Thursday, May 19, 2016

EgyptAir Flight MS804 Disappears Over Eastern Mediterranean

by JASmius

Let the fevered, crazed, tinfoil hat conspiracist speculations begin!:

An EgyptAir jet carrying sixty-six passengers and crew on a flight from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean sea, Egypt's national airline said. French President Francois Hollande confirmed the aircraft "came down and is lost."

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail announced a search was under way for the missing Airbus A320 but it was too early to rule out any explanation, including an attack like the one blamed for bringing down a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai peninsula last year.

So yes, jihadist attack, whether by attempted hijacking or an external missile attack, is a possibility, as it always is in this particular day and age.  But so is mechanical failure or meteorological conditions or pilot error.  The point is, nobody knows why this airliner went down.  That's the purpose of the investigation. (More on that below).

Officials with the airline and the Egyptian civil aviation department told Reuters they believed the Airbus had crashed into the Mediterranean between Greece and Egypt.

In Athens, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the plane made sudden swerves in mid-air before disappearing. [emphasis added]

That could suggest a Flight 93-like internal struggle with hijackers, or perhaps evasive maneuvers, which would be awfully difficult to carry out in a frickin' Airbus, or some sort mechanical failure.  Which is to say, the sudden swerves are not a "smoking gun".  Not yet, anyway.

Greece deployed aircraft and a frigate to the area to help with the search. A Greek defence ministry source said authorities were also investigating an account from the captain of a merchant ship who reported a 'flame in the sky' about 130 nautical miles south of the island of Karpathos. [emphasis added]

A missile?  An on-board explosion?  The latter of which can happen apart from a terrorist bomb, as the 1996 TWA Flight 800 disaster illustrated.

According to Greece's civil aviation chief, calls from Greek air traffic controllers to the jet went unanswered just before it left the country's airspace, and it disappeared from radar screens soon afterwards.

By early afternoon, the search in the Mediterranean had yet to turn up anything. "Absolutely nothing has been found so far," a senior Greek coastguard official told Reuters.

There was no official suggestion of whether the disappearance was due to technical failure or any other reason such as sabotage by ultra-hardline Islamists, who have targeted airports, airliners and tourist sites in Europe, Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries over the past few years.

The difficulty in finding the wreckage suggests some sort of mid-air explosion destroying the aircraft, since that would scatter the wreckage over a much larger area than if the plane had crashed into the Mediterranean more or less intact.  Which still does not narrow it down to terrorism, although that, along with mechanical or electrical failure, is one of the prime finalists.

All that being said, fevered, crazed, tinfoil hat conspiracist speculation is certainly every U.S. citizen's right.  Everybody has an opinion, and we all get to express them, as I'm doing with this very post.   But by the same token, yours and my opinions do not carry any institutional weight.  The nation and the world do not potentially hinge on what we say about anything.  But the words of, say, the president of the United States do carry that heft and clout.  Which, in turn, puts a premium on any POTUS, or potential POTUS, learning to be circumspect and careful and prudent and judicious with and about what they say lest a careless remark sparks preventable adverse consequences.  It's just a good habit into which for an aspiring leader to get him- or herself.

Which brings us to Donald Trump's "drunk at the end of the bar"-caliber conclusion-jumping tweet this morning:

Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!

As Donald J. Trump, private citizen, this is fine and dandy.  He's entitled to his opinion, and the chances are favorable that he's right about EgyptAir Flight MS804.  But as a candidate for president of the United States, he really should be keeping his Tweeter shut until the investigation yields some answers, because as POTUS, his administration would be ultimately responsible for producing those answers through the National Transportation Safety Board, which usually consults on foreign airliner crash investigations, and if he's impulsively popping off about this or that conspiracy theory before the NTSB has determined the actual cause from the actual facts, he will, at a minimum, be undermining their investigation and look like the American people elected....well, the drunk at the end of the bar as POTUS, and at maximum, well, who knows?  Which is kind of the point.

Although having elected the equivalent of the old pensioner who sits on the park bench feeding the pigeons and muttering to himself would be bad enough all by itself.

If that sounds eerily like the current White House occupant, that's because it does:

In a situation such as this, Trump is behaving no differently from [the way] Barack Obama has behaved in the last 7.5 years.

How many times has Barack Obama, in the wake of an officer-involved shooting of an African-American male, make a fool of himself by lambasting the cops before an investigation had even started? Or, how many times have we seen Barack Obama completely downplay the possibility of Islamic terrorism in the wake of a mass shooting, especially when those attacks are carried out in the United States?

I guarantee many Trump supporters were hitting the ceiling when Obama was doing this. Why should Trump be treated any differently?

Why, indeed.

UPDATE: Trump jumped to conclusions, so now Mrs. Clinton has to keep up, I guess. <sigh>

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