Malaysian Air mystery probably mechanical in origin; mythologization of human evil.

It’s quite tempting to jump to paranoid conclusions regarding the cause of Malaysia Air’s flight 370 disappearance with the pronouncement that two of the male passengers boarded the plane using stolen passports.

Obviously, this is a blustery fact and paves the way for terrorism suspicions. I’m sure there a chorus of people all over the planet who are dusting off the Big Bad Muslim meme and weaponizing it for use as the alleged cause of the 777’s sudden disappearance from radar and radio presence about 2 hours into the China-bound flight in the midst of a gentle, 35,000 foot cruise.

Who knows. Perhaps there is something evil lurking in the missing passports story, but I’m not entirely convinced. I suspect that on an international scale there is so much malfeasance and inefficiency in the realm of passports and their distribution that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were typically 2 or more passport impostors on most international flights at any one time.

Of course, it’s less romantic and politically expedient when the cause of an air accident is just ol’ nuts and bolts mechanical failure. In this case, it’s not unreasonable to presume that Boeing’s executive boardroom is not secretly rooting for a terrorist cause as it exonerates their corporate name from any role in the deaths (I think it’s safe to guess) of those 200 passengers.

If mechanical failure is behind the disappearance of the Malaysian plane, the collective disappointed exhalation of giddy “terrorists did it” breaths will be deafening.

Perhaps terrorists or an evil-doer did bring the plane down. Its abrupt disappearance surely points to a catastrophic failure and/or explosive destruction of the aircraft. However, airplanes have gone down many times without an inkling of trouble transmitted over the air frequencies.

TWA 800 and Egypt Air 990 come to mind. Egypt Air’s crash may have come at the hands of a member of the flight crew, but this alleged chain of events has been refuted by many people and governments with vested interests in pinning 990’s crash on mechanical failure. And TWA 800…what can be said of that one? TWA 800 is one of the greatest aviation mysteries of our day. The purported cause has been asserted to be mechanical, but there are many good, logical arguments refuting this.

The crash of the Malaysian 777 reminds me of another mysterious incident involving a plane dropping right out of the sky, coincidentally, also in southern Asia.

On May 26, 1991, Lauda Air flight 004 departed from Bangkok at 11pm. Just 15 minutes into the flight, the plane vanished from radar and radio contact. A subsequent investigation lasting a year and a half revealed that the plane was brought down by an unanticipated thrust reverser deployment in the left engine.

Thrust reversers are part of the engine architecture and act as “brakes” that are occasionally used by flight crews after the plane is on the ground. If a thrust reverser deploys in flight, the pilot essentially has seconds to anticipate and correct the problem, which is further exacerbated by the fact they are travelling hundreds of miles per hour. In theory, deployment of a thrust reverser is not absolutely catastrophic, but people flying planes are human and no one can react that quickly when the event surfaces so suddenly (though it must pointed out that the Lauda’s warning system did alert the flight crew to impending problems with the thrust reverser which they disregarded due to flight manual instructions). The Lauda Air flight plunged to the ground at speeds approaching Mach 1. Little was left intact of the airplane. The CVR was recovered and revealed that the First officer yelled, “Oh, reverser’s deployed!” just before the plane broke up.

The Boeing 777 is a relatively “new” aircraft (not as new as the 787 Dreamliner) and I don’t know of any historic troubles it’s experienced with its thrust reverser systems. I suspect that the cause of a soon-to-be-determined Malaysian Air crash, may be a lot less “romantic” or criminal than the masses or Boeing would care to hear.

It might have been a something as mundane as a faulty thrust reverser system or a host of other mechanical, unforeseen causes not involving a turban or China.