetic.
But it’s not just CNN. An ABC affiliate used a modified version of the graphic for the fictional TV show, Lost, to push its coverage of Flight 370. That’s crass.
And, of course, we already have a broad array of conspiracy theorists, even including Rupert Murdock (really) asserting on Twitter, with neither hesitation nor uncertainty, the the loss is the result of anti-Chinese jihadists. And that’s nutty.
And then, there are those who are already pushing fixes such as eliminating the ability of the pilot to turn transponders off. (That’s not TV coverage, but an op-ed by Gregg Easterbrook in the New York Times). More thoughtful than some of the other coverage and commentary, but not an impressive idea in my book, And more importantly given how little we know at this point, way too early.
Without getting super specialized, if you want one reliable observer/journalist, who knows something about aviation, then try James Fallows at the Atlantic Magazine.