As an airline pilot I have been asked numerous times by friends, family and even passengers what my thoughts are on the missing flight. Normally, I am not one to speculate. Since I am not big on speculation I dance around the topic with people I am close to by joking and asking them if they are trying to cause my wife to divorce me. Of course the give me a strange look of confusion and ask me what on earth I am talking about. My answer is, “Anything I have to say would be pure speculation. Speculation leads to rumors. Rumors leads to lies. Lies are sinful. Sinfulness leads to divorce.” Of course I can only use that line with people who know me and my oddball sense of humor.
Okay, so hear goes my speculation for the record. I sure hope this does not lead to my wife leaving me. I have actually not followed the news as closely as many people have regarding this incident. All I know for sure is that a Boeing 777 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport on March 8, 2014. Somewhere along its route, the aircraft mysteriously disappeared. Unless officials have information that is not being shared with the public, these items are literally the only facts known about this mystery.
There are some other facts that we could look at though. First, each airline flight is given a distinct transponder code. Actually, any aircraft operating under instrument flight rules (IFR) is issued a transponder code. This code is used by air traffic controllers to identify each aircraft on the radar screen. A controller will know things about these airplanes such as the type of aircraft, its altitude and direction of flight. It gives the controllers the information they need for separation of traffic and allows the controllers to give the pilots instructions as needed for a variety of reasons.
There are a few reasons that a radar could no longer track an aircraft’s transponder. First, is if the transponder malfunctions. However, on airliners there would be a backup transponder. Both of these transponders would have the assigned “squawk” code entered. Secondly, if the transponders were shut off. The third reason is if the aircraft was not flying in a radar coverage area. In this case the missing flight was under radar coverage when it went missing. The fourth reason would be if the airplane went down.
Lets take a look at the possibility that the airplane went down. The last known location was known by controllers. At least the last known location where controllers were able to see while the transponder was still operating. A search in this area would reveal any wreckage of the airplane. Even if that plane went down in a body of water there are many things that would float to the surface allowing search and rescue to find the crash site. Additionally, there is other evidence that indicates the 777 remained in the air for a few more hours after contact was lost.
Some media outlets have speculated that cabin pressure may have been lost and the pilots were unconscious. This is a possibility. However, this does not explain the mystery of the transponder not working or being turned off. If the pilots did loose consciousness they could not have turned off the transponder. The airplane would have continued to fly on the course that was programed into its flight management system (FMS) on the autopilot until it ran out of fuel. This would have allowed search parties to look along the aircraft’s planned route of flight.
Now the media is reporting that the background of everyone on the flight is being looked into, including the pilots’. Some people are speculating that the plane was hijacked, landed somewhere and is being hidden. I have heard some wild conspiracies on this topic. I will not even begin to get in a discussion over some of the things I have heard regarding this. However, lets do look at the possibility of hiding the airplane. First, it has been several days since the aircraft went missing. When a hijacking or kidnapping occurs the group or those responsible do not take long to come out with demands. Known terrorist organizations want to flaunt their evil intentions to the world to prove they are in the right. These people are not ones to be ashamed or hide what they have done.
Also, if the plane were highjacked it would have to land somewhere. This is a huge airplane. It cannot land just anywhere. Even if there was a deserted airport of military base used somewhere for something like this people nearby would have heard the airplane on approach.
So, lets get back to the question as to what do I think happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. I have no idea. It is a total mystery to me. If I did know I could probably get a huge reward and buy my own jet. But hopefully I have given those who are following this mystery some facts that helps to understand some of the questions at hand. I apologize if I was not more help.
Until next time, keep an eye on the sky,
Collin W. Hughes
The Prozac Pilot