What really happened? The Truth About AirAsia Flight 8501

On December 29, 2014, Indonesia AirAsia flight 8501 disappeared from the skies and is now likely at the bottom of the Java Sea. Bodies are being pulled out from the water, and wreckage is being taken in for investigation. But what caused this tragedy — a tragedy that seems to be occurring on a too-often basis these days?

The simple truth: we just don’t know — at least not yet.

There are experts, and then there are “experts”

Since the aircraft disappeared, scores of “experts” — some actual experts, others who suddenly became experts overnight — have been hypothesizing about the cause of the crash, and the media has been right along side them to hear their opinion. The trouble is this, though: even the real experts can’t confirm anything because there’s no physical evidence yet.

Just recently, Indonesian meteorologists released a report stating that “initial analysis suggested icy conditions in the air had caused the engine to stall” (never mind there are two engines on that Airbus A320). Except nobody’s actually seen the engine yet, nor has anyone examined the contents of the flight’s black boxes yet. Let’s go ahead and file them into the “expert” column.

One of my favorite aviation experts (the real variety), Jason Rabinowitz, said it pretty well: stop it! Wait for facts!

Without a doubt, there are experts who are damn good at what they do. They know this stuff, because they’ve lived it. And there is no doubt there some people with some very good ideas out there. But when it boils down to it, we still don’t know and won’t know until the aircraft’s black boxes are recovered from the wreckage (which, of note, are actually orange), and it’s irresponsible to say otherwise.

Even after the black boxes are recovered…

there’s a chance we still won’t know.

In the meantime, some media outlets’ constant stream of hypotheticals-as-fact that are broadcast about what happened to QZ8501 leads people to think travel by aircraft is somehow unsafe and that aircraft are falling out of the sky. Worse, there have been countless times where there’s just been false information spread.

And there is plenty more where that came from.

Yet 2014 was actually a very safe year for aviation.

While there have been three notable incidents of loss in recent times (one of which was likely shot down), each with losses in the hundreds per aircraft, flying still remains safer than most other forms of transportation.

But…my point:

But my point isn’t to argue that flying is more or less safe than it’s ever been; it’s a fact of life accidents happen, yet we still get in our cars every day and risk death and destruction on the highway without much thought.

In a 24-hour news cycle, speculation is an important component for media agencies; there always needs to be something new to report.

Incessant need for speculation drives crazy conspiracy theories, mass paranoia, and incorrect information being passed around.

Was it weather?
Was it terrorism because the captain, like the captain of still-missing MH370, was allegedly a devout Muslim?
Or that the crash was predicted last year? Or that it was shot down?

You can see where I’m going with this. Crazy conspiracy theories and less-than-factual determinations.

The truth is we don’t know what’s happened to QZ8501 yet, and we may not know for some time.

But based on this admittedly-layman’s opinion, it’s still far too early to irresponsibly speculate on something as complex as a piece of machinery with millions of parts, some 162 seats, and even more unseen variables without any physical evidence yet.

Then again, I’m an aviation “expert” — not an expert. Someone should put me on TV.