MH370Latest caught up with retired fighter pilot and aviation expert Jock Williams earlier this week for a discussion on Malaysia Airlines MH370, where he revealed the challenges and missteps in the almost four-year search.
Williams, who has over 50 years of aviation experience and also served as a safety inspector for Transport Canada, has done about 70 interviews related to MH370.
He revealed that he believes that somebody consciously took the airplane, whether it be the pilot, co-pilot or somebody else who was on board. “I think somebody consciously took it, whether the pilot, co-pilot or somebody else on board,” he said.
“The most likely people that did this would be either the pilot or the co-pilot … Neither of them are gonna call mayday or squawk 7700 or do any of those things.” Malaysian officials have combed through the backgrounds of everyone on board MH370 since it went missing but have come up with nothing suspicious.
While looking into MH370, Williams confirmed that 25 major airlines had lost an airplane and had not found it at the time MH370 went missing.
“With today’s technology, you’d think that every airplane would be in satellite communication with somebody, continuously reporting on its position and its status and so on,” he said. “I am sure that things are progressing in that area.”
“It shouldn’t have been such a surprise that something could apparently go missing but then you would think they would put together a team of experts and they would come up with some plausible reason for searching where they did, and they really didn’t do that.”
Williams believed search officials failed to hypothesize for searching where they did. “They really didn’t do a very good job of hypothesizing. First of all, you have to come to one basic hypothesis: Was the plane taken or did it just go away?”
“So many mistakes were made in where the thing would land if it did what they thought it did. They didn’t even seem to understand glide ratios and things like that, that are pretty basic if you’re trying to figure where an airplane ends up,” Williams said. “They did everything wrong that I could see,’ he added.
Search officials originally began searching the area between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing in the days after MH370 was reported missing and after analyzing data, the search was moved to Western Australia where the latest search is based. The area became known as the Seventh Arc.
The location was based on “ping” and satellite data which was analyzed by officials but it turns out they obtained the data in the most unlikely and unscientific way. “I think that was the most unlikely and unscientific way to figure out to determine the location of the airplane.”
“All they know is the distance from the satellite each time there is a transmission. So they’ll say it was 13,120 miles, so what they do is plot on a map the position of the satellite and then they draw a 13,120 radius circle and then the next time, they do it again and this time they join up the intersection points of the circle,” explains Williams.
The current search area is based on this data and a report issued last year by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau which narrowed the area down to at least 25,000 square-kilometres, much smaller than the original search area.
“It’s just pathetic though that the beginning of the whole thing was sort of mishandled because from the beginning they were searching in an area that I don’t think anybody who had any serious knowledge of airplanes would have had them searching in.”
The fact that the Malaysians failed to ask for additional help from outside aviation experts wasted a lot of time and may have been caused by a “national inferiority complex” Williams said.
“Malaysia is a small nation and maybe they were thinking that they would show that they were up to the big boys challenge but they quite apparently weren’t. By the time it became apparent that they weren’t, we wasted a lot of time.”
Williams revealed that search costs will maybe prevent future nations or companies from taking on the search for MH370 due to a lack of returns. He said it was altruistic of the Australians to invest the amount they did but that were not obligated to do so. The search turned up negative after the Aussies spent $154 million USD.
The current search by Ocean Infinity is based on a “no find, no fee” agreement and the company will only be paid if wreckage from MH370 is found. If no wreckage is located, people will continue looking for the missing plane but not to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, Williams said.
“People will once in a while have another go at looking if they don’t find something now but I don’t think they’ll be doing it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“What company wants to spend a hundred-million bucks knowing there will be no positive returns. The best they could do is avoid a charge, the worst they could do is spend a hundred-million bucks and get absolutely nothing for it.”