Search Results For "flight 370"

By Jonah Shepp

Chris Goodfellow doesn’t think MH370 was hijacked:

For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations. …

What I think happened is the flight crew was overcome by smoke and the plane continued on the heading, probably on George (autopilot), until it ran out of fuel or the fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed. You will find it along that route–looking elsewhere is pointless.

Jeff Wise shoots down that theory:

Goodfellow’s account is emotionally compelling, and it is based on some of the most important facts that have been established so far. And it is simple—to a fault. Take other major findings of the investigation into account, and Goodfellow’s theory falls apart.

For one thing, while it’s true that MH370 did turn toward Langkawi and wound up overflying it, whoever was at the controls continued to maneuver after that point as well, turning sharply right at VAMPI waypoint, then left again at GIVAL. Such vigorous navigating would have been impossible for unconscious men.

Goodfellow’s theory fails further when one remembers the electronic ping detected by the Inmarsat satellite at 8:11 on the morning of March 8. According to analysis provided by the Malaysian and United States governments, the pings narrowed the location of MH370 at that moment to one of two arcs, one in Central Asia and the other in the southern Indian Ocean. As MH370 flew from its original course toward Langkawi, it was headed toward neither. Without human intervention—which would go against Goodfellow’s theory—it simply could not have reached the position we know it attained at 8:11 a.m.

Meanwhile, Jessica Trisko Darden considers how the search reflects on national security and politics in Asia:

While the countries of the region lack the ability to effectively monitor their airspace and maritime borders, they clearly have the capacity to blame one another. Political haranguing has been an evident part of the Malaysian-led search process. Both China and Vietnam repeatedly expressed frustration with Malaysia for providing contradictory details that hampered their ability to search for wreckage. Vietnam temporarily downgraded its search in the absence of credible information before ending it following word that Malaysia had suspended its search in the same area. Relations between Malaysia and China have been strained by an inability to locate the 153 Chinese citizens on board the flight and Malaysia Airlines’ handling of the passengers’ families.

David Wertime zeroes in on China’s mounting frustration with Malaysia:

Malaysian authorities have certainly given China ample room for angst. The New York Times reported on March 16 that a series of errors, delays, and obfuscations by the Malaysian government and military has hampered the search process. Chinese social media, which provides the best available public indicator of citizen sentiment, has not shown a proclivity to forgive. An online short comic series shared over 50,000 times on Weibo depicts a haggard boss (China) defenestrating a lazy employee (Malaysia) after he gives lackadaisical answers at a meeting about MH370 also attended by well-prepped Vietnamese and U.S. avatars. (In an introduction, the artist calls the Malaysians a “pig troupe.”) A phrase combining the character for Malaysia with a popular Internet curse word became a Weibo hashtag and been used more than 400,000 times.

Follow all the Dish’s coverage of the missing plane here.

by Jonah Shepp

The story keeps getting weirder, but there are no answers yet:

Over the weekend, the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 became a criminal investigation as Malaysian officials said they had “conclusive” evidence that the flight had been hijacked. They also said that a final message had been received from the pilot after the plane’s signaling apparatus had been disabled, raising suspicion that the flight was intentionally diverted by crew. There have also been numerous reports this morning that plane may have flown as low as 5,000 feet, in order to avoid all radar detection, a maneuver that would require considerable skill from the pilots, while also putting the plane itself in considerable danger, as it is not designed for long travel at that altitude.

Passing along the map seen below, Derek Thompson notes that the clues about where the plane might be are still very broad:


The precise location of the flight at 8:11 AM is still a mystery. But officials provided a map (above) that shows the plane’s possible location along one of two red semi-circles, based on a “ping” from a satellite orbiting 35,800 kilometers above the Indian Ocean. As you can see, this final data point indicates two possible flight paths: one northwest stretching toward Kazakhstan and another southwest into the Indian Ocean.

The northern flight path is above land, which would raise the odds that officials find the plane or its remnants. But The New York Times points out that it’s unlikely that air-defense networks in India, Pakistan, or Afghanistan failed to pick up on a rogue 777. This makes the southern path more likely. Bloomberg‘s analysis of the last satellite “ping” tracked the plane’s last known location to about 1,000 miles west of Perth, Australia.

Patrick Smith addresses some misconceptions regarding the plane’s transponder:

The media is throwing this term around without a full understanding of how the equipment works. For position reporting and traffic sequencing purposes, transponders only work in areas of typical ATC radar coverage. Most of the world, including the oceans, does not have ATC radar coverage. Transponders are relevant to this story only when the missing plane was close to land. Once over the ocean, it didn’t matter anyway. Over oceans and non-radar areas, other means are used for position reports and tracking/communicating (satcomm, datalink, etc.), not transponders.

Many readers have asked why the capability exists to switch off a transponder, as apparently happened aboard Malaysia flight 370. In fact very few of a plane’s components are hot-wired to be, as you might say, “always on.” In the interest of safety — namely, fire and electrical system protection — it’s important to have the ability to isolate a piece of equipment, either by a standard switch or, if need be, through a circuit breaker. Also transponders will occasionally malfunction and transmit erroneous or incomplete data, at which point a crew will recycle the device — switching it off, then on — or swap to another unit. Typically at least two transponders are onboard, and you can’t run both simultaneously. Bear in mind too that switching the unit “off” might refer to only one of the various subfunctions, or “modes” — for example, mode C, mode S — responsible for different data.

Previous Dish on the missing plane here, here, and here. Update from a reader, who ramps up the wild speculation:

Check this out.  It’s the most convincing thing I’ve read in the last ten days about the flight’s disappearance. He’s an aviation hobbyist who plotted times and air routes and came up with a theory that Flight 370 shadowed a scheduled flight (appearing with it as a single signal) over all the countries that should have picked it up on radar.

Jeff Wise finds it very odd that we still have no idea what happened to the plane:

Past air crashes have always turned up some definitive evidence by this stage of the proceedings. This incident (frankly, we’re not even 100 percent sure it is a crash) is different. So far, no debris field has been found, the Pentagon reports that it detected no midair explosions in the area, and Malaysian authorities have issued contradictory statements about what primary-radar tracks they may or may not have observed. Based on the vast search area, it appears that authorities believe that the plane may have been deliberately flown far from its original heading. If that’s the case, then whoever redirected the plane might well have timed its abduction to coincide with the period when it would have slipped out of sight of the air traffic control system anyway—presumed to be operating normally, but actually veiled in the fog of unknowability.

Ben Branstetter discusses how better technology could prevent such fiascos:

There are forces trying to implement the full benefits of satellite technology into the consumer aircraft market. One system, dubbed Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) by Boeing itself, would create a worldwide network between Air Traffic Controllers and planes in the air, allowing any ATC to see where any ADS-B-equipped plane is at any moment thanks to second-by-second reporting to GPS satellites. Such a system, if adopted globally, could have solved the mystery of Flight 370 and the a dozen other aerial disappearances since the 1970s. Many delays stand in the way of ADS-B, otherwise known as NextGen, including a plethora of delays and an estimated $11 billion price tag.

But with 1 billion people expected to be flying annually by 2024—many of them on transcontinental flights—it is not only astonishing but pathetically negligent that such a crucial system relies on such archaic systems. The bewildering tragedy of Flight 370 highlights the anachronism of radar systems in a world where Google can identify my position within a single room. GPS technology went commercial more than 30 years ago and has only grown more widespread and accurate since then, yet the airline industry prefers the system used by Iceman and Maverick.

Update from a reader:

Many have brought up the possibility that the plane has been hijacked, but I’m surprised that no one is honing in on the potential motivations for such a hijacking.  Specifically, wouldn’t it make sense to consider that separatist Muslim Uyghur’s from the northwest region of China might be responsible.  The Chinese government blamed them for the deadly knife attack that occurred just two weeks ago.  A hijacked plane diverted to Xinjiang province would appear to cover a distance comparable to the distance between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. It has already been reported that the plane dramatically changed its route to the northwest and reached the Andaman Islands. From there, it appears the plane could simply travel due north to reach Xinjiang.

Lastly, it is being reported that the plane flew for more than 5 hours after the transponders were turned off.  It would not take 5 hours for that plane to get to the Andaman Islands, so the question is, where did it go after that? My crazy, wild, and almost certainly incorrect guess is Xinjiang, home of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.  Remember, most of the passengers on the flight were Chinese, so successfully hijacking and landing the plane in Xinjiang would be, in the eyes of the Uyghurs, and incredible source of leverage.

Previous Dish on the disappeared plane here and here.

Adam Minter points out that the pollution in the South China Sea is complicating the search for the missing plane:

On Saturday, hours after the first news of the plane’s disappearance, the Vietnamese navy reported finding 6 mile (9.7 kilometers) and 9 mile oil slicks (reports about the size vary), raising hopes. On Monday, lab tests revealed that they were diesel fuel characteristic of the ships that ply, and pollute, the South China Sea. In the days since, fishermen and rescue workers have found life raftslife jackets, a jet’s door and plastic oil barrels each initially suspected as originating from Flight 370, vetted in the news media, and then — perhaps literally — tossed overboard as trash.

As a reader noted in an update to our earlier post, a satellite imagery company is attempting to crowdsource the search:

The Colorado-based company Digital Globe sells high-resolution satellite imagery and aerial photography. Last year, the company acquired the crowdsourcing application known as Tomnod (“big eye” in Mongolian), boosting the application’s capabilities with stunningly detailed images from its six sophisticated satellites. Anyone can create an account and begin searching through the tiles of imagery. After a brief tutorial, you’re unleashed upon images of the open ocean, where you can tag objects as airplane wreckage, a life raft, or an oil slick. …

You have to worry if this will help or hinder efforts: Will all these amateur eyes just be creating more work for the rescue teams? After several people called a Malaysian paper to say they had “found” bits of the airplane in on Google Maps, Google had to issue a statement reminding users that their satellite imagery is a few months old.

While much has been made of the plane’s two passengers with fake passports, Josephine Wolff explains that most countries don’t check for them:

How two Iranian passengers managed to board a plane using stolen European passports is far from the biggest mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370—in fact, it turns out to be one of the least surprising pieces of the otherwise perplexing and tragic story. Last year, airplane passengers boarded planes more than 1 billion times without their passports being checked against Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, which would have flagged the MH 370 passengers’ documents as stolen, had it been consulted.

It remains unclear whether the two passengers using the stolen passports were in any way connected to the plane’s disappearance, and the ongoing investigation suggests that neither of them had ties to terrorist groups, but that has not stopped Interpol from seizing the opportunity to stress the importance and underutilization of the SLTD database.

Pilot-blogger Patrick Smith is debunking speculation about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished from radar screens on Saturday while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Smith’s bottom line:

Unfortunately it could be weeks or even months before we have a solid idea of what happened. And tempting as might be, we should be careful not to speculate too broadly. Almost always the earliest theories turn out to be at best incomplete; at worst totally wrong. Seeing how little evidence we have at the moment, any theories are, for now, just guesses.

All we know for sure is that a plane went missing with no warning or communication from the crew. That the crash (assuming the plane did in fact go down) did not happen during takeoff or landing — the phases of flight when most accident occur — somewhat limits the possibilities, but numerous ones remain. The culprit could be anything from sabotage to some kind of bizarre mechanical problem — or, as is so common in airline catastrophes, some combination or compounding of human error and/or mechanical malfunction.

Jordan Golson explains how a plane can disappear in this day and age:

It is a misconception that airline pilots are in constant communication with air traffic control, or that planes are constantly watched on radar. Once a plane is more than 100 or 150 miles from shore, radar no longer works. It simply doesn’t have the range. (The specific distance from shore varies with the type of radar, the weather, and other factors.) At that point, civilian aircraft communicate largely by high-frequency radio. The flight crew checks in at fixed “reporting points” along the way, providing the plane’s position, air speed, and altitude. It isn’t uncommon to maintain radio silence between reporting points because cruising at 35,000 feet is typically uneventful. Some aircraft communication systems don’t require pilots call in; flight management computers transmit the info via satellite link.

Rachel Lu observes how Chinese media are covering the disappearance of the plane, which was carrying 153 Chinese nationals:

On Chinese social media, a particularly anxious place after the Kunming horror, some speculation about the cause of MH370′s disappearance has linked it to terrorism or sabotage. On March 10, well-known television host Yang Lan wrote to her 34 million followers on Weibo that “more and more signs are pointing to a terrorist attack.” Huang Sheng, a professional investor and author, compared MH370′s disappearance to the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 in 1988. Ran Xiongfei, a sports commentator, also wrote, “Everything is unknown, but signs of terrorism are becoming more noticeable.”

By contrast, Chinese state-owned media have been very cautious not to draw conclusions about MH370′s disappearance. While some state-owned media have translated international reports about possible probes into terrorism, People’s Daily and China Central Television (CCTV), two of the Communist Party’s flagship media outlets, have not explicitly associated the plane’s disappearance with terrorism. Although many readers would likely prefer those outlets to engage the question directly, state media’s hands are tied. According to the U.S.-based China Digital Times, China’s Central Propaganda Department has issued instructions prohibiting “independent analysis or commentary” of the incident.

Update from a reader:

Here’s how I’ve been explaining the Malaysian Airlines search to friends: Suppose I asked you to find my car (yes, it’s smaller than a plane but no smaller than a life raft or debris field). I don’t know exactly where I left it, but I think its somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas (250 miles – about the over-water distance between Malaysia and Vietnam). It was dark, so I don’t know if I was on the main highway or a side road, and there wasn’t anyone around in the desert to see me go by. Oh, and it’s possible I made a turn and ended up somewhere in Arizona (although, based on the latest news, maybe I ended up turning around and driving towards San Francisco?)

One more thing: I might have parked it in an underground garage.


Your reader’s analogy is off base. The car would be the ONLY car in the entire vicinity, with no cities, or buildings, or other cars in the way. If you have 100 of that guy’s friends and some experienced helicopter pilots and sent them into a barren area with only one car to find, you would expect they would find something – especially if your friend can tell you the last GPS point his car was recorded at. And the underground garage is simple a red herring: the plane might be at bottom of the sea, but it certainly smashed into pieces when it hit the water, and would be visible.

Something is very very bizarre here, especially if it’s true that after going off of civilian radar, it kept flying in the opposite direction for more than an hour.

Followup from the first reader:

I don’t dispute the suggestion that my car would stand out in the desert … IF YOU CAME ACROSS THE CAR. The point of my analogy was to address the sheer immenseness of land (or water) mass to be covered by an aerial or sea search, much less at satellite level (more coverage but smaller detail). I’ve been working with Tomnod, the crowd-sourced satellite image analysis site, and there’s a whole lot of nothing to work through before even covering a small fraction of the original expected crash site.

Of course, the new indications that the plane turned and headed for the Straits of Malacca mean all bets are off in even remotely guessing how long it will take to find the plane.

Doug Chini needs to get on Tomnod ASAP.

Another Missing Airplane

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 29 2014 @ 9:44am


AirAsia flight QZ8501 is presumed to be “at the bottom of the sea”:

The jet vanished from radar screens on Sunday morning with 162 people on board, as it approached violent weather over the Java Sea about 40 minutes into a two-hour flight between the Indonesian city of Surabaya and Singapore. The plane, an Airbus A320-200 operated by an Indonesian subsidiary of the Malaysian budget airline AirAsia, reportedly requested to deviate from its flight path to avoid a cloud. Moments later, it lost contact with Jakarta air traffic controllers. It did not send a distress signal.

Chris Brummitt contrasts this missing jet with MH370, the Malaysian plane lost earlier this year. Why we have a better chance of finding this one:

Based on data “pings” from Flight 370, authorities believe the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, a vast, deep, isolated stretch of water far from the last known position of the plane. The AirAsia flight was carrying enough fuel for about four hours of flying. Assuming it crashed soon after it dropped off the radar, finding it should be far easier. The Java Sea is a contained body of water, shallow, and crisscrossed by planes and ships. In normal circumstances, a plane leaves wreckage even if it enters the water largely intact. It can take several days for it to be spotted, however. On Jan. 1, 2007, an Indonesian jetliner carrying 102 people went missing on a domestic flight from Surabaya to Manado. A search effort across land and sea turned up nothing until 11 days later, when a fisherman found the plane’s right horizontal stabilizer.

Charlie Campbell passes along “speculation that flying through thunderstorms at high altitude could have caused ice to form on instruments, giving erroneous readings and effecting navigation”:

Similar problems are thought responsible for the ditching in the Atlantic of Air France Flight 447 in June 2009, that killed all 228 people aboard.

However, there are problems with this theory. Firstly, cockpit recordings indicate the Air France crew hadn’t been trained for such circumstances. But ever since, Airbus has put new training in place so that all pilots who fly their aircraft know how to deal with these occurrences. “It’s a new regime,” says [Captain Desmond Ross, an Australia-based aviation expert].

What’s more, the Air France flight was in the dead of night and so the crew only had instruments to rely on. “I don’t even think they had a horizon,” says Ross. It is unlikely such a tragedy would have occurred in daylight conditions such as QZ 8501 experienced.

Essentially, says Ross, “Weather doesn’t cause accidents. Accidents are caused by poor decision-making or other things like malfunctions.”

David Cenciotti also brings up Air France flight 447:

AF447 was an Airbus 330 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that plummeted 38,000 feet in 3 minutes and 30 seconds and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. In that case, pilots responded to a stall, induced by inconsistencies between the airspeed measurements likely due to pitot tubes being obstructed by ice, by pulling the nose up instead of pushing it down to attempt a recover.

Even though a low Ground Speed can be caused by strong head winds, the fact that nearby Emirates was cruising at 36,000 feet at a speed of 503 knots, seems to suggest that the missing Airbus 320 was probably too slow and closer to the stall speed than it should have been

William Wan likewise focuses on the speed of the plane:

The speed of the airplane will likely be at the forefront of any investigation, said John Cox, a former accident investigator. Radar suggests the plane was flying at a low speed, Cox said. Too slow at certain altitudes will cause an airplane to physically stall with insufficient lift to sustain flight, he said.

Geoffrey Thomas, editor of, said he reviewed radar data of the flight obtained by other A320 pilots showing the plane at an altitude of 36,300 feet and climbing and traveling at 353 knots or roughly 406 miles per hour — a relatively low speed for that altitude.

Adam Minter can’t believe Malaysia’s bad luck:

[M]any Malaysians are now trying to reckon with the fact that Malaysian-owned carriers will have been involved in the three worst air tragedies of the past year, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, shot down over the Ukraine. That’s an unlikely status for any country, much less Malaysia, population 30 million, and hardly a global aviation power.

It’s tempting to look for a common thread to explain this inexplicable string of bad aviation luck. But prior to March 2014, Malaysia’s two major carriers had exemplary safety records, and there was absolutely nothing about them to lead an outside observer to believe that they’d lose three jets in nine months.

And Amanda Macias looks back at this year’s aircraft crashes:

If the Indonesian-registered aircraft is confirmed to have crashed, killing all on board, the accident would make 2014 the worst year for loss of life in civil aviation since 2005, when 1,014 people were killed in passenger accidents, according to the Netherlands-based Aviation Safety Network.

But the number of fatal accidents in 2014 would stand at only eight, if flight QZ8501 is included, compared with 24 in 2005. This would be the lowest in memory, reflecting the peculiar nature of this year’s disasters.

(Photo: An Indonesian military commander marks the map at the Crisis Center of AirAsia at Juanda Airport on December 29, 2014 in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. By Syaiful Arif/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A reader lends his expertise to the Adrian Peterson case:

I am a psychologist who works primarily with very young children and their families. It is disturbing to me, especially reading the comments sections of sites that are covering this story, to see how few people seem to have gotten the memo about the impact of early violence on the developing brain. While Mr. Peterson’s son was being whipped, and for some long time thereafter, his nervous system was being flooded with stress hormones (cortisol is the primary culprit). Shame, anger, and fear states cause the body to respond this way, as stress hormones can also help mobilize us into fight or flight states when danger is near. The problem is that sustained, repeated exposure to these hormones causes structural changes to the developing brain, including the hippocampus and the amygdala – structures that are responsible for emotion processing and memory.

The result? A nervous system that is “primed” to scan for danger and ready to fight to protect itself rather than one that can safely engage in play, exploration and learning (these brain states are incompatible). Research is very clear that kids who are exposed to this kind of violence (fear states) are much more likely to be violent as they grow up.

So you want to have fewer future Ray Rices clocking their partners? Figure out ways to keep kids like Adrian Peterson’s safe.

Meanwhile, Margaret Hartmann flags yet another story of an NFL player in trouble for domestic violence:

Police tell the Arizona Republic that the incidents [involving Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer] took place over two days in late July but were not reported until September 11. … Dwyer was booked on suspicion of aggravated assault against his wife for fracturing a bone and aggravated assault against his child for throwing the shoe. He could also be charged with preventing a 911 call and damaging property. Dwyer’s wife and child left the state shortly after the incidents. He admitted that they were arguing, but denied that any physical abuse took place.

Doktor Zoom of Wonkette notes:

Dwyer is actually the Cardinals’ second player with a domestic violence charge: Linebacker Daryl Washington pleaded guilty in March to assaulting his girlfriend, but he was already indefinitely suspended from the team for an earlier substance-abuse violation. No NFL discipline for him on the domestic assault charge yet.

Meanwhile, Rich Lowry defends the NFL from all the bad publicity lately:

[T]he media has lost its collective mind. It’s as if the people who controlled CNN’s programming in the aftermath of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 have been put in charge of all press coverage of the NFL, and brought to the task the same sense of proportion, good taste and dignity that characterized the network’s handling of the missing plane. The coverage of the Rice elevator video managed to combine moralistic preening with voyeuristic pandering. Everyone on TV professed to be so outraged by domestic violence that they had to show a clip of a woman getting viciously punched, over and over again (until many of the networks finally recoiled from their own overkill).

Read all of the recent Dish on domestic violence here.

Ukraine? Where’s That?

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 8 2014 @ 3:41pm

Most Americans can’t find it on a map, according to this survey and an accompanying map:


Details on that survey:

About one in six (16 percent) Americans correctly located Ukraine, clicking somewhere within its borders. … However, the further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests; all of these effects are statistically significant at a 95 percent confidence level.

These findings don’t surprise Larison:

It makes sense that ignorance about a country’s location and its importance to U.S. security would be associated with a preference for more aggressive policies. Those that know the least about the country and U.S. interests presumably would be more likely to accept arguments that exaggerate the threat to the U.S., especially if they are relying on news sources that sensationalize the events and hype the threat in order to attract an audience. Because these respondents have a poorer understanding of the most basic facts, the more likely they are to fall for alarmist demands for “action” and the less likely they are to have considered the considerable dangers and costs that a hard-line response would almost certainly entail.

But John Patty complains that the survey is being used to ridicule people who don’t deserve it:

There are a lot of clicks in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska.  … clicking farther away from Ukraine means that you are, with some positive (and in this case, significant) probability clicking closer to the United States. So, suppose that the study said “those who think the Ukraine is located close to the US are more likely to support military intervention to stem Russian expansion?”  Would that be surprising? Would that make you think voters are irrational?

Increasing aviation safety in developing countries is a low priority for Charles Kenny:

The macabre but exhaustive website put the odds of being killed on a single airline flight at about one in 4.7 million across 78 major world airlines; among the airlines with the worst safety records, the odds rise to one in 2 million. In the middle of the last decade, the fatal crash rate for Kenya Airways was about three in 1 million. For Ethiopian Airlines, it was four in 1 million. That’s higher than that of U.S. carriers such as American Airlines (0.6 fatal crashes per 1 million flights) or United (0.5 per million)—but it still suggests flying is safe, and that the gap between poor and rich countries is small.

That’s not true for driving.

While it’s widely known that flying is statistically safer than driving, just how much safer varies from country to country. Data from the World Health Organization and the World Bank suggest that, in the U.S., there are 1.4 fatalities per year for every 10,000 cars on the road. In Malaysia, there are seven; in Kenya, 87—more than 60 times the rate in the U.S., compared with about a fivefold gap in air safety. Given how often people drive, and how indispensable car travel is in most countries, the gap in developing countries’ road safety records is far more troubling than their air safety records are impressive.

In other MH370-inspired commentary, Emily Yoffe uses psychology to explain our fascination with flight 370:

[I]t’s the specific nature of the disappearance of Flight 370 that pings some of our most basic cognitive drives. In their book The Scientist in the Crib, Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff, and Patricia Kuhl write, “Babies become interested in, almost obsessed with, hiding-and-finding games when they are about a year old. There is the timeless appeal of peekaboo. … Babies also spontaneously undertake solo investigations of the mysterious Case of the Disappearing Object.” So, from our earliest days, we focus our attention on objects that are hidden, and then revealed. This consuming play, they write, “contributes to babies’ ability to solve the big, deep problems of disappearance, causality, and categorization.” No wonder we’re watching CNN’s nonstop coverage of a disappearing object.


A New Low For Cable News

Patrick Appel —  Mar 21 2014 @ 3:01pm
by Patrick Appel

Sarah Gary rounds up ridiculous cable news segments on MH370. Nick Martin tackles CNN’s Don Lemon, who is featured in the clip above:

Lemon has spent the last several days exploring every crazy conspiracy theory on the internet, like something out of InfoWars or an Art Bell broadcast.

On Sunday, he brought up the possibility that “the supernatural” was somehow involved in the disappearance. On Monday, he floated the idea that the plane could be hiding in North Korea. But [Wednesday] night, he really outdid himself, asking a former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general whether the airplane was somehow sucked into a black hole. Yes, a black hole.

“I know it’s preposterous,” he said to her, “but is it preposterous?”

Abby Ohlheiser fact-checked Lemon:

A somewhat gruff Columbia astronomy professor named David J. Helfand told The Wire by email that, simply put, “black holes comparable to the mass of an airplane or somewhat bigger that could attract and swallow a plane do not exist.”

Even if a black hole capable of swallowing a plane out of the sky did exist, Peter Michelson, a professor of physics and Stanford University added, “a lot of other things would be missing as well.” when asked for examples of what we’d notice missing, Michelson said, “probably the Earth.”

Bateman piles on:

My problem is not that [individuals at CNN] are focusing on what they see as a story at the core of their capability because that is to be expected. And I do not mind at all that they are looking all over for experts. Quite a few of those they ring are obviously both professional and appropriate. My problem is that their reporters and some of their editors are doing so in such an incompetent manner.

Ambinder mounts an uncharacteristically unpersuasive defense of CNN. The strongest part:

The criticism of CNN is larded with slippery assumptions. One is that, at some point, CNN lost its way, and that’s why it no longer commands the respect and viewership it once did. That’s a tenuous theory. Competition, and CNN’s unwillingness to lose or change its ways in the face of it, helped fragment the national cable audience. We don’t get our breaking news now from cable. We get it from the internet, or radio (still). When CNN was the only place news junkies could plug in to, CNN could pretty much set whatever standard it wanted. Once Roger Ailes masterfully realized that partisan television could attract as many eyeballs as talk radio grabbed ears, most people’s expectations of cable news changed accordingly.

Jaime Weinman’s theory about why the story has boosted CNN’s ratings:

What can account for this split personality on CNN’s part, between the successful purveyor of big ongoing stories and the brutally unsuccessful network that operates on all the other days of the year? The clue might be in something veteran media analyst Brad Adgate said to Reuters last year: “CNN, despite its ratings woes, is still a destination network for the light and casual news viewers. They have been around longer than anyone else.” The people who follow something like the Flight 370 story may, in many cases, be people who don’t usually watch 24-hour news. But when a story breaks that they’re interested in following all day and all night, CNN is still the place they instinctively go. It has the brand name left over from the Gulf War in the ’90s; it has the resources for doing this kind of saturation coverage. CNN is the first network that comes to mind for this type of story.

But when there isn’t a story this juicy, with this kind of crossover appeal to people who aren’t news junkies, then CNN is lost.

Meanwhile, Chris Beam believes China was wrong to tell its media not to “independently analyze or comment on the lost Malaysia Airlines flight”:

News may be the one industry in which, rather than helping out domestic business, the Chinese government actively punishes it. China takes its international news efforts seriously, targeting overseas audiences with China Radio International, CCTV America, and China Daily—all key elements of the Party’s “soft power” push. But by forcing Chinese journalists to sit out a major story like MH370, they’re actively undermining their own quest for global influence.