Aviation analyst: Vanished 777 saga 'a bit bizarre'

Aviation analyst: Vanished 777 saga 'a bit bizarre'
Wikimedia Commons photo shows a Malaysia Airlines 777 (Photo by Charaka Ranasinghe via Flickr)

Boeing has made no public comment about Saturday's disappearance of a Malaysia Air 777, but aviation analysts tell KOMO News the model's safety record is unimpeachable.

"You've got an impeccably safe plane on a per mile basis, arguably the safest plane ever built in the history of the world," says Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for the Teal Group.

That safety record convinces aviation analyst Scott Hamilton whatever went wrong over the South China Sea was not mechanical.

"I just don't think that given the superb reliability of the 777 that a catastrophic event related to the airplane itself is what's going on here," Hamilton tells KOMO Newsradio.

Hamilton points out radar shows the plane made an unscheduled turn before disappearing from radar screens.

The turn "could be a plane in its final death throes," Hamilton says. "Or it could have been a commanded turn by the pilots or hijackers, and the plane could have flown hundreds of miles in another direction."

If so, Hamilton says, searchers may have to expand their search area dramatically.

Flight voice and data recorders emit pings to help searchers pinpoint their location, but aerospace consultant John Nance says those pings may not help narrow the search much.

"The pings are not broadcast over a hundred mile range," Nance says. "They're going to have to know approximately - - within 10 or 15 miles - - where the impact point was on the water."

Nance says a lengthy water search for a missing jetliner is not unprecedented.  For example, it took 8 days to locate an Air France Airbus 330A that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil in 2009.

Still he says, "This is getting a bit bizarre. Every day that goes by that we don't see debris, that we don't have something definitive from the airplane on the water, this becomes a stranger mystery."