AirAsia 8501: Good News and Bad News . . .

The good news, such as it is, is that debris and bodies, both identified as coming from AirAsia 8501, have been found and it seems as if the search area for the rest of the aircraft and its occupants is narrowing down.  The bad news is that what isn’t narrowing down is the speculation.

Theories being advanced include the pilot flying into a “box canyon” of thunderstorms, the engines and/or windshields being damaged by hail, the pilots flying too slowly and stalling the aircraft, the pilots trying to climb over 50,000 foot plus thunderstorms and a host of other speculation and guesswork.

It’s disappointing, since one of the lessons which should have been learned from MH370, is that speculation is not only pointless, but destructive, taking its toll on the families, as well as the airline.

One thing that seems to have gone unnoticed in the rush of the media to speculate is the fact that the weather in that part of the world, at this time of the year, is what pilots and airlines operating there confront and deal with on a regular basis.  The fact that the weather is hampering the search efforts is itself indicative of the fact that the weather, which so many speculate was causative, is simply a fact of flying life for airlines in that part of the world.

Now, don’t get us wrong, maybe the CVR and the FDR will demonstrate that the flight crew made errors.  But, let’s all slow down at this point and give the pilots the benefit of the doubt.  These were two experienced airline pilots, operating in an environment which they had operated in for many years, working for a company with a great safety record.  There’s not a single fact, suggesting they made a mistake.

And, oh yeah, what about those six or eight other flight crews and airplanes operating in the same airspace at the same time?  Can’t the “talking heads” stop long enough for the investigation to locate the FDR and CVR, as well as learn what was experienced by these other flight crews?

While there are marked differences between MH370 and AirAsia 8501, notably that we still haven’t found any evidence of MH370 or its fate, the crescendo of speculation associated with AirAsia 8501 seems to be increasing as we get closer to answers, rather than decreasing.

The number of erroneous reports put out by the media after MH370, in a rush to be the first to report, is like the headline announcing an indictment or arrest, to be followed, three months later, by a small story buried in the back of the paper reporting the dismissal of the indictment or the decision not to prosecute.  The damage has been done.

Let’s not indict the flight crew or the airline.  Let’s allow the investigation to unfold.  Let’s deal with facts and not speculation even if it means less coverage.  The damage which is done by taking any other path can never be fully undone.  Will any of us forget the images of the police seizing the computers from the home of the captain of MH370, accompanied by the speculation as to why he had a flight simulator, suggesting he may have had it so he could practice taking control of the airplane for some criminal reason?  Speculation and guesswork are never good, particularly when they’re so unnecessary and destructive.

(Originally posted December 31, 2014)

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