While government officials are quick to blame terrorism and disaster experts treat it as an unpredictable act of God, the Fourth Estate news beat is spinning this tale of a vanished South China Sea jumbo jet with heavy-hearted fluff over its former safety record. Meanwhile, missing between the lines of investigative journalism is that Malaysia Airlines ghost flight scrutiny has yet to deal with the logistics of an aging Boeing 777 model that has seen 19 years of service.
For those privy to mysterious airline mishaps over water, we’ve seen this once before in recent years. In 2009, an Air France Airbus flight en route from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean without a trace. By the time the deep sea black box wreckage was located two years later, it was found that frozen air speed measurement mechanism failure which led to pilot error was the cause of the crash. Did the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight suffer some similar instrument malfunction yet to be discovered?
What these planes share in common is that they are both big aging long distance airliners with only two engines. Perhaps experiencing power fatigue or reaching their mid to late life overhaul, could it be that the 777 and other modern jumbo jets like the Airbus A330 that have two huge high-powered engines are showing fatal signs of wear and tear? If the two incidents are unrelated, one hopes that the horrific trend doesn’t continue.
To draw a contrasting distinction, new age jumbos clearly outrank old world liners like the 747 series in a far lesser rate of accidents and loss of life. Indeed, the new breeds of airships are safer as a rule and history would tend to confirm this. But time and age could play a factor in freakishly changeling turns of events. That scrutiny over the ghost Malaysia Airlines flight ignores the aging Boeing 777 model could be a herald of several talking points.
Shock and disbelief over the air disaster for one has the media grasping for straws. Respect for toeing the corporate air service line may hinder early critical finger-pointing. And it may be too soon to speculate and lay blame where it may or may not ultimately reside. Yet one thing is for certain in that if long commutes are becoming for whatever reason a risk factor in transglobal air travel, then it behooves air safety authorities to restudy the mechanical aerodynamic lifespan of larger planes with fewer engines.
In earlier aviation eras of the 60s and 70s, most dual jet engine flying machines were midsized airliners limited to mid range locales. Fewer propulsion units were not the thrust of choice for bigger fancier luxury travel. But in an effort to save money on fuel and economy ticket prices, the millennial flight industry has skimped on large aircraft design in order to get you to your destination cheaper and faster.
Whatever the cause of this puzzling catastrophe, moments of silence for the victims are not enough to respect lives lost and cut short. If there are behind the scenes experts who see design flaws not being admitted or addressed, they need to speak out and voice their opinions amidst the mourning. For if the aging Boeing 777 model ignored in the ghost Malaysia Airlines flight passes renewed scrutiny, efforts to clear the air will not be in vain.
Opinion by Henry Festa