In Sunday’s New York Times, David Leonhardt writes a column in support of listening to women. Published on Mother’s Day, for this mom, it couldn’t be more timely. Leonhardt finds that women experts are underrepresented in the media, citing various studies that show they are quoted about 25 percent of the time.
I noted the column and appreciated the sentiment, but that was it. I awoke on Monday to the news that Australia’s 60 Minutes program was again reporting far-fetched theories about what happened to Malaysia 370. Stay with me, these two events are linked.
The theory that MH370 was hijacked by its Muslim pilots is fertile territory for the program. Back in 2016, correspondent Ross Coulthart spent 20 minutes positing the theory backed by a Canadian air safety investigator that men on the flight deck of the Boeing 777 deliberately flew the airplane into a remote ocean in well-planned murder suicide notwithstanding that it couldn’t have happened the way the expert claimed.
In a different format, the show presented the same hokum on its Sunday night news magazine. Only this time CBS News and the Washington Post gave the program oxygen on this side of the equator.
Australia’s 60 Minutes assembled “the world’s top air crash investigators and experts” to a man, all men. Together the guys went over facts well-known to anyone who lived through the 24/7 coverage when Malaysia 370 first disappeared on March 8, 2014. What was missing was any discussion at all of new, provocative and potentially illuminating information not previously reported until my book, The Crash Detectives was published in the fall of 2016.
Far from speculating with no evidence at all that Captain Zaharie Shah lingered over Penang to get one last look at his home town before flying off into oblivion, my book is based on facts.
I am baffled at how the producers of the Australian program along with the CBS This Morning and the Washington Post could have conducted any research at all into the MH370 investigation without coming across The Crash Detectives. It’s a Penguin bestseller for goodness sake. Its been published in English, Turkish, Portuguese and Chinese. I’ve traveled the world speaking about it including in Sydney, Brisbane, London, New York and Hong Kong. It is getting acclaim for this reason: The Crash Detectives presents the only theory that’s backed by facts and precedents.
Until I read Leonhardt’s column this morning, I would have explained the exclusion of my voice on this matter to a bias toward the pilot suicide theory. I don’t know what it is about Australia, but despite the lack of any evidence that either pilot was unstable or suicidal, Australian media loves that story line.
By contrast, in The Crash Detectives, I suggest that a rapid decompression of the aircraft rendered the pilots partially hypoxic and therefore incapable of making sensible decisions. One or both of the men on the flight deck then inadvertently flew the airplane off course until they succumbed. The plane flew on until it ran out of fuel in the South Indian Ocean.
This scenario is based on previous similar events (yes there are several) and maintenance records showing that crew oxygen on MH370 was serviced immediately prior to the ill-fated flight. It’s a theory that’s less sexy than crazed pilots, to be sure. Maybe that’s why it and I were overlooked by the news producers at Australia’s 60 Minutes in their assembly of experts.
Now, Leonhardt makes me wonder if its not the theory that’s the problem, it’s me. Women are underrepresented in aviation and even more so in aviation safety. (At the upcoming conference of the International Air Transport Association, aviation executive, Mylene Scholnick is going to be addressing senior airline executives about this very issue, as I reported for RunwayGirlNetwork last week.) And yet, two women have published respected books on the MH370 mystery, there’s mine, and Florence de Changy’s French language book MH370 Did Not Disappear. Neither of us were part of the 60 Minutes rehash.
Nope, instead viewers of Australia’s 60 Minutes MH370 program were treated to a sea of masculine expertise. In that sea, my book with its important leads about what likely happened and what can be fixed to prevent another MH370, has disappeared without a trace. And that doesn’t serve anyone’s interest. Male or female.
I am a journalist, a published author, speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.