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Expert Suspects Fuselage Cracking In Missing Plane

For analysis of the latest developments in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks with Mary Schiavo.

Schiavo is the former Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She has also litigated on behalf of plane crash victims’ families in more than 50 cases.

Interview Highlights: Mary Schiavo

On the anger from victims’ families at the latest press conferences

“I think the anger is directed — and should be directed — to the Malaysian government and the people who are putting out this information and then retracting the information. They simply don’t understand that families of victims of air crashes desperately want information, they hang on any piece of information and everything about the crash becomes incredibly important. Some of the best investigators that have ever worked with me in cases have been people who have lost someone in a crash, because every detail becomes very important.”

On the quality of information coming from the Malaysian government

“Common sense can tell people it’s not ringing true. For example, first they said there was an indication that it turned back. There was also a report that Vietnamese air traffic control asked another plane to see if they could contact it. The significance of that is that sometimes if you lose communications in your antennas or you lose the ablility to have your transponder on, other planes in the area can communicate because you have more short-range ability to communicate. And the plane said they got very staticky, garbled transmission from the plane. And then of course there was the indication — now retracted — that it had turned back, and yet this was after at least two days of searching and, you know, nations from around the world and ships and planes searching in an area that now the Malaysian authorities say ‘Well, I guess we never said that.’ So the anger is well deserved and at this point you have to wonder about their other theories.”

On the Malaysian government’s current theories

“They had a press conference and they had three or four different theories that they said they’re proceeding under. Most of them center around terror or intentional downing — terror or suicide. But those don’t make sense when you look at their actions. First of all, if the plane was going on to Vietnamese air space, and it had lost communications, no pilot in a post-9/11 world would do that. Why? Because it would be assumed if you’re not communicating that there’s something wrong, you could be hijacked, the pilot’s not at the controls. Turning back would make complete sense if you were having a mechanical problem or a communications problem.”

Her theory on what happened to the plane

“Boeing put out a warning back in August, and it said the 777 had a problem with fuselage cracking. In particular, it was cracking around the satellite antennas and the communications antennas on the plane. And if that was the case, for example on this one — it had just been in maintenance 10 days ago and had something very curious. They said it had been in maintenance but they had more maintenance to do, and it would go back in June. So I wonder what they didn’t get done. So if this plane had a problem and it had cracking or some sort of a rapid decompression and lost the ability to communicate, the transponder, it would make perfect sense.”


  • Mary Schiavo, aviation lawyer and former Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She tweets @MarySchiavo.

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