Another Plane Crash, Speculation Ensues

An Egyptair flight from Paris to Cairo crashed over the Mediterranean in the early hours of this morning. The cause for the crash still remains uncertain, but we do know that Greek air traffic controllers were not able to contact the pilot in the minutes leading up to the crash, and that the pilot did not issue a distress signal before the plane disappeared over the sea.

When things like this happen, we can’t help but talk about it incessantly. What happened? Was it terrorism, or was it a technical glitch? Which would be the more “scary” explanation?* If it was technical failure, does that mean that we still have not figured out how to build planes well enough that the pilots cannot even send out a distress call and attempt a landing? That sounds like a pretty massive technical failure. On the other hand, if it was terrorism, we’re looking at a very rapid succession of successful terror attacks in Europe.

As I write this post, no one knows, and no piece of the debris was found. No explanation has been ruled out, but none has been given as a more likely explanation.

So of course, while scrolling through google for articles about what is known so far, I spot a Daily Mail headline of an article written 10 hours ago

Missing Egyptair Jet “was almost certainly a terror attack”

(Note: they have since updated the title of the article, but didn’t remove the speculation)

Of course the Daily Mail would write that at this stage. Of course.

If you feel like talking about it, the comments section is open to you.


*This question is, of course, irrelevant, but one that many people resort to in these situations. Very few people really like flying in the first place, so many scrabble to find an explanation that wont turn them into a sweating mess every time they have to take a plane. In the end, when the explanation is found, we just have to live with it and try to learn how to prevent such a thing happening in the future. Right now, we just feel deeply for the people who were on board.


  1. dianne says

    Obviously, it’s too soon to say and I don’t have any special expertise in this area, but here’s my guesses:
    1. A suicidal pilot, with a second pilot struggling for control of the plane before it crashed. I think this the most likely explanation because of the description in Der Spiegel of sharp turns and dives prior to the plane being lost from radar. It would also explain why there was no distress signal: No time to send one during the fight. This could overlap with terrorism, depending on the suicidal pilot’s motivation.
    2. Plane failure, probably software. I vaguely remember there being a plane that almost went down due to software problems some years ago. Maybe the pilots on this plane weren’t able to save the situation? Again, the pilots may have been too busy trying to save the situation to be able to send a distress signal.
    3. Terrorism. Probably someone gaining control of the cockpit and possibly a fight over the controls that may well have ended with neither really in control when it went down. Alternately, the report of sharp turns and dives could be wrong and the plane could have been flat out blown up. The thing that makes me think this less likely is when it happened: almost all the way through the flight. Most terrorist attacks that I can think of happened early in the flight.
    4. Weather? I don’t see how that could happen, but I don’t know of any reason that it’s impossible that there was some bizarre weather issue that destroyed the plane.
    5. Attack of some sort? Could the plane have been attempting to dodge a missile? Can you even do that with a commercial airliner?

    Which one’s scariest? I don’t know. I guess it depends on your point of view.

  2. says

    “News” speculation is done solely to charge more for ad time on TV. The longer the story lasts, the more blood money they make. The media should report the facts and stick to one update per day until the investigation is over.

    My only concern is that investigators find an answer. If the EgyptAir flight were downed by terrorism, it can be solved by better procedures. If it were downed by technical problems or poor maintenance, that can be fixed or eliminated.

    Unresolved events like Malaysian 370 are the worst because they have the potential to happen again. Two Boeing 737s crashed in the early 1990s and for years the NTSB and Boeing couldn’t find the problem. It was only after a third plane almost crashed in 1995 that they found a design flaw – and only because the pilots managed to save the plane.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    All speculation is egregious. This plane went missing in some of the most heavily monitored skies in the world. The most astute comment I heard on this was from some security bod on the BBC news this lunchtime. He very professionally refused to speculate on the possible cause, pointed out that when the plane is found we’ll know, and observed that the sea where it vanished is relatively shallow so wreckage WILL turn up. He also noted that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Egyptian military (and others) don’t already know exactly where it is, but just aren’t saying yet.

  4. Johnny Vector says


    If the EgyptAir flight were downed by terrorism, it can be solved by better procedures.

    No, it can’t. You can’t solve terrorism, for any meaningful definition of “solve”. Kurt Gödel proved that 85 years ago. All you can do is make planes a more difficult target, and there really ain’t much more to do there without making air travel even more inconvenient. Which would drive more people to driving instead of flying, thus leading to more deaths.

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