In an earlier post, I accused the Australian 60 Minutes program of gender bias by excluding from its Sunday show on the disappearance of Malaysia 370, the two women who wrote books on the subject, Florence de Changy author of Flight MH370 Did Not Disappear and me. In a lengthy broadcast claiming to feature the world’s “keenest minds”, 60 Minutes featured five men in a rousing exchange of maybes and coulda beens or what is otherwise known in the aviation community as hangar talk.
Best to let the men fly this plane because what’s fueling Channel 9’s MH370 coverage is not gender bias but agenda bias with a sizable load of alternative facts.
For years, the Nine Network has been trying to convince its viewers that Malaysia 370 was hijacked by the captain and flown into oblivion in a case of murder/suicide. Toward that end it has engaged in its own rampant speculation and poured oxygen on the far out pronouncements of a retired Canadian air safety investigator, Larry Vance.
I’d never heard of Vance until 2016 when Channel Nine, calling him, “one of the world’s leading air crash investigators” first presented his malicious intent theory, based, incredulously, on something he saw on TV; a wing flap that washed up on the shore of Reunion Island.
When he saw it he said, and I am not making this up, that “he knew right away what happened.” The flap was extended when it hit the water and from that he could conclude that the pilot was trying to make a controlled descent into the ocean. “There’s no other explanation,” he told the program.
Setting aside Vance’s propensity to make sweeping conclusions based on the thinnest of evidence, like uh, from a photo he sees on television, one might have expected him to have revisited that statement when a forensic examination showed the flaperon was very likely stowed, not deployed when the plane crashed.
“It was established from the debris that the aircraft was not configured for a ditching at the end-of-flight, ” the ATSB concluded.
Curiously, former ATSB chief Martin Dolan, another guest on the panel seemed unaware of this as he nodded a “yep, sure, could have happened that way,” to the presenter’s encouragement.
Who knows what was cut from the six-hour long conversation among these men? One gets the sense that Dolan and John Cox, a retired American pilot who participated in many air accident investigations on behalf of his union, tried to moderate the outlandish conclusions put forward by Vance and Simon Hardy, a Boeing 777 pilot who, even without a sewing machine handy made whole cloth to the delight of headline writers.
Looking at the radar track of MH370 on March 8, 2014, as the Boeing 777 inexplicably turned and headed back over the Malaysia peninsula, Hardy opined for Channel 9’s viewers that Capt. Zaharie Shah tipped the aircraft wing as he flew the plane over Penang in a farewell gesture to his hometown before carrying out his dastardly act.
The 60 Minutes’ program is the worst sort of journalism; a grinding hour of stitching scraps of information some true, some made up, to create a story that vilifies a pilot and to what end? It’s hangar talk given lift by Channel 9 which selected panelists who share a common viewpoint as well as a sometimes ill-informed understanding of the facts, and careful splicing of the conversation whenever Dolan and Cox start to challenge Vance and Hardy’s nonsense.
News organizations around the world – including those whose that should know better (I’m talking about you Washington Post and CBS News) have further elevated the preposterous conclusions in the 60 Minutes program by repeating the claims on their own sites.
Ladies and gents, thanks to 60 Minutes, pilots Vance and Hardy are in the cockpit. They’ve fueled up with alternative facts and are taking us on a flight to the absurd. Will we ever return from this remote region of reality?
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.