Malaysia Flight 370: What Didn’t Happen.

Speculation on what happened to Malaysia 370 now runs rampant across the world media, just as it always does after any airline disaster. But as usual, most of what the “informed sources” hypothesize is unfounded or at least, not based on fact. That’s because whether the “experts” popping up on broadcast media want to admit it or not, there are few facts; and for all the wrong reasons in this case, there are fewer than ever.

That in itself is significant and, in my judgment from the perspective of one who makes a living piloting Boeing jets, a major factor largely ignored in the media. Specifically, what didn’t happen to that Boeing 777 holds the key to what did.

First, let’s start with the most obvious clue, which basically is the common denominator in one major risk factor that affected everyone who boarded Malaysia flight 370: the two travelers with stolen passports. No, I’m not even suggesting that they were players in a terrorist plot, although that is possible. Rather, the common denominator risk factor is this: clearly, third world security once again and not surprisingly, failed.

The Interpol database listing those stolen passports would have been cross checked in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and every country in Europe. Was the database available to Malaysia? To the airport in Kuala Lumpur? Of course it was–but the database was never crosschecked against the flight manifest. That’s the starting point of what didn’t happen, and that trail only gets worse.

Is there a good reason why the Interpol list wasn’t checked? Actually, the more important question, the answer to which bears heavily on the common denominator in play, is this: does any good reason for not checking even exist? Technological deficit? Budget constraint? Manpower? Mismanagement? Incompetence? Is there a “good” reason for this failure, which would imply there is a level of acceptance appropriate for the failure to secure the screening process?

If what the rest of the modern world considers essential–airline and airport security–is simply not maintained in Malaysia, what else is not done there?

“We don’t really know.” Seriously?

That brings me to the jet itself. I’ve had a printer message pop up at 40,000 feet that read, “Please check the vibration level on the right engine–it’s reading high down here.” Down here, in this case, is my airline’s technical operations center that is receiving, monitoring and screening the extensive data stream flowing from my Boeing 737-800, including detailed telemetry from the two CFM-56 high-bypass jet engines.


Malaysia Air says there was no data stream from flight 370, while Rolls Royce, the manufacturer of the engines on that 777 who monitors that data stream says there was. Which raises the larger question of why the two disagree? Why would the airline–and the authorities governing airlines in Malaysia–not have the data, or say that they didn’t? Again, is there even a good reason? Lost data? Technical shortcoming? Incompetence? Insufficient budget or manpower resources?

Which brings worse to worst: untruth. In an incident I witnessed from the left seat, the key piece of cause data that nearly led to hull loss with 150 fatalities (including me) was the radar plot and audio tape of the Mexico City Approach Control’s vectoring. Which, of course, went “missing” in the subsequent investigation.

Which lowers us to the worst of the worst factors at play in Malaysia and Mexico and other third world countries where, as Asiana Airlines proved last summer, a “competent and qualified” cockpit crew could fly a perfectly good 777 into a sea wall. That is, culture.

Asiana crew flies into seawall on landing..

Certainly, the Ethiopia Airlines copilot who recently commandeered his own 767 and nearly ran it out of fuel over Central Europe was, according to Ethiopia Air and their aeronautics regulators, “highly qualified” like the Asiana crew.

“Hijacked”–by the copilot.

In a country like Malaysia where no heads roll when passports are not checked against databases of security risks, stolen documents, and worldwide watch lists, when key flight data may or may not be recorded, monitored or maintained (all that data, by the way, is key to modern jet safety and maintenance), when convention and tradition–essentially culture–mandates that power relationships (and likely, money) transcend the first world strictures of duty, common sense and personal responsibility–what does anyone think could–and did, and will–happen?

The only reason this list of failures–which barely scratches the surfaces of things that didn’t happen, causing the disaster that did–is a surprise to the flying public is because of a twofold consumer bias: price, and marketing. A 777 in the paint job of Malaysia Air looks as impressive as a 777 in United Airlines paint, and they both have a $250 million dollar price tag. But that’s where the similarity ends–technical capability, maintenance standards, government regulatory oversight, budget, manpower and culture run the gamut–and there is a bottom end upon which the airline passenger who goes by appearances gambles everything.

Consider the billion dollar cruise industry, where it’s common to register a half-billion dollar ocean liner in the country with the least competent (read: least costly/interfering) regulatory capability, like Liberia, the Bahamas, or Panama. And when a mega-ship’s engines fail in cruise, or the steering quits, or a fire disables the electrical system, or the incompetent captain runs the ship aground showing off, we get a thousand personal anecdotes, cell phone pics, YouTube videos and talk show interviews from those who survived the incompetence, decrying what didn’t happen that should have prevented what atrocity actually did.

“Experienced,” certified Costa cruise ship captain Francesco Schettino runs ship aground–then abandons the ship and 2,000 passengers.

How does that regulatory, cultural and operating failure play out at 35,000 feet and 500mph? Ask the passengers of Malaysia 370 about the end result–if you can find them. Because in their case, all of the above things that should have protected them did not.

The bigger mystery in the Malaysia 370 disappearance isn’t what happened, or even what failed to happen which caused the loss of 200+ lives. Rather, it’s that people are actually surprised that it did.

. . . a week later: still nothing.

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138 Responses to “Malaysia Flight 370: What Didn’t Happen.”

  1. I had just been wondering a couple of hours ago what you were thinking about this incident and if you would post. Very eye-opening, thank you.

  2. Bill Brandt Says:

    Good point you make about 3rd world standards and those of the West. I can remember years ago (pre-9/11- mid 1980s) ) flying a Mexican DC-9 from LAX to LaPaz and the pilots didn’t even close the door. Upon takeoff you’d see the door flapping back and forth with left/right banks getting out of the LA traffic area.

    I think anyone with any sense will take this latest incident to heart and seriously consider the airline – your life might be at stake.

    • stevecinq Says:

      Are you people kidding? These countries are not “third world”. If anything, the US is drifting that way. (Have you flown on a Delta rikshaw lately?) I feel safer on a Singapore Airlines or Air Korea flight than I do on a United flight. And all of your supposed US “security” is just a sham. Wake up.

  3. wirajack Says:

    Aircraft’s ACARs and transponder was switched off

    • halfwaythere Says:

      Exactly. No one seems to want to look at this. ACARs cannot be turned off from the cockpit. It can only be disabled by pulling it’s circuit breaker in an electrical panel in the bowels of the plane. Only the transponder can be turned off manually in the cockpit.

  4. Many people cry for deregulation, and well, welcome to deregulation. “Deregulation” is not a magic pixie dust, insofar as “Regulation” isn’t either. But at 35,000 and 500 mph, I’d prefer having certain safeguards around me. Thanks for your insight. What a puzzle!

  5. […] Malaysia Flight 370: What Didn’t Happen. Speculation on what happened to Malaysia 370 now runs rampant across the world media, just as it always does after any airline disaster. But as usual, most of what the “informed sources” hypothesiz… […]

  6. Tini von Allwoerden Says:

    Thank you for this !

  7. Chris,
    I follow your blog and usually agree, but for once you are at least a bit wrong. Italy is not a third world country and the Costa tragedy was all the fault oft the Captain showing off. Just Luke the B-52 Pilot, who showed off with his BUFF in Fairchild AFB. You will See personal faults in any culture and country…

    …. no, I’m not Italien.


    • Actually, I am Italian. And based on the Costa Concordia trial which is STILL undecided, never mind the Amanda Knox travesty, the Italian justice system and other important cultural parameters are definitely “third world.”

      • Oh, I could tell you so many stories about the German legal system. If you go by those standards, no country is actually “first world”. There was a major domestic terrorist group in Germany funded by the Federals. Collectors of child pornography in the German euivalent of the FBI being silently “protected” from investigation and lots more.

      • I’m just glad that Lufthansa, like most other first world countries, checks passenger manifests against the Interpol stolen passport database and the internationally shared watch and no-fly lists before anyone is allowed on board. There’s really no excuse for not doing so.

      • I agree. Italy was first world in the 16th century, but not now.

      • Both the Amanda Knox retrial and the Schettino endless trial make the Italian justice system look really clumsy, unfair, and dangerous.

      • Once again, I agree.
        “First World” Airlines should follow procedures and regulations. But it seems that the two pax with stolen passports were not connected with any terrorist activities. Usual human trafficking…
        More importantly, from what now has been released, some trained personnel must have been in the cockpit. They knew, how to switch of transponder, ACARS and other comms. They could not switch off the engine management, though….
        Didn’t the FAA introduced armoured cockpit doors, to prevent further hijacking attempts? Inside job?
        I know, it’s only speculation and we should best keep our moth shut until we have an official investigation report.

      • My point about the passports is that they indicate a major failing in the Kuala Lumpur aviation supervision and regulation. That’s the tip of the iceberg.

      • Again, true. Tip of the iceberg. But don’t lose yourself there. The question is: What did not happen. And nobody did set the transponder code to 7700, 7600 or 7500. No unusual radio comms and as per latest bulletin, the transponder was switched off before the last radio comms “All OK, Good Night…”

      • The “iceberg” is the inadequate regulation, supervision, flight monitoring, passenger screening, radar coverage (ancient “military” skin-paint GCI vs state-of-the-art ATC radar) and substandard airport security that allowed everything–including the transponder anomaly and course divergence–to happen in the first place.

      • Chris, I worked for Westinghouse back in the mid-90s on the ATC modernization program; specifically, installing the ASR-9 terminal radar system at about 135 airports across the country.

        The sad part? The old radars, ASR-4s, 5s and 6s, all vacuum-tube based systems with commissioning plates from the 50s and 60s, weren’t decommissioned!

        Instead, these high-maintenance systems were “leapfrogged” to sites that had either older radar, or no terminal radar at all. For example, the old ASR4 at FLL was moved to RSW.

        I guess my point is simply this: even “first-world” cultures aren’t immune from stupidity.

      • The approach radar seems to work just fine at Fort Myers. The enroute radar is the Big Kahuna, and both Miami Center and Ajax have excellent radar–not hand-me-down military GCI-type skin paint radar like Malaysia. Plus, in a wandering/straying aircraft situation over US soil, USAF interceptors would be vectored in close to the wandering aircraft in a matter of minutes.

      • And in Europe. Our charter GV had comm problems over France enroute to UK. Our first clue was the French fighter jets showing up on our left and right sides. As we left their airspace, we were handed off to British fighter jets until we landed at Luton. First world. While we got our our asses chewed, it’s reassuring to know they have their act together.

    • Yeah, Maggie… got anything constructive to say? My apologies for the stupid autocorrect.
      sed /Lu/li/

      • I’m sorry, my bad–I shouldn’t have let anything like that get posted. You’re both very welcome here, I appreciate your thoughts.

  8. Randy Sohn Says:

    Yup – everything you say, concur with totally. But, I guess, “the cabin service was great!”

    best, randy

    • Ain’t that the truth, Randy: the frequent flyers can enjoy hot towels and mixed nuts on their way to the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

      • Yup. “And their flight attendants are so young and pretty. Not those sky hags on US carriers.” Sure got their priorities straight.

  9. When the news broke and everyone was talking terrorism, I was thinking, “third world airline operations”. Again, thank you for your insight and calm explanations.

  10. Leslie Storie-Pugh Says:

    Clear, concise and well-written as always – especially on this particularly difficult subject. Thank you so much.

  11. I’m with Laurie. I was hoping for your response. I always look for your posts. You are the best of the best.

  12. wirajack Says:

    Yes its easy when something like this came up to blame it to “third world” syndrome. When in fact Malaysia like any other “first world” country has to conform to international standards too. No exceptions. Stop generalising.

    • Really? Then why did they not cross check the Interpol database, or the international database of watch and no-fly lists, nor collect and maintain the tech data stream from the aircraft?

  13. […] Some good thoughts from a man who makes his living flying Boeing jets…. […]

  14. Monrovia is capital of Liberia.

    • Yes, and you’ll notice since the 90s that most major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean stopped using “Liberia” as the published ship’s registry due to the bad connotation associated with the frequent maritime accidents involving Liberian freighters and tankers. A cosmetic marketing shift to “Monrovia” allows the same lax standards with a less unfavorable connotation.

  15. roberthenryfischat Says:

    Reblogged this on robert's space and commented:
    but foul play is involved.

  16. Yes they did.

    • Then I guess the security people at the Kuala Lumpur Airport just decided to let the two passengers with passports listed as stolen fly anyway because they explained that they weren’t going to do anything illegal–besides crossing a border with a stolen passport? Sounds very banana republic, Third World to me.

  17. thenakedlistener Says:

    I knew you’d be posting on this matter, and you’ve beaten me to the punch! Mine is still in the pipeline, and longwinded and boring. Yours is short and sweet, and authoritative.

  18. Cedarglen Says:

    I believe that we will learn the details, but it will take a looong time. I must agree that the things NOT done are the cause of this initial delay and, as you ask, WHERE is that data stream? And nuts to warm nuts!

    • The nuts give me indigestion anyway. I’m more for airport security, flight ops supervision, training, standardization and data monitoring–not things that frequent flyer club members like to brag about to each other about, but which might keep them in one piece if they insisted on each.

  19. Thank you very much for this. I’ve been following the commentary on MH 370 almost obsessively and as a huge fan of the blog I was hoping we would get to hear your take, which is many, many cuts above most everything else out there.

    That said, I can’t help but feel like you might be extrapolating your professionalism and expertise (which I admire tremendously) to “first world” operations generally. Is there really a huge gaping hole between security in Malaysia and security here? I’m not in a position to really know, to be sure, but I feel like aviation security breaches in the US are hardly unheard of. For that matter, 9/11 happened here, not anywhere else

    As a lawyer (and aviation enthusiast) who practices in NYC, DC, and Chicago, I can tell you there are astounding defects, waste, and absurdities in the very best of our very own judicial systems. Amanda Knox and the Concordia would hardly stand out but for the publicity (granted, we don’t have double jeopardy in the case of Knox).
    Here, for example, is a federal judge in January 2014 lamenting the failure of DOJ to prosecute any high level executives for the shenanigans leading up to the 2008 recession: Here’s CNN in December 2013 writing about a tentative settlement between AA and Cantor Fitzgerald for claims arising out of 9/11 that have been pending since 2004. Suffice to say, there is a lot of room for improvement….

    The short of it is, I wish you were the Captain of every flight I took. But failing that, is there really any reason, from a safety perspective, to prefer the regional domestic carriers I fly regularly to the third world international airlines certified by the FAA for US operations? Maybe there is, I’m speaking from the perspective of admitted ignorance, but my sense at least is “not particularly.” If I’m wrong, however, I am gladly wrong.

    • No easy answer there, but you can’t conflate the pre-9/11 US airport security with what is in place now. The Kuala Lumpur airport either did not check the international Interpol database, or did check but failed to stop the pair traveling on stolen passports–something that is checked daily, flight by flight before every flight.

      I also don’t think I’d compare US regionals to third world majors, because the important difference is regulation and regulatory agencies (same FAA for US regionals and majors) along with airport security (again, same for regional and major US airport operations).

      My main point is that infrastructure, regulatory agencies and security just isn’t at a high standard worldwide.

      Caveat emptor.

  20. Chris, good read.

    As a pilot, based on the information available now what do you think happened and where is the plane?

  21. South Korea is not a third world country. (… no, I’m not Korean.)

    As for screening security, let’s not forget that all the people in this list were screened and cleared in the US:

    • If you can’t tell the difference between pre- and post-9/11 airport screening, let me help you: since then, in the US, all travellers are identified positively and screened against the Interpol consolidated watch list.

      But not in Malaysia, where two passengers with stolen passports either slipped through or we’re let through the screening at the Kuala Lumpur Airport.

      While you’re cruising the totally unmediated gossip rag that is “Wikipedia,” give this a read:

  22. I couldn’t agree with you more. I was just discussing this incident with some of my co-workers yesterday. We were saying its funny how this stuff always seems to happen to these (third world or not) foreign airlines. I will not allow myself,nor my family members to fly on a non North American (Mexico excluded) or Western European based carrier, no matter what the cost difference is. Actually, I would fly Qantas too. Anyone else? Forget about it. Thanks for your perspective on this. I was curious what your thoughts were on this incident. As for flight 370, I guess time will tell.

  23. Chuck Carmichael Says:

    Very well written article Chris.

  24. Chuck Labrador Says:

    comedy of errors allowed the 2 with stolen passports to get on.. OR more accomplices of and on the plane.? why did only the two (or four according to some reports) not get cross checked? maybe the authorities need to background check the gate agents /whoever’s job it is to verify the passports.. I”m thinking there is much more involved.

  25. This plane went north. Much like the Malaysia Air Force did not scramble fighter planes to investigate a commercial airliner with no transponder other air forces in similar Countries may likely do the same. In my opinion, this plane landed 8 days ago and may have been quickly refueled and sent to a further distance location to avoid detection. It is gone.

    • that’s what I think.

    • Icecyclist, If the plane refueled somewhere, wouldn’t someone have come forward by now? You know to say hey I was working at (insert airport name here) and I saw the missing plane being fueled? Also I’m pretty sure if it had been refueled someone would have seen it flying to its new secret destination. I don’t think you can just hide a 777 anywhere. Also to be refueled they would have landed and wouldn’t a passenger have used their cell phone to try and call someone and tell them what was going on?

  26. The Guy in 10C Says:

    Dear Chris:

    This is just a quick note to thank you for this post – very smart and wise – but also to thank you for all your posts over the past few years. I’ve lurked here for a long time, and read you with great enjoyment.

    I’m a writer. But that’s not important here. What is important, (aside from the fact that I travel a lot in Asia, and I’ve actually been on a lot of those KL/PEK flights) is that I’m an AA guy. It’s my main airline. Always my first choice, because of people like you. In 30+ years of flying on AA – both domestically and internationally – I’ve always found that if you treat people with respect, and professionalism, it’s returned in spades. Because ultimately, I only care about the same thing you do: Getting there safely. Everything else – the weather, the delays, the crowded cabins – is noise.

    So who am I really?

    I’m that guy sitting in the third row back in economy, on the aisle, because I’m paying for the tickets myself. I’m the one who follows all the rules, who never asks for anything special, who nobody ever notices on the plane.

    I’m the one who glances at you standing outside the cockpit door when we land at DFW, and says “Thank you”, and really mean it, as I head up the gangway to catch the next AA flight, heading home to my wife and children…

    Wondering for a second if you clocked the little silver baggage tag hanging from my laptop bag that says ‘1 million miles’, and understand that it’s my respect and loyalty to AA people like you that put that tag there.

    Thank you.

    Keep writing.

    Keep flying.

    I keep reading, and flying with you.

    The guy in 10C.

  27. Reblogged this on Shouts from the Abyss and commented:
    I’ve subscribed to JetHead’s blog for a long time. In my reblog of the week he takes a level-headed look at the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370.

  28. […] 370, missing Malaysian Airlines flight. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

  29. Raf Slotwinski Says:

    Here is my currently favored scenario:
    My money is the cargo carried – either diamonds or drugs (rather than gold – heavy and to some extent traceable). The plane was only 3/4 full with passengers – so plenty of (additional?) cargo could be carried. No explanations so far…
    I think the pilots were in on it.
    The airplane has landed on a military airfield in a “dodgy” country (Burma?) and concealed – and the valuable cargo moved on.
    The passengers may still be alive, but could have been suffocated by starving the cabin of oxygen.
    The Americans probably know more than they are saying (as usual).

  30. As a purser for a major carrier, our manifest recorded a no fly psgr that slipped by security, when we alerted captain to contact our OWN COMPANY SECURITY!! SO IF OTHER COUNTRY’S HAD THIS SYSTEM PERHAPS THE STOLEN PASSPORTS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ISSUE. OBVIOUS SECURITY AND FLIGHT DECK TRAINING LAX ! SAFETY IS OUR FOCUS!

  31. Sure am glad that the pilots of Air France 447 were able to save their plane due to their first-world cultural superiority… oops

    • “Oops” is right: the telemetry recorded by the Airbus and data linked, along with the DFDR and CVR which were recovered by Air France helped piece together the mechanical failure that caused the crsh.

      Where’s the Malaysian telemetry? And as a nation, their “military” radar detects an aircraft turning back inexplicably into sovereign airspace, re-entering the ADIZ without clearance or contact– and their Air Force does … NOTHING? Where are their fighter-interceptors to protect their population?

      Cultural superiority has nothing to do with it. Banana republic quality air defense, air traffic control, flight ops quality assurance and airport security have everything to do with this growing fiasco.

      That’s especially true going forward: if you liked the security and radar response to the inflight part, you’re going to love the search and recovery portion of this conglomerated incompetence, never mind the accident investigation.

      • Chris, you have excellent points regarding MH337 and Malaysian laxity regarding any number of security-related items. I also take no issue with your characterization of the country as a “banana republic”.

        The only thing that I take exception to is pointing the blame for the crash of AF447 on frozen pitots. From my understanding of the conclusions reached and published in the BEA accident investigation report, the penultimate cause of the crash was a breakdown in CRM due to the quantity of systems demanding attention, combined with the PF being unfamiliar with the AF/Airbus procedure for just such a situation – the A/P and A/T disengaging due to invalid airspeed data, reverting to alternate law control of the aircraft. Had the PF followed the “unreliable indicated airspeed” procedure (set engine thrust to 85 percent and pitch the nose five degrees above the horizontal), the aircraft would have more or less flown level (if you’d like, I can provide a link to A330 simulator flight reconstruction showing this to be an accurate, provable statement.)

        At the end of the day, the BEA refers to shortcomings in the crew’s “knowledge of the aircraft and its protection modes.” A review of pilot training “did not provide convincing evidence that the associated skills had been correctly developed and maintained.” BEA concluded that the DGAC needs to be reorganized to make its safety oversight function more effective. Another recommendation is that there needs to be better recruitment and training of safety inspectors.

        So, yes, first-world systems and datalinks allowed us to understand what happened. Did the pitots freeze and initiate the chain of events that led to the accident? Yup. Ultimately, though, the pilots flew an otherwise perfectly good airplane into a stall, and kept it there, falling seven miles before pancaking into the Atlantic. There’s no getting around that.

      • You can talk about Air France, Asiana, 9-11, the Challenger explosion and even the Titanic in an effort to rationalize and distract from the third world failures of Malaysia that has put 200+ peoples lives in the “missing, presumed dead” category.

        Makes it easier those who’d apologize to Malaysia for the fact that the world is concentrating on their inability to secure a passenger manifest or an airport or a flight, or to protect their own country from a rogue aircraft turning back with no comm or transponder.

        Just depends on what you want to see, or who you want to apologize to. None of that helps those who are lost, nor those waiting for meaningful answers.

      • What part of my comment, where I stated that you have excellent points regarding lax security and other dysfunction in Malaysia, leads you to believe that I am either rationalizing or distracting from them?

        It appears, however, that none of your points would have changed the outcome. While still speculation, based on current official statements, the cause of the disappearance appears to be due to deliberate acts by one or more of the flight deck crew. If that holds up as the root cause, then it’s highly likely that there is nothing that Malaysia could have done to prevent a “Suicide by T7” scenario, other than improve their psych screens. That said, I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable having living or office space in the Petronas towers unless and until they get their house in order.

        Again, all of your points regarding their security procedures are true. Fix all of them, though, and you still have a T7 at, presumably, the bottom of an ocean. The only difference is that you’d most likely know where it went down, with another data point being that a military escort could have added observations regarding movement on the flight deck, etc.

  32. I’ve enjoyed your blog before on matters serious and less so. Amidst a lot excess verbiage filling CNN and the like, I figured you’d have something intelligent and thought provoking to say about Malaysia 370. I wasn’t disappointed. Thanks again for an insider’s view, in this case shedding light on the framework factors that may create risks of bad stuff happening.

  33. Sorry for the off-topic comment but I just got off my first AA 738 flight, ORD-DCA, and I had to write.

    As it turned out it was also my first flight on a 738 period. And I must say, it’s a beautiful plane to ride. We landed with the snow coming down decently hard on “the long runway” (1/19) so we got to feel aircraft’s full braking power (or what seemed as such) and it was immense!

    Anyhow, made me think of this blog, as all things flying do….

    Thanks again.

  34. Chris, perhaps you can answer a question that has been bothering me since 9/11 – why do the communications systems have the ability to be turned off? Under what circumstances would it ever be necessary to be unreachable and to not be providing data?

    • The transponder, particularly, may need to be turned off or to “standby” if its reporting incorrectly or especially, once on the ground–it puts too much radar clutter on everyone’s radar scope.

  35. As usual, great article. However, I disagree with your comment about shoddy “third world” maintenance. These days, Southeast Asian carriers and US based airlines have their heavy aircraft torn apart for C checks by unlicensed and poorly trained mechanics in Beijing. In the US, the only safety advantage we have left is well trained pilots like yourself. And as we all know, that too is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

    • I don’t think that’s accurate–the offshore maintenance facilities used by some (only some–not most) are inspected by FAA regulators before US aircraft are granted authority to use these maintenance facilities, and all US airworthiness directive apply to the facility, the jet, and the US carrier.

      I agree that there are many substandard maintenance facilities in Asia and South America, and other countries without thorough, well-funded regulatory agencies can get away with substandard overhauls, parts and repairs. But that’s not the case with US carriers under FAA oversight.

      • Frontline did some great investigative reporting on this very issue. The FAA’s oversight of these facilities is poor, in part because authorities do not have the capacity to conduct “surprise” inspections (they must receive permission from both the company and the foreign government). English proficiency is another big issue (see NPR reporting with aeroman employees who reveal they can’t read the boeing manuals).

      • Excellent point. And the FAA is spread pretty thin even in the US, keeping up with fleets and inspections. I can only imagine how hard it is to keep up with maintenance facilities and operations 6,000 miles away.

  36. Chris, your reply, 3/16 at 2115: SHACK!

  37. Hello everyone, well : let e tell my view: first Italy is a third world country south of Florence, sad but true. Second, you can implement all the state of the art security, but, yes, they will be trouble ahead, it always been like that. Many happening in Europe, Japan, N. America are just “covered” by the one owner (may be two) of ALL medias. Third: they went into deep sea, the Andamanes are 4 to 5000 meters deep ocean, not pessimistic, but, mmh…mumble, mumble, will they ever find it? So long. By the way, Brasil is a third world country but produce excellent aircrafts, and, yes Congonas is as dangerous as Palermo.

    • I don’t mean to pick on Italy, but the Costa Concordia investigation and trial is creeping at a glacial pace, and the Italian captain certificated by Italian regulators managed to willingly run his own ship aground.

      That’s an example of the poor regulation, oversight and certification infrastructure that leads unsuspecting passengers into spectacular disasters–like Asiana, Malaysia 370, and the Costa shipwreck.

  38. […] Malaysia Flight 370: What Didn’t Happen. March 15th, 2014 — “Speculation on what happened to Malaysia 370 now runs rampant across the world media, just as it always does after any airline disaster. But as usual, most of what the “informed sources” hypothesize is unfounded or at least, not based on fact. That’s because whether the “experts” popping up on broadcast media want to admit […]” 70 Comments […]

  39. This post reeks of racism and the author’s argument doesn’t hold up to the most basic scrutiny.

    • Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But when yours runs longer than my entire post, I will encourage you to post it on your own blog and let me know when you do. That way, I can read it if I want to (probably not–too much Wikipedia nonsensical “information”) and others can, too.

      Just not here.

    • Mike Ferrier, it’s not racism,it’s the truth.Are you a pilot? I’m not,but I understand what Mr.Manno is saying. You do realize that Mr.Manno makes his living as a pilot? I’m sure he knows all about flying into other countries. Did you even read what he wrote? All his points are spot on. Have you not seen the pics and video of the co-pilot letting two young females sit in the cockpit on a flight? that was on CNN this morning. Now a bit off topic,but I wish CNN and everyone else would quit making a big deal out of the Captain having a flight simulator. My husband has pretty much the same set up upstairs in his office,complete with a yoke,rudder pedals multiple monitors etc. Its not suspisous to own or make a simulator. CNN tried to say this morning that the pilot could have practiced on his flight simulator to navigate the rough terrain at 5000 feet to remain undetected to fly over Kazakstan or wherever. My husband said that flying at 5000 feet in the dark over that terrain would be miraculous,but the plane would be would be burning a ton of fuel flying that low. Also the lady on CNN kept calling the plane a “seven hundred seventy seven”. I have never heard it called that. Just a 777 or a triple seven.but I’m not a pilot so what do I know?

      • Bill Brandt Says:

        Also the lady on CNN kept calling the plane a “seven hundred seventy seven”. I have never heard it called that. Just a 777 or a triple seven.but I’m not a pilot so what do I know?

        Particularly with smaller general aviation aircraft in accidents it is amazing that they can even get the type/model right.

        The handling of this my the Malaysian govt reminds me of Abbot & Costello’s “who’s on first” routine

  40. Seems like an easy solution would be the insurance. No interpol check, higher premiums. No engine data subscription, higher premiums. If I am insuring a 230 million dollar aircraft, I would demand anything to reduce my risk of loss.

    • That makes sense to me. I wonder what insurance coverage Malaysia Air has and again, Third World consideration: can passenger or their survivors get court awarded relief or compensation? We know that’s the standard in most of the modern world …

  41. If the US Security is so perfect how come drugs worth billions of dollars are transported to US daily and we have 10 million undocumented aliens There can only be no foolproof security Regarding checking of interpol databases it is only done by US UK and UAE This was from Senate subcommittee on Homeland Security To check interpol database it has been to configured into Immigration computers There is no separate computer terminal for checking Interpol database

  42. Great thoughts Chris. I’ve been saying the same things for about a week.


  43. Wow! Thank you for this article and some actual facts! Especially since this has turned out to be the biggest hide and seek game with a 777 in aviation history!

  44. John Bonen Says:

    Do you see Boeing and Airbus requiring their customers to subscribe to a more frequent, non-cancellable reporting service that includes GPS coordinates? Losing a jumbo jet and hundreds of lives, ouch.

    As a flyer I didn’t know an airliner could disappear like this.

    • They probably already do if a customer wants the manufacturer’s warranty–many “underdeveloped” countries don’t want that or can’t afford it. Caveat emptor.

  45. Thanks for writing this informative post. I can’t stand most of the talking heads on the 24-hour news cycle, so it is refreshing to read an insider’s perspective. However, I do have one criticism. Calling some these countries “third world” or “banana republics” only serves to draw the ire of some readers (although I guess that may have been intended). The problem is that they are not actually third world by standard definitions (living standards, GDP, personal/political freedoms, etc.).

    If Malaysia is third world, then what are Afghanistan or Somalia? Lumping them together isn’t beneficial. It would have been better to call them “developing”, “less-developed”, or “newly industrialized” countries. Although even these are criticized by some, they are more widely accepted terms, and they get the same point across as “third world” without being so inflammatory.


    • The “fire” theory? Anything’s possible, but this is just one more “could be” that has people trying to induce a conclusion on a possibility unfounded on any real fact. Again, just pure speculation.

  46. Verrry interesting Chris. Never read your blog before. I wish you piloted every flight we were on! Good job-You’ve explained the terrible fiasco of the 777 mystery even I sort of understand. thanks— Mom

  47. Not to be cynical, but something tells me we’ll never get the true story on this one. Come to think of it…did we on Flight 800?

    Major corporations and governments and their inept agencies are covering their tracks…so they play the “blame the pilot” card.

  48. It is nothing to do with 3rd world, 2nd world or 1st world. We only analyze and try to show it through a magnifying glass and under the microscope only after an incident takes place. Get the statistics of all the airline crashes from all the regions. Cultural differences are there every where but it has nothing to do with authority and responsibility on the job. Systems are in place everywhere only implementation and execution are not in accordance with the planning. Time is another constraint we only believe in but not exactly so.

  49. Joe Barry .old PPL Ireland Says:

    Could this Aircraft have been pre prorammed to fly its strange route whilst on the ground? Remember the Erebus crash of Air New Zealand. ( The Crew did not realise that Ground navigators had reprogrammed the flight computer).
    Furher consider that the plane may have been sabotaged
    so that tthe pressurization did not work. This would cause rapid
    loss of conscioness of all on board before reaching 30000 feet.
    (query -was this plane taken to 45000 feet ?) This would mean that all on board were probably dead before that plane started diverting.
    The response to the Malaysian ground control is easily fakable by someone on another aircraft or on the ground .
    Query;- have the Malaysin Authorityies quried the Mobile phone companies – I find it hard to believe that all passengers had their phones turned off? indonesian masts — might indicate whether this plane went South

    • Yes, could be programmed on the ground, which is how it’s normally done: the route is auto-uploaded via datalink, then the pilots validate each point before executing the flight plan. This would only happen with the pilots’ consent.

      But here’s my point: until we have hard facts, there are just too many uncertainties to propose possible causes–like ressurization problems.

      I did aircraft accident investigation in the USAF–key to every investigation is a clean slate: no theories to prove, just facts to sift and conclusions to build from the facts.

      So I feel it’s best to just put “analysis” on hold until we actually have hard facts.

  50. Your blog smacks of self righteousness. Before you criticise the government of Malaysia for lack of Interpol verification, first do some homework and you’d be shocked to see how many countries around the world actually do NOT use the Interpol database.

    • And this makes the incompetence of Malaysian authorities better, because some other countries are also incompetent when it comes to security? Have you suggested that to the families of the 370 passengers and crew?

  51. Thanks for the pro point of view Chris. When I review the various news commentaries, the TV series “Lost” jumps up in my mind. An American Airlines pilot said information he had indicated the plane was traveling map point to map point after the left turn. We will see what develops.

  52. Great post, thanks for that. As somebody who used to fly on Malaysian Airlines when my usual choice was inconvenient or booked out I now shudder at how I flew with an airline that is so closely tied to a govt that suppresses the information it did during the recent tragedy.

    I also hate to point this out as I can be accused of ‘Muslim bashing’ when this is not the case but Malaysia allows Muslims from all over the world to enter freely with no ongoing visa irrespective of whether they have gainful employment or studies or whatever waiting. This faciliated the increasing numbers of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia under the past Labor govt of Kevin Rudd-erless by using Malaysia as their launching pad. Some of these people and their children later drowned trying to get to Australia through people smugglers.

    This also facilitates the admission of all sorts of criminals from Muslim countries. They are criminals because they are criminals, not because they are Muslims, and use their religion to justify their actions. Even when I used to regularly travel to Kuala Lumpur Airport I though about how many potential terrorists were moving freely in and through Malaysia owing to this policy.

    Possibly the only good to come out of this is that higher security measures will come into being. Yet the facilitating of free movement into Malaysia of possible terrorists or hijackers is a grave cause for concern. It is also blatantly discriminatory. Imagine if there was special visa free travel to Australia or the Uk or any European country for Christians because of those countries’ histories and traditions.

  53. I totally agree with this. I had a friend visiting London from the States who had just taken her first long haul flight to get here and was about to go back and VERY NERVOUS because of the Malaysian Airlines incident that happened in the middle of her trip here. Before knowing anything about what happened to the plane I said to her she must remember where the plane took off from. Security would be nothing like it is in the UK. I wish it wasn’t so, but I know first hand how it can be. Flying home from Cyprus my husband put a bottle of water in his carry on. I told him to take it out. He said “they won’t care” and put is bag though the security machine. They didn’t say a word to us. He would not have got away with that in London.

  54. Darren Glover Says:

    Hi Chris, great article. I live in Indonesia, am terrified of flying after a few bad flights. I used to fly with Anyone, Lion Air etc. After the Bali crash I stopped flying with the budget airlines here, and only flew with Malaysia Airlines. Which carriers would you recommend out here? I have to leave the country every few months for visa reasons. One of my friends was on the Malaysian flight. Any advice would help a great deal.

  55. The probable truth about travellers using stolen passports is that it happens more often than we know. If the plane hadn’t disappeared and the passengers not investigated, nobody ever would have known. As well, I’m sure there are more arrests for stolen or borrowed passports than is announced to the public.

  56. Excellent information Chris. I notice that there hasn’t been a lot of information about the (6?) passengers that suddenly decided not to take this particular flight, and their luggage was removed. I wonder what that story is, and if it has anything to do with this incident.

    • Good point. I wonder if there is any documentation/proof that their bags were actually pulled? The Malaysian aviation “authorities” seem to be weak on details in all areas.

  57. I was flying back to LA from Hermosillo Sonora Mex when on the hardstanding a piece of ground equipment clobbered the port wingtip almost immediately the ground crew rushed out and using ducktape secured the piece of detached wing surface. We took off and could observe the flexing of the repair luckily we landed safely in LA This takeoff would never been allowed in The States .It seemed amusing at the time but could have been critical.

    • I was flying an F-100 out of Monterrey, Mexico when we noticed a hydraulic leak in an aileron actuator. The ground crew simply wiped off the fluid and said good to go. By the time I got through explaining that no, the leak needed to be fixed, my Skydrol bleed from the seal. They wiped that off, too, and said good to go, again. Took awhile to convince them that it wasn’t a matter of wiping it off, but rather, a question of fixing the leak.

  58. I think it was a hijacking gone wrong. All cell phones were confiscated first so no one could call out then they took over the plane but didn’t know how to fly it after killing the pilots and it flew until it ran out of fuel. How they might have disabled any of the plane’s communication systems is a mystery. I hope they find the black boxes and solve this.

  59. boydboy Says:

    A couple of things to note:

    1) There are several THOUSAND false and stolen passports used to board planes in the US every year …

  60. Jose Enrique Danseco Says:

    For one, do you believe black holes exist? Not only planes but. ships as well have disappeared in that region unless the Boeing plane is in Diego Garcia.

  61. There are only a few countries who are first world countries overall; germanic europe, anglosaxon countres ands japan, others, like israel. southern europe, south korea and one or two more just do not cut it. the rest, the vast majorty, are jus territories at the feudal level

  62. Chris, 2 queries on the recent MH17. First, it seems some airlines were using that airspace and some not. Were Russian and Ukrainian carriers using it? If not then no-one should have been. Secondly, would the crew of planes travelling along the same lane behind MH17 have seen the explosion? It all sounds reminiscent of Iran Air 655 and history repeating itself.

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