There are many theories about what happened to the aircraft, which made no distress call and lost radio signal several hours into its flight. On Monday, March 24th, the Malaysian government reported that the aircraft fell into the Southern Indian Ocean and all passengers were lost, although still not evidence has been found.
Ed Kinney, second-homeowner in Mammoth since 1998, is a pilot based out of LAX. He is a veteran of the first Gulf War, and flew in the Air Force reserves for 20 years. He primarily flies internationally, including out of Asia, and has flown the Boeing 777 (the same aircraft as Malaysia Air Flight 370) for the past seven years. The Sheet spoke to him on Wednesday.
Sheet: What was your reaction when you first heard about Malaysia Air Flight 370?
Kinney: From a pilot’s standpoint, I have a great deal of curiosity; especially since that’s the aircraft I fly personally. It wasn’t the grief and the fear that a lot of people experience, it’s more questioning what happened to this thing because I don’t want it to happen to me.
Sheet: From your knowledge and experience, what do you think happened?
Kinney: In my eyes, there was some level of foul play. You can take individual parts of what happened and say it was obviously this or that. The real possibilities are as endless as the rainbow. Of course what really happened we will never know unless they find the voice recorder or the data recorder. It appears to me that there was foul play, either one of the pilots or someone else got up into the cockpit and took the aircraft off the intended route.
Sheet: I’ve read articles by other 777 pilots that suggest an electrical fire could explain what happened. Is that possible?
Kinney: I have an associate who thinks this is possible. The big thing that has peaked my interest has been the radios— why did all the radios turn off? It’s not true that can only be done manually. That can happen in a fire. There are just so so many things. But you have to narrow it down. This doesn’t explain the deviations in altitude: it went up substantially and it went down substantially. There are reasons why it would do that but do they all come together and make sense? In my opinion, a fire on an aircraft is my worst fear. So that could certainly happen, yes.
Sheet: As a pilot, how do you feel about the speculation and accusations surrounding the Malaysian Air pilot?
Kinney: I don’t want to necessarily defame anybody. But what I do feel is that their pilots don’t get the level of training as we do in the United States. That was certainly clear with what happened with Asiana Air, when they crashed. [Asiana Air flight 214 crashed at SFO on July 6, 2013.] They just don’t have the same background, the same history, and they don’t have as many people coming from the military. We have people in America who started flying planes at 15, 16 years old. They don’t have those options over there. They are not sub-average or incapable but they aren’t as experienced or well trained.
Sheet: Why has it taken them so long to find any wreckage?
Kinney: This is the greatest mystery since Amelia Earhart as far as aviation goes. It is possible to land an airplane that size and hide it. It actually is possible. If the airplane hit the water hard, it would come a part in a lot of pieces but many of the parts of an airplane do float. But they don’t float forever and waiting to go out after two weeks to look in a place that you weren’t previously, it could have quite possibly just sunk and we may never find it. We may have looked in the wrong places too long and got to the right place too late and now there is no evidence left.
Sheet: Have you looked into the flight paths? Do you think it went north or south?
Kinney: I would be more inclined to believe it took the southern flight path. If it had taken the northern flight path, that would have taken it into Pakistan and China and they have very intricate defense radars, so the airplane would have been noticed. If it was trying to go low to evade the radars, which is possible, you use up your gas at an astronomical rate. So they would have used up the gas faster trying not to be seen. With the way that aircraft is, with as far away as it started, it would have run out of gas. Gravity will always win and when the gas runs out you’re going to come down.
Sheet: On Monday, March 24th, the Malaysian government reported that the aircraft fell into the Southern Indian Ocean and all passengers were lost. Do you think this is true?
Kinney: Number one there has been a lot of misinformation and bad information given out by the Malaysian government. And they are making an assumption— there is absolutely no physical proof. But at some point, you can’t just keep spending money weeks and months and years into this thing because you’re not going to find it—unless some piece of it pops up and you get lucky. At some point you have to call an end to it.
Sheet: Do you have anything to say to future air travelers who may be more hesitant after this incident?
Kinney: I look at things statistically and if you look at how many aircrafts have crashed and people have died over time; it’s still statistically an insignificant number. Now granted, one life is huge and you don’t want to lose anybody. But if you go by the statistics you are still in much more danger driving to the airport. Personally, I would try and fly on US air carriers if I could and you’re big name carriers are all going to be fine. And we’ll all keep our fingers crossed and hope there is a solution to this.