And though the news coverage is ongoing and constant, every answer that's given is linked to the greater question: Why?
The plane turned around, but why?
One or both of the pilots must have been involved in the plane's diversion, but why?
The plane's transponder, which communicates the plane's location was deliberately turned off, but why?
These"whys" have been swirling 'round and 'round, day after day, in the media and in our own minds, until finally yesterday morning New York times columnist Gregg Easterbrook thought to ask the most sensible "why", the one that should have been asked years ago, the one that, if it had been asked and appropriately addresssed, would have prevented the ordeal of flight 370.
Easterbrook's question is this:
"Why do airplane transponders still have a manual shut-off?"
We've been hearing that the dismantling of the systems that communicate a plane's position is a highly technical proceedure. But apparently this is not true of turning off a transponder. According to Easterbrook, "Most of the world's jetliners have transponders that can be turned off...there's a simple rotary switch near the first officer's left hand. All someone has to do to turn the transponder off is rotate the dial".
Easterbrook also writes that "...on September 11, 2001, one of the first things (the terrorists) did was to turn off the transponders, so the planes would not register properly on civilian radar...If the transponders had not gone silent on 9/11, air traffic controllers would have quickly realized that two jetliners en route to Los Angeles had made dramatic course changes and were bound straight for Manhattan. Instead, controllers lost precious time trying to figure out where the aircraft were."
Easterbrook then asks why, after September 11, did it not become a requirement that all planes must be equipped with automated transponders incapable of being turned off?
I'm sure those of us who fly frequently and have seen the seat size, aisle size and comfort level of planes decrease in direct proportion to the increase in the cost of flying could come up with our own cynical answers.
But read Gregg Easterbrook's article. It's thought-provoking. And in view of what happened to flight 370, kind of infuriating.
Find his article at: