Flying soon? All this news about missing Malaysia Flight MH370 has you worried? Well… don’t worry too much. The odds are definitely in your favor of arriving safely at your location, and here are the facts to prove it.
ODDS OF MALAYSIA FLIGHT MH370 NOT ARRIVING SAFELY
FACTS: According to statistics I found from the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were over 9.9 million commercial flights in 2011, but only 4 crashes related to commuter airlines. Of course numbers can vary slightly year to year. Yet overall safety is getting better year by year, not worse.
ODDS: Based on the numbers above, the odds of MH370 not arriving safely were about 1 in 2,500,000 flights.
MY OPINION: A catastrophe can strike me or you any time and any place, but we cannot worry about it. We must go on living our lives. Statistics show we are more likely to die driving our cars or getting struck by lightning than flying in an airplane. This is why, when I get on my next flight, I will be worrying more about lines and inspections or my comfort on the airplane than some potential disaster.
ODDS OF A SUICIDAL PILOT ON MALAYSIA FLIGHT MH370
FACTS: In the history of commuter airlines, there are only three suspected cases of this happening in the last 20 years. Although investigators seem to be reluctant to use the word suicide in their final determinations, the crashes of the 1997 SilkAir Flight 185 and of the 1999 Egypt Air Flight 990 clearly appear to be incidents of pilot suicide. The latest suspected incident involving pilot suicide occurred in Mozambique in November of 2013. With the investigation still on-going, preliminary indications are that this crash was caused by a pilot’s suicide.
ODDS: With only three cases of pilot suicide occurring in commercial airlines in over 130 million flights, the odds of Malaysia Flight MH370 getting a suicidal pilot are about 1 in at least 43,000,000 flights.
MY OPINION: In the case of Malaysia Flight MH370, I seriously doubt suicide will be determined to be the cause. Pilot or copilot suicide is a very easy task to accomplish. All a pilot has to do is wait for the other pilot to leave the cockpit for a moment, whether it is to get coffee or use the restroom. Once the other is outside, the suicidal pilot can lock himself in alone and there is no need for a confrontation or incident with the other pilot. All he has to do is not open the door. The suicidal pilot can then determine the fate of the plane unabated. At over 500 miles an hour, it only takes about 50 seconds to fly a Boeing 777 into the ocean from 35,000 feet. So this scenario most likely would happen very quickly.
Yet on flight MH370 from all reports there appears to have been an incident where the plane briefly ascended to 45,000 feet while flying erratically before descending and flying more rationally. The Boeing 777 has a ceiling height of 43,000. Going above this would endanger the pilots and the crew, especially when the Boeing 777 was pressurized for 35,000 feet. This action mostly likely indicates a struggle or incident in the cockpit. Since the pilot or copilot could easily avoid a struggle by locking their partner outside, any unusual movements in the cockpit would most likely be caused by some other type of incident, like a hijacking or a fire.
Since the plane was ascending during the struggle, It would seem to me that whoever was at the controls was trying to keep the plane in the air, not crash it. During a struggle, it would be a natural pilot instinct to over-correct upward rather than downward, as altitude is a pilot’s best friend if he were to lose control of the plane in such a situation.
For these reasons and more I will discuss later, I suspect the pilot and copilot will eventually be recognized as heroes, not heels, even if they unfortunately lost the struggle for control of the plane to someone else.
ODDS OF INCAPACITATED PILOTS ON MALAYSIA FLIGHT MH370
FACTS: I could only find one case of an incapacitated crew on a commercial flight, Helios Airways Flight 522 in 2005.
ODDS: Though there are cases of this happening more often in smaller jets, larger commercial jets have more redundancy and backup systems and the cockpit is usually separate from the passenger cabin, thus the odds of this happening are substantially reduced on most commercial airliners. Since I cannot find a second event to reference to, I will reference the odds going back to the 9/11 event as I do in several other places in this article. As there has been over a 100 million flights since then, I am estimating the odds of this happening to Malaysia Flight MH370 to be 1 in over 100,000,000 flights.
MY OPINION: It could not have been a fire, decompression or anything else that incapacitated the pilots. Whoever was flying the plane made at least 3 changes in the flight’s direction after the altitude climbing incident and its first deviation from the flight plan. From the known facts, the first turn the plane made is when the plane turned towards the nearest airport.
Though Malaysian officials determined this route this was programmed in advance, that does not mean anything nefarious happened for certain, as I have read suggested in many news stories. This change of direction is likely to have happened when the auto-pilot was switched on at the beginning of the incident that resulted in the Boeing 777 gaining altitude. It is common practice for pilots to know where the nearest airport is at all times and to always have a contingency plan, even pre-programming the plane’s systems to head there in case of an emergency. In this particular case we know that the pilot Captain Zaharie Shah Ahmed loved to play with his flight simulator when not flying, so I cannot imagine him not taking advantage of a real opportunity in his real plane to preset the flight’s guidance systems in case of an emergency. It is very likely the pilot or copilot engaged these systems while attempting to deal with whatever was occurring in the cockpit, especially if it was a struggle for control of the airplane during a hijacking. If it was hijacked at that moment, the hijackers may have simply told the pilots or remaining pilot to turn west (which seems to have been the plan). While trying to appease the request, the pilot may have engaged this pre-programming intentionally in hopes of sending a silent signal of distress to one the towers. This scenario could be particular true, if the pilot already knew the communications and/or transponders had already been disabled or if the pilot was thought that by going slightly southwest instead of due west the plane might return to radar viewing from which he probably knew he had just left. I can think of many reasons and imaginary scenarios why this first turn towards the nearest airport does not necessarily signify pilot involvement.
The next two known course changes, the ones that put the plane on a common flight path to India, occurred almost an hour later and then a few minutes later. Since it took an examination of radar and/or satellite data, as well as additional day or so to find these two secondary maneuverings, I suspect these turns were not programmed in advance like the first turn which we were told about immediately. Unfortunately the investigators are the only ones that know which of these turns were programmed and which occurred manually later, yet they will never tell the public this important information until they are prepared for all contingencies and the inevitable backlash that follows if this turns out to be a hijacking. With this information alone, the average reader could quickly deduce with a high degree of probability what most likely happened to Malaysia Flight MH370.
Inevitably it will most likely be determined that there were at least 4 course changes, if the plane is found in the South Indian Ocean as is now suspected. The last change of direction would have occurred about two hours or more after the plane originally went off course and almost an hour after the second and third course changes occurred. Everything indicates to me that someone was at the controls for close to two hours of time after the original incident occurred, and whoever it was had a very deliberate plan. In my mind, from piecing together various bits of news, this crash was not caused by incapacitated pilots. These course changes are some of the “deliberate actions” we have read about in news stories, and these are the actions that seem to have the Malaysian crash investigators very worried. These deliberate actions could only be done by a suicidal pilot or hijackers.
ODDS OF TECHNICAL FAILURE OR FIRE ON MH370
FACTS: The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any plane ever built. Yet we cannot rule out this possibility completely. Yet the odds of any type of catastrophic failure in a commercial airliner are 2,500,000 to 1, as we calculated earlier, and certainly would be better for this particularly safer plane.
ODDS: I did not try to calculate numerical odds by analyzing data about technical failure or fires, as researching this would be exceptionally time-consuming and any equation used would be suspect to interpretation. However I would suggest by eliminating the non-technical accidents that downed many airliners from 9/11 and onward, then adding a little bit for the Boeing 777 being a safer plane that the odds are likely to be more than double the total catastrophic rate discussed above. I would suggest that the odds of a technical catastrophe or fire downing Malaysia Flight MH370 would be at somewhere around 1 in 6,500,000 flights.
MY OPINION: Logic dictates that the fire and decompression scenarios are highly unlikely. First, if there was a fire that incapacitated the pilots then the plane would have almost certainly continued to burn and crash. The “blow torch” cockpit fire theory I read somewhere holds absolutely no weight, as a damaged fuselage at 35000 feet would have caused the plane’s immediate and complete disintegration. Only a limited fire that killed the pilots and then put itself out could explain a fire. If there was sudden decompression at 35000 the plane would have been structurally damaged and begun to disintegrate immediately, never able to continue to fly for another seven hours. Also, by the same logic I used to debunk the incapacitated pilot theory, any decompression or fire problems are extremely unlikely. Evidence shows clearly someone continued to guide the plane manually for at least two more hours at high altitudes. If someone was guiding the plane for those first two hours, it is highly likely the plane was under this person’s or persons’ control for the remainder of the flight.
ODDS OF A HIJACKING BY TERRORISTS OF MH370
FACT: Terrorists thrive on publicity that creates terror. If any terrorist worth his salt gained control of this plane, it would have been used to make a statement, not quietly dropped in the ocean. Most likely it would have been delivered 9/11 style to the country to which they were opposed or the hijackers would be demanding ransom, political prisoners, or something in exchange for these 229 souls.
ODDS: According to Wikipedia’s “List of aircraft hijackings”, there have been 14 notable attempts to hijack an aircraft since after the 9/11 attacks. This figure may not include every single hijacker seeking political asylum, but covers the ones that seemingly threatened or wanted to kill people. With about 100,000,000 flights since then divided by the 14 terrorist attempts we end up with MH370 odds of being hijacked by terrorists at approximately 1 in 7,000,000.
MY OPINION: Though I believe this plane was hijack, I do not believe a hijacking by terrorists is a real possibility. In the first few days, I would not have been surprised to learn that governments were hiding an act of terrorism while they negotiated for the hostages’ release. Many countries have a policy of not publicizing hostage situations, as publicity only encourages others to do the same. This possibility now seems like a complete dud to me, as too much time has gone by. If this plane was on the ground somewhere, this story would have broken out by now or the hostages would have been rescued.
ODDS OF A HIJACKING BY ANOTHER COUNTRY OF MH370
FACTS: There are many other reasons this flight could have been hijacked. It has been suggested that the plane will be used for a future attack. It has been hinted that there was a cargo of gold on board. The one I found most plausible, although not very widespread, is the fact that there were at least 20 employees from Freescale Semiconductor on Malaysia Flight MH370. In some accounts I have read as many as 26 employees. It seems most of these people are computer chip designers who work on some of America’s most modern weaponry like avionics and cloaking technologies, and it has been suggested the plane was taken for these people and/or the valuable information and knowledge they possessed.
ODDS: The odds of this happening to the MH370 may seem extremely remote at first glance, maybe even astronomical, but all the other odds we have seen today are really not much better. Since such a scenario has never occurred, it is impossible to even try to calculate odds of this actually happening.
MY OPINION: We should not easily discount such a theory, as this technology is worth billions and billions of dollars to our enemies. If I could walk up to Iran today, and offer them the technology to destroy Israel undetected, you don’t think they would be a little interested? People have been killing people for power and money since the beginning of man. If people will kill people just for their tennis shoes, we can be certain that the ultra-rich, power hungry elitists of the world will kill for these various technologies, especially since they cost hundreds of billions of dollars and decades to be developed. Even though this theory may be just one of many odd theories floating around out there, I chose to put it in my article because it is actually numerically more probable than most of the basic possibilities discussed today. Statistics clearly show that chances of getting killed for money, greed, or power are much higher than the chances of getting killed in a conventional airplane crash.
The fact is there are even many plausible reasons to believe in such a scenario. First, the technical expertise to pull off this type of hijacking could only come from a well-informed country. We have been told by Malaysian authorities the plane used low flying radar evading moves and used a “mountain’s shadow” to hide from its military radar. We have also been told the plane’s route took it around the outskirts of all the military radar systems in the region’s area and then out into the middle of the Indian Ocean where there are no military or civilian radar systems AND all this happened to occur when there were no satellites in the sky directly over this part of the world. Was this well-planned precision timing by a knowledgeable country or was this just plain luck by a suicidal pilot? I truthfully do not know, and I am definitely not claiming this scenario is what happened; but so many coincidences sure make a curious guy like me to start considering the odds. Also, if hostages were taken from the plane before it was crashed into the ocean, a landing strip would have been needed. If the plane just did a water landing, support vessels or submarines would have had to be on site to rescue the desired captives. The logistics to capture 20 plus employees and/or their belongings and escape unnoticed would be a monumental task. It would require a small army, or most likely in this scenario, an small air force or navy.
I seriously doubt that even the best commercial pilots in the world know where the edges of military radar begin and end, so how would a commercial pilot know to take the unusual flight path taken to avoid the numerous radar systems in this region. Surely pilots know the limits of civilian radar systems on routes they fly regularly, but they have no military radar or equipment to detect radar pinging off their plane or to detect where military radar exists. I would suspect only countries know the limits of both civilian and military radar systems, as they often test and probe their neighbor’s capabilities. Though a suicidal pilot might have done this through dumb luck and educated guesses, the mathematical odds sure indicate to me that whoever was flying this plane seemed to know a lot about radar and satellite timing.
The fact is I can think of numerous countries that would be interested in these people and this technology. Any country like Iran, Russia, or North Korea would be more than willing to dump a couple hundred innocent souls in the remotest part of the world to hide their atrocity, while kidnapping the ones they needed. Even China could possibly be behind such a plan, as these chip designers worked for an American company. A disappearance of any or all of these chip designers inside China would quickly bring suspicion on the Chinese, while a disappearance of a plane load of Chinese would surely make it seem unlikely that they did it. I have even read that the American government did it, so they can blame it on the Iranians. According to this theory, the U.S. government did this hoping to ultimately gain the support of the American people needed to destroy Iran, supposedly because our country secretly desires to takeover or destabilize every country that opposes us in the Middle East..
Though I am definitely not capable of determining if any scenario like this even happened or what country did this horrible act if it did happen, I absolutely believe that with the help of these chip designers some country could materially reduce our military advantage while increasing their own prowess. The fact that this plane is likely to be found in the wrong end of the wrong ocean is a strong indicator that whoever did this dastardly deed never wanted this plane to be found. Certainly it is true that a suicidal pilot might want to make it disappear too, but odds are more likely that only a country would have the capabilities to hide this airplane from military radar and even satellites to get it there. I suspect its location is only known because the U.S.A. possesses technologies that even our enemies do not know about yet. Like all the other possibilities discussed in this article and everywhere else online, the numerical odds seem astronomical for anything bad to happen to this flight, especially something like one of these last scenarios. Yet in reality one never knows what cloak and dagger dealings are going on in the background of the world … or even when our own number might be called up.
Though we all know some multi-million to one long shot happened to this flight, keep in mind the odds are in your favor the next time you board a plane, just as they were for the passengers who boarded Malaysia Flight MH370. Someday soon the world will inevitably have a clearer understanding of these fateful events. In the meanwhile, we are all left to contemplate their mysterious disappearance, while subconsciously reflecting on our own mortality.
Note: The odds given in this article are intended as rough estimates only. They are all based on generic statistics available online. There is no truly scientific way to compute odds on a particular model of airplane like the Boeing 777 easily. My odds are only based on the small amount of mixed data that is available online. I tried to explain any estimates and adjustments I made with these numbers. The purpose of this article was not to argue about exact numbers but to make people aware of how odd and rare is such an occurrence.