As an aviation enthusiast, I find the media coverage of the Malaysia Air Flight 370 disaster to be absolutely appalling. Indeed air crashes of the magnitude of this tragedy inevitably lend themselves to innumerable theories, and the curiosity of what could go wrong. This is undoubtedly a morbid curiosity, feeding off of our innate fear of being in an element that we do not command. For all its technological sophistication – and few man-made machines equal that of a modern commercial airliner – the fact that a giant airplane can crash into the sea under seemingly the most benign circumstances is enough to give even a non-aerophobe a chill. What doesn’t help is that the media hasn’t done its homework and have fed us quite a significant amount of misinformation over the last few hours. Worse yet, they have seemingly settled on the terrorism story as their conspiracy theory of choice despite the fact the evidence is strongly against this.
Mistake number one: read a map, stupid!
The first and most appalling of the media’s misinformation is the claim that “contact was lost 2 hours into the flight”. The source for this mistake is that Subang ATC (Malaysian air traffic control) reported at 2:40am local time to the airline that the plane had gone missing. Yet a gap of over one hour occurred since the plane’s last contact, at around 1:20am. This was the last sighting captured by radar and it is not clear what happened next: whether the plane effectively crashed right at the edge of coverage, or whether it crashed shortly after, in the radar gap between Malaysian and Vietnamese ATCs. According to an unconfirmed Chinese report, Malaysian ATC reported the plane making a steep drop in altitude and changing its heading. However, not much was made of this since it was at the edge of radar coverage when radar readings can get iffy. If true, however, it suggests that something happened at this point, and that the plane both plunged and changed course shortly before crashing into the sea. Continue reading